Since claiming a 76-68 victory over YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles on January 25, UConn has spun its wheels, winning three Big East contests -- at Seton Hall, vs. Providence, and vs. Georgetown -- while dropping four games -- home losses to Louisville and Syracuse, plus road losses at St. John's and at Louisville -- to drop to 20-6 on the year and 8-6 in the Big East.
Let's look at the common themes in UConn's recent losses:
1) The Huskies haven't shot well. In each of the four losses mentioned above, UConn's FG% didn't climb past 40%; the highest mark was a 37.7% clip in a home loss to Louisville. And UConn's eFG% wasn't a hell of a lot better in those games, either -- 42.9% vs. Louisville, 43.1% vs. Syracuse; 45.4% at St. John's; and 42.4% at Louisville -- despite the fact that the Huskies made eight threes in the games vs. Louisville and Syracuse and eleven in the game at St. John's.
More numbers, after the jump.
2) UConn has given up too many reloads on defense. Another common refrain, and this one isn't just limited to the recent losses: UConn hasn't struggled to keep the opposition off the offensive boards. Marquette grabbed only a quarter of its misses in the home loss to UConn, but since then: Syracuse's offensive rebound percentage (OR%) was 44.2%; Seton Hall nabbed 41.5% of its misses; St. John's OR% was 37.5%; and, in the game at the YUM!, Louisville grabbed 40.5% of its misfires. The only exception to the rule: the home game vs. Louisville, where the Cards only grabbed 18.9% of their misses but still swiped a 79-78 victory in double overtime. For the year, UConn is giving up an OR% of 33.6, which ranks 235th in the country.
Other than that, UConn's defense hasn't been the problem: they don't turn you over very much (TO rate is just 17.8%, good for 304th in the nation), but they weren't doing that even when they were building their way to their 17-2 start. And, other than the blowup vs. St. John's, where the Johnnies averged 1.27 points per possession, their defensive points per possession numbers have held steady: 1.01 vs. Louisville; 1.0 vs. Syracuse; 1.11 at Louisville.
The issue, it seems, is the offense. And the biggest part of the offense is ...
3) As goes Kemba ... I'm not breaking any new ground here, of course, but UConn needs Kemba Walker playing well, either in terms of scoring or setting up his teammates, to win. So, as you'd expect, in UConn's four recent losses, Kemba has really struggled:
While Walker scored 20 points in the home loss to Louisville, he attempted 23 shots and a Hazell-ian 10 triples. Jeremy Lamb had 21 and Shabaz Napier led the way with 23, but nobody else had more than 6 points.
Kemba struggled to only 8 points vs. 'Cuse and needed 14 shots to get there, and while Jeremy Lamb scored 22, nobody else had more than 9.
The loss at St. John's wasn't about the offense: Kemba had 15 (but on 4-of-16 shooting, including nine misses on two-point attempts), Lamb had 13, Roscoe Smith led with 16, and Alex Oriakhi had 12, but UConn couldn't get a stop on defense and got run out of the gym.
Kemba had 16 on 3-10 shooting at Louisville, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel had 16 and Oriakhi had 13, but nobody else had more than 4.
In short, as Warrior Brad said on the podcast this week: let Kemba shoot, stop everybody else, and keep 'em off the boards.
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