JOE D’S NOTEBOOK March 14th
FRIDAY-MARCH 14- MEMPHIS: By midway thru the second half last night, the Fed Ex Forum had become a neutral site host for the American Athletic Conference tournament. UConn had sent the rather loud partisans out into the Mid-South night, disillusioned by their Memphis Tigers being blown out of the water by the Huskies.
The 72-53 win doesn’t completely describe the thorough trouncing UConn gave the tournament hosts.The Huskies never trailed over the final 36 minutes and never led by less than 10 points over the final 21:45. Obviously, the story of the night was Niels Giffey. Brilliant doesn’t adequately describe how well he played. As Neils and Shabazz Napier pointed out ,the Memphis defense (or lack therof) played into the Huskies hands. Napier and Ryan Boatright were able to drive and dish. The strategy looks flawless when you have a guy shooting as well as Giffey. All or almost all of his jumpers were wide open. After the 4th or 5th make, the Memphis fans started to get a tad miffed at their teams lack of defensive effort.Boatright played perhaps his most complete game in weeks. Kevin Ollie had Boatright be the primary ball handler against the Memphis pressure and Boat handled it almost perfectly (six assists, two turnovers in 33 minutes). And don’t discount Giffey pulling down nine rebounds and blocking two shots. He was terrific.
You also have to give the head coach credit for mixing things up with the starting lineup. Giffey gives UConn the long range threat that Lasan Kromah does not. And even though both Phil Nolan and Amida Brimah fouled out, the idea to start Nolan was a good one. In his first post season game, you have to give KO high marks.
So now tonight, it’s the rubber match between UConn and Cincinnati. It is highly unlikely this will be an aesthetically pleasing game. The Bearcats and Huskies will grind and fight with no give and take. You know Sean Kilpatrick will take this as a personal challenge after not being named Player of the Year. Napier had a funny quote last night when asked about Kilpatrick’s unhappiness,saying “He cares so much about the MVP. I don’t care about that, I mean, if he wants it, he can have it.”… Pretty good stuff.
UConn can’t get rattled against the tough Cincy defense tonight and has to put on pressure like on March 1 when they forced 20 turnovers. The Huskies also have to rebound better than they did at the XL when they got beaten off the glass 44-30. That won’t work tonight.
Get some rest, another Late Night with Wayno and myself, pre game at 8:55 Eastern. Hope you can join us.