Avoiding a five-game losing streak on Saturday, the Huskies appeared to have shown faint vital signs in a 69-46 victory over Seton Hall in Hartford. Taking advantage of the injury to the Hall’s best player, Herb Pope, UConn held the Pirates to 1-17 three-point shooting and sent their opponents into their own prospective four-game slide.
With the absence of their hard-pressed leader, Jim Calhoun, the team appeared to be getting back on track and saving a dismal season from the depths of basketball purgatory.
Any disposition they had that their converted high-level of play would continue against Louisville was quickly erased in the second half versus the Cardinals. In the last 20 minutes, Rick Pitino’s squad hung 51 points on the Huskies including a 21-4 run before finishing the game with an 80-59 victory.
In all honesty, it wasn’t even that close.
Louisville head coach Rick Pitino summed up the KFC Yum Arena’s atmosphere rather nicely. "They're [Louisville] having a lot of fun playing the game, and that's what college basketball is all about," beamed Pitino. "That was a display of passing, fast-break and defense of the likes I haven't seen too much."
Nowhere was the “fun” more visible than on the face of Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, as he orchestrated a virtual never-ending fast break. As the Huskies stood as mere spectators on the floor, the Cardinals dunked and laughed as if it were a meaningless intramural game.
Although he led the Huskies in scoring with 18 points, Ryan Boatright provided the most telling explanation of the team’s performance. “We basically gave up," admitted the freshman guard.
So, now the team that was ranked in the preseason Top 10 falls under .500 in the Big East conference with a 5-6 record (15-8). Yet, let’s not forget that on February 10th of last year, the Huskies were 18-5, 6-5 in conference, so maybe some hope remains.
However, as similar as this team appears to be from last year’s squad, realistically the make-up is of an entirely different shade. When Kemba Hudley Walker left for the NBA, so did the Huskies' competitive edge.
Preseason All-American Jeremy Lamb has not nearly lived up to the hype of one of the best five players in the country. Even after upping his scoring average from last year by six points (17.2), he has not filled the leadership void as many had expected.
Additionally, it appears as if forward Alex Oriakhi is completely lost on the floor at times, while guard Shabazz Napier has been a total albatross, putting together a season of inconsistency.
Last year, they were “the kids” behind Kemba, yet in 2012 they have become a leaderless flock with no sense of direction.
On Saturday, the Huskies host a No. 2 nationally ranked Syracuse team, an opponent they will square off again with on February 25th. Having only lost one game all year, this supremely talented Orange team smells the blood in the water. With the 2011-12 season teetering on the edge of irrelevancy, Uconn has no choice but to “try” to survive.