The Huskies are struggling. This is not news. They have lost six of seven, are currently 15-9 overall and 4-6 in the Big East. Part of the problem is that Kemba Walker now calls Charlotte home. Then there are sophomores Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier who haven't quite filled Walker's shoes. In fact, they've been wildly inconsistent this season which, when you consider that they've got just one full season behind them, is completely understandable. But it still doesn't change the fact that the defending national champs are reeling just two weeks from March.
Following last Monday's loss to Louisville, Lamb admitted that "I just can't put the ball in the hole… I just can't hit an open shot."
The reality: Lamb was 3 of 9 (1 for 3 from behind the arc) for just seven points, five rebounds, an assist and three turnovers. Not exactly preseason All-American-type numbers. And it isn't the case of Lamb not taking this season seriously because he's a bonafide lottery pick (although you could argue that he is playing like he's distracted by, well, something).
Against Syracuse Saturday, Lamb was the Huskies' leading scorer with 18 points and shot a slightly better 6 of 15 from the floor (though he was just 2 of 10 on 3-pointers).
"I'd like for Jeremy to be a little more ready to pull the trigger," interim head coach George Blaney said according to the Hartford Courant. "I thought he passed up probably four or five shots. I don't think he thinks he's shooting the ball well, so I think he's kind of passing up to try to get a better shot. I don't care about that — I want him shooting open shots. I don't care if he makes them or not at this point: I want him shooting open shots."
Meanwhile, Lamb sounds torn between not forcing his shot and making sure he takes the looks defenses give him. These are the conversations struggling players have.
"I'm not hesitating," he said. "I'm trying not to take quick shots. There are probably some shots I could have taken that I didn't realize I had."
The Courant's Dom Amore caught up with Steve Sobol, who coached Lamb in the Greater Hartford Pro-Am and who is also known as "The Shot Doctor" for his ability to diagnose slumps and fix sloppy mechanics.
"Great shooters are more susceptible to shooting slumps," Sobel said, "because their mental and physical shooting skills are so finely calibrated that any little thing can affect the outcome of their shot. It is almost like saying that it doesn't take much to make a Mercedes run rough. They are finely calibrated as shooters."
So what ails Lamb? It may be something as simple as he's pressing in Walker's absence.
"He may be so [anxious] to help his team, he does not take the time to make sure his 'foot set' component is as comfortable as it is when he is at his best," Sobel told Amore. "He needs to adjust, open up the 'foot gap' by only a few small inches. This is part of him trusting his balance 100 percent, not 90."
Of course, it doesn't help that Drummond was hobbled for the second half of the Syracuse game.
For now, though, the Huskies have much to sort out. There are six games left in the regular season and what happens over the next three weeks will play a large role in determining UConn's postseason-tourney fate.