Former MU star Jim McIlvaine on Stopping Gray

Aaron Gray was unstoppable on Thursday night against Marquette. After the game, John Dodds of MarquetteHoops.com sat down with former MU star Jim McIlvaine and discussed how to stop Pitssburgh's 7 footer....

DOS: I'm here with former Marquette star center, and current radio commentator for the Marquette radio network, 7'1" Jim MacIlvaine. Jimmy Mac, can you comment on the play of PITT center Aaron Gray?

Jimmy Mac: He played well. He was effective. They were effective in adjusting to Marquette's style of play where they brought Ousmane Barro up high to set a screen on the perimeter which forced Bray to come out on top to jump a few screens and pick up a few cheap fouls. At the start of the game, PITT changed the match-up and Gray started off on Lazar Hayward. Ousmane was still coming out to set high screens but this time Lavon Kendall would guard Ousmane and he would jump out on top and he was a little quicker. It allowed Gray to stay near the basket to pick up more rebounds and get more blocked shots. So PITT made some good adjustments in that regard. I think they were resigned that Marquette was going to score more than 70 points on them. Even though they like holding teams under 70, and Marquette likes to score more than 70, PITT was going to have to win in spite of that fact.

DOS: How would you guard Gray? Would you get close and body him or would you come back and play off of him, create some space and then jump to the basket and block his shot?

Jimmy Mac: You can't guard him any one way. You have to change based on where he is catching the ball. I remember there was one instance in the second half, where Dwight Burke had him on the left block and Gray made the two dribble back-in move where he wants to go over his left shoulder, and he took a nice little hook shot in the lane but it was one of those moves where it is time for the defender Burke to say, "does he really have enough balance?" So, on that first dribble, you jump back away and see if he can keep his balance after you "pull the chair from out under him." But I think the guys knew what he wanted to do, which was to turn over his left shoulder and they were forcing him to go over his right shoulder, and he missed a lot of shots. But the real tough thing is that he is over 7 feet, and when he misses his own shot, he gets his own rebound. And that puts you at a disadvantage because when he is two feet from the basket, and he misses a shot, he can get his own rebound. And now you are trying to block his shot again, rather than get ready for the rebound.

DOS: Was Marquette at a disadvantage having played them just last Saturday? Without McNeal, Crean went to a match-up 2-3 zone with Kinsella, Barro and Fitzgerald on the baseline and James and Wes Matthews up at the top. It surprised PITT. They were not ready to play against a zone. Marquette was able to get off to a 12-point lead in the first half and then hang on later as PITT came back. Tonight, PITT was ready for the zone and did a nice job of cutting forwards from the free throw line down the lane for open looks.

Jimmy Mac: They made some significant adjustments from last Saturday. They knew what Marquette was going to do. They also made significant adjustments defensively. It made it more difficult for Marquette to get the drives and kick-outs for open shots. It became more difficult when Ousmane picked up early foul trouble and had to spend a lot of time on the bench in the first half. That really helped PITT. And when I look at what we need to do to be successful offensively, it centers on what Ousmane does down low and he gives us energy. He is able to get out in transition but he also sucks in the defense down low and creates opportunities for Dominic and Jerel to get to the basket to score.

DOS: Are teams attacking him early? It seems as if he is picking up early fouls. In say five of the last six games, he seems to have a foul before the first media time out.

Jimmy Mac: Yes, but tonight he had one reach-in foul. Gray got the rebound and he was trying to outlet pass and Ousmane was still swiping at it and that was one of those fouls you just have to let go, and that's on Ousmane to correct that. There were some other questionable foul calls but you can't worry about things you can't control. The one thing you can control, though, is the reach-in fouls where you do not have the advantage.


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