Making Shots Edition

Our favorite former combo guard "roscoemaynard" checks in with his thought-provoking takes on the Cardinal's games versus Arizona and Arizona State. Read on to see his thoughts on some of the key players and the Cardinal's woes in regards to field goal shooting.

Keeping with an old journalism principle, often ignored now I might add, I won't provide my opinions on the games I didn't watch.  Although its tempting.  So, we can quickly move past LA and Oregon, thankfully we aren't driving, and get to the Zona homestand.

So let's talk about the most important aspect of basketball, an aspect often times overlooked in the rush to analyze free throw shooting,rebounding, perimeter defense, and really complicated stuff like spacing, ball movement, and the new flag dorks that come out and wave giant Stanford flags around during timeouts, obscuring from my line of sight all 42 students in the 6th Man section.  Oops, forgot to mention what I was going to talk about, shooting the rock.  The team that shoots better usually wins.  Almost every coach I ever had, back in the day, would make this point to the guys on the team that couldn't shoot.

Our team is solid about getting good shots, but bad about them.  You may have watched us play recently and noticed that the shots don't go in enough, no matter where they are taken from.  This may be a dramatic oversimplification, but the more I watch this team, the more I see knocking down shots as the primary issue.  Sure, we do some brain cramp things and there are lots of little things we need to get better at.  But we don't have a selfish team and we don't have guys taking "get mine" shots.  The shots are there, and sometimes we make them, like against ASU and cal and OSU, and more times than not we don't.

To drive this point home, in conference (which is the only thing that matters) we are leading in scoring defense at 63.8 points per game allowed, which actually shot up a couple of points after this home stand.  But, we are the worst offensive team in the conference at 62.7 points per game, for a negative 1.1 differential-which just flat stinks.  Our field goal percentage in conference play is a clanging 40.4%, and our three-point shooting is a denting 30.8%, even after a sublime 10-18 against ASU, led by Jeremy Green's 5-5 from deep.  We are lobbing too many Holy Hand Grenades towards our foes.

So why do we shoot so crappy is the obvious question?  Mostly, I think it is that we play a lot of guys without a lot of experience taking the shots that they have to take and those same guys feeling uncomfortable doing so because the team's best player isn't the security blanket the kids need.  Whether Landry Fields is that guy, or Brook Lopez, or Chris Hernandez or whomever, Jeremy Green has been blanketed by the league's best defenders and he simply isn't a 19 a game guy.   He is, right now, after a great Zona weekend, averaging 13.5 points a game on 36% shooting, 35% from the backyard.  Contrast the Zona weekend, where he rang up 22 a game against seemingly pretty good defense, with the Oregon weekend when he scored 19 total points.  19 on a weekend in his own gym is pretty darned good if you are anyone other than Jeremy.  And I won't elaborate on the LA weekend Jeremy had.  If you are the freshmen and you are shooting with the additional pressure of seeing and knowing your "Man" is lobbing aspersions, that may effect you because you want so badly to contribute and win anyway.   I think it has tightened guys up a bit.

So, to counter this shooting problem, Coach Dawkins has, laudably, shaken the lineup by the neck and loosened the offense up.  Not an easy thing to do.  Anthony Brown is inserted into the starting lineup and promptly goes for 21 against OSU.  But, what he did really well against OSU was play zone offense, move the ball, see the floor, shoot when open (know when open), and get into gaps with the dribble and on the o-glass.  He is inserted and we have an overall up-tick in scoring (70, 69 and 83).  Is it him?  Partly, but don't discount the fact that we started playing more openly too, pushing the ball in the open floor and grinding our offensive clock less often.  Also, Brown stretches the defense a bit, as does John Gage, who comes in against OSU and hits two threes and then does it again against Zona and then does it again Zona State.  Wow, finding shooters and using them!  Gage and Brown start knocking down shots, stretching the floor out, and suddenly the bunnies drop too.  Lo and behold, against ASU, Green drills a few early, his eyes catch fire and Aaron Bright starts knocking down shots against ASU (okay, 2-6 from three is not good, but it is better than the bagels he's been toasting lately).  Hot hand begetting another hot hand.  Happens all the time. 

Finding Gage has been huge.  Gage is 7-18 from three-point land in conference(39%), but it is his penchant for first half threes when our offense needs a lift, that has really helped.  He has stopped some dry spells when we were desperate.  For instance, we were toast without his three long balls in the first half against Zona.

Another insertion into the lineup more frequently has been Josh Huestis, playing instead of Andrew Zimmerman.  Ignoring for the moment that Huestis is a very good defender with a nose for the o-glass, in conference he is shooting 9-14, all of them around the rim.  And he is 3-3 from the line.  Contrast that with Zimm, who is 5-14 and 0-2.  Now, combine Gage and Huestis for Zimmerman and I do think the coaching staff gets a pat.

The real question is can we go on the road and win a game now?  With this re-shuffled lineup since the UO debacle, with minutes redistributed, and an uptick in offensive production, can we get a road win or three in conference in the second half to make up for the UO debacle?  To win we have to do one thing better than we have on the road - shoot it!  38.8% at UCLA, USC 22%, Arizona and ASU 42%.  The freshmen have to get more precocious now and take it on the road.  But, perhaps most importantly, Green has to knock them down to raise the breeze in everyone else's sails, like he did against ASU.

Line Item Guard Thoughts:
(1) What the hell is our coaching staff thinking having Aaron Bright inbounds the ball against UA in the second half ten feet from the sideline under our basket?  Burned a timeout on that one.

(2) Jarrett Mann is shooting 68% from the line in conference play.  That is getting it done and it is allowing him to drive with more confidence. 

(3) Mann is playing the hardest I have ever seen him play.  He appears to have gone "all in" now, which is an intimate psychological battle a lot of athletes have.  I can see this because his emotions are more apparent on the court.  His teammates are responding to his more positive displays of emotion.  Team leaders can't always be dour or tough, sometimes you gotta let a smile or wink or a nod fly.  If I am not just pulling this out of my ass, watch for him to get better and better now through the last 40 games of his career.

(4) Bright against ASU didn't over-penetrate, pulling up for two floaters from 10 feet, instead of getting any closer.  Bingo muchacho! 

(5) Gabriel Harris has to stay on the ground when he is passing and stop leaving his feet to throw skip passes over the defense or he is going to have a hard time getting minutes.  This mistake has been made too many times now.

Final Thought: I don't know what happened against the tub toys, because I didn't see it, but I expect to see Washington State and UW get out and pressure us full court or trap us with a 1-3-1 trap or a run and jump.  Which is why Brown and Green have to be really aggressive when they catch on a ball reversal and Powell and Owens have to get open in the middle of the court around the high post and stop floating.  Powell has to trust himself in these situations, because they are where he will eventually thrive and folks will stop trapping us because of it.

Final Final: Wazzou was one we let go the first time, and I think we win that one.  Moore is back in the lineup in place of Capels, and Capels' length and athleticism gave us fits.  I think having Moore back on the floor plays to our advantage defensively. 

Final Final Final: UW has a chemistry problem suddenly.  Can the weenies keep them down for us and let us in there to take them on while they are melting down?  I hope so.  We gotta steal one.
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