The More About Shooting Edition

The Talking Heads had a great song back in El Dia entitled "Road to Nowhere." Great driving song on the same album as that annoying song about little baby blah blah blah. Anyway, the Road to Nowhere is straight southwest from Pullman, and then veers precipitously south toward northern Nevada, completely bypassing a lot of almost nowhere.

So cue The Talking Heads -- but not Keith Olbermann.

What was not nowhere in the PRW (Peoples' Republic of Washington) was our shooting. Our shooting was not quite excellent across the board, but in Pullman against the Cougs (who, not surprisingly couged it for us) it actually was excellent. On the road when you drop 50 percent from the floor, 56 percent from the barn, and 84 percent from the 501c3, you are officially locking and loading. Follow that up with 48 percent from the floor against the Huskies, with the caveat that we shot well in garbage time to pull that number north of 40 percent, and the take away I get is this: when Jeremy Green is straight-up flame throwing, we shoot better.

Jeremy Green just went 8-13 from the yard in Washington, to back up his great weekend at home against the Zonas. He hung 24 on the Huskies, with 12 freaking rebounds, and four turnovers, and another 24 on the Cougs. I can live with his turnovers when he is pulling up on 3-on-1 fast breaks and dropping bombs. We needed him to knock down shots early on the road, and he did that in both games.

Leadership of that variety is crucial when what your young teammates need is confidence and some swagger. In our victory at Wazzu, two guys really carried us through the rough stretch in the second half, Green and Brown. They also ramped it up and carried us out of that rough stretch to victory.

Anthony Brown: technically not a guard, but he played the most minutes on the team over the weekend and was fantastic in every aspect of the game in Pullman. 72 minutes, 27 points and really only one bad shot. But, what we are seeing from Anthony is mentally tough play, good decisions, a smooth fierceness, if you will. A nasty competitor in a smooth package-chasing Bryan Amaning and Wilcox down from behind and making them lay it in, rather than let them dunk, taking Wilcox in the face with an elbow, getting his elbows out and getting defenders off his dribble hand.

His attitude toward every second of competition reminds me of Josh Childress a bit, in that Josh also had that smoothness cloaking device. Remember back to the debacle at Butler in December, or worse, the ugliness in Anaheim, and you will recall that Brown doesn't play garbage time; he gets down and fights for every second.

Jarrett Mann, when your team plays a perfect half like it did in the first half at Pullman, you get to remind everyone that you were the maestro for that symphony. 11 assists in Pullman and free throws down the stretch to boot. Just an excellent game, including patience and persistence in the second half. At UW, when we were in the game in the first half, while the Huskies scratched and clawed at us relentlessly, it was Jarrett's defense on Isaiah Thomas that probably kept us in it.

However, turnovers reared their head in Seattle, largely due to their fantastic passing lane defense (or you could call it hacking, grabbing, jostling, chucking, holding and blocking). A number of his turnovers were of the "call a freaking foul ref!!" variety, but his teammates have to move off the ball with better determination. The Huskies in our house last month couldn't grab and hold as much, and lacked the defensive spark that they play within their kennel, so the lack of offensive cohesion and familiarity that we have with each other wasn't exacerbated as it was on Saturday. Put another way, the dudes left Jarrett hangin' too much with nowhere to go with the ball.

Aaron Bright missed some makeable shots again in Pullman, but I thought he was otherwise fairly solid. He clearly relished playing against Reggie Moore. I thought I saw more coil in his butt coil on defense, but I would like to see better footwork and intent from him setting up for his three pointers. He still allows himself to get "drifty" going side to side.

Against UW, he ran into the Venoy Overton buzz saw, plain and simple. He wasn't alone. He was however the victim of a horrendous phantom call on Overton's three-point play late in the first half that led to Coach Dawkins getting a bad technical foul. Why was the T bad? Because we are down 12, Overton's going to the line and there are less than two minutes in the half. Any "fuel on the fire" that the T might provide doesn't have time to spark, catch and build. Everyone just heads to the locker room in a minute and half. And of course, then Thomas just went ballistic and hit some ridiculously Jeremy Green range 3's on Green, and down went the ship.

Aaron bounced back in garbage time though and knocked some shots down and played with aggression and intent. He played garbage time like a competitor, as did his teammates Huestis and Brown and Gage. Playing garbage time with purpose on both ends is a sign of quality players with shiny futures.

Final Thoughts: Road split is what we wanted, we got it. Now we have two winnable ball games at home against the LaLas. Not to harp on it, but while we have to shoot well to get the win on Thursday against the Bruins, our interior defense is also going to be crucial. UCLA is a good team, but they are susceptible to solid interior defense. Last time we really handled Nelson, and Honeycutt and free throws killed us. Now the Bruins, much like USC, are really pounding the paint to Nelson and Smith.

Final Final: If Kyle Fogg isn't the premier perimeter defender in the conference, Malcolm Lee or the Simmons kid from USC is. Can Jeremy Green hang 20 on those two, while shooting 40+ plus? That might be key.

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