We are not in first place, and the primary reason continues to be poor shooting, which is leading to us letting games leak away down the stretch. Maybe the last drive by Aaron wasn't the best shot, but the kid was trying to make a play, trying to be the man. We missed an awful lot of good shots in the second half--we shot 26.7% for crying out loud--before Aaron's bad shot.
One more comment: down two late, coming out of a timeout, we get the ball to Dwight isolated on N'Daiye. Dwight drives left from the pinch post and initiates a little contact, even draws the double team from Simmons, and gets up a tough but makeable shot, which misses. What killed us wasn't the shot, it was that Andy and Josh were right there together for the easy offensive rebound bunny and they fought each other for it and off their hands it went to Wilcox (and by the way, Wilcox and Gaddy and Simmons are in the right place at the right time an awful lot—cagey veterans). Ballgame. Huestis needs to watch some Madsen and Keefe film, and learn that no one ever gets a hand in on our offensive rebounds—they go search for their teeth or a gauze pad if they get inside your radius on those. 25 seconds left in the game is no time to not be the starving wolf on a marmot.
But, back to the guard play. Aaron Bright was outstanding against Wazzou and he took advantage of their inexperience and their lack of attention to detail. Aaron won this game for us by aggressively initiating contact at the point of attack. 8-of-8 from the line, and his teammates followed suit with Powell attacking relentlessly and also going 8-of-8. In fact, Wazzou is so mediocre on defense (and what did people think would happen when you hire Ken Bone to be your coach?), they put us on the line 26 times, and the put our best free throw shooters on the line 20 times. Aaron's defense wasn't very good, but really good offense cures all ills.
Then Aaron got stuffed in his locker by Abdul Gaddy on Saturday. Gaddy just owned Aaron, forcing him into an 0-of-5, with zero assists in 33 minutes, with really only two good looks. Gaddy was just physically and mentally better, in such good position defensively that Aaron couldn't initiate contact or get around him. This isn't a criticism of Aaron, Gaddy is that good defensively and Gaddy does this quietly. But, come hell or high water, you can't get 21 on Wednesday and chew on a bagel on Saturday.
Chasson Randle may have been late to shootaround on Saturday, but he did indeed return to form late in that UCLA game, because he was rock solid against UW and Wazzou. 16 in both games, shooting over 60 percent and, frankly, against UW he was fouled in the paint several times without a call. But that is the way UW plays: physical, grabby defense. We win the UW game if we have the same crew we had for the Wazzou game.
The issue the team needs to be able to address is whether Aaron or Chasson should have the ball in his hands with 20 seconds left in the game. My take? With Gaddy on Aaron, Chasson has to have the ball, and Aaron has to get it to Chasson quickly in the backcourt and then go into attack mode. Perhaps more the point, Chasson just has to go take the damned ball.
Gabe Harris got the start against UW because Chasson was late for shootaround. Gabe stuck a nice early three.
Andy Brown gets to be in the column because Andy showed in both games that he gets the detail things done. His steals against Wazzou where he faked sliding to the driver and sat on the kick to the wing were reminiscent of Chris Hernandez and Fred Washington. He takes some passing lane risks, but he has great anticipatory instincts. Our offense would be even more stagnant and dribble-dependent without his movement and quick ball movement on offense. (Rosco Allen is very good at these things as well.) But, the highlight for me was in the first half of the Wazzou game, when we have another horribly bad perimeter pass get stolen and Andy is back on defense, one-on-one against Ladd, and Andy at the last moment forces Ladd to go across Andy's body to the left in front of the rim instead of to the right-hand strong side, which caused Ladd to decelerate enough that he didn't get good lift, he didn't extend very well, he didn't use his left hand, and Dwight Powell swooped in for the blocked shot from behind. 90 percent of the time in college basketball, the defender in that situation gives up the lay-in or fouls the guy without doing the right thing and taking your chances. Andy did the right things and hoped that Dwight would keep busting his butt, and lo and behold everyone does their jobs and Ladd isn't that good and basket saved. As a team, we play a lot of energetic solid defense, but our guards do not regularly have the attention to detail that Andy displayed here. Too bad Abdul Gaddy has that focus too.
Final Thoughts: If you are 6-foot-1 you can't trail C.J. Wilcox through double screens, and whoever is guarding the passer in that situation has to be better on the ball and take away the easy dime. We have to be better defensively in these situations by Saturday because the weenies are going to run many of the same plays for Allen Crabbe.
Final Final: We have to be better here because if we hold Crabbe to his average, and defend everyone else the way we did against UW, we will win. Cal isn't as good defensively or on the glass as UW. Cobb may be better offensively than Gaddy, but he is not going to hold Aaron to zero points.
Final Final Final: With the athletes we have on the floor right now, it is inconceivable to me that in 80 minutes at home this weekend we didn't score a fast-break point. In fact, in 160 minutes of conference play, we have six fast-break points, but none in the last three games. What are we afraid of, guys? This is not about good butt coil. This is about too much clenching. You can't do both at the same time.
Final Final Final Final: Let's go Beat Some Weenies this Saturday!! It's a good time for it!
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