Well, boys and girls, we split the roadie. We all would have liked two wins on this one, and we were sooooooo close, but a lot of teams are going to split that roadie and be happy about it. This group of Ducks is starting to come together and understand how they are going to get wins--and they are going to do it a bit different than last year. We, on the other hand, seem to understand how we need to play to win, we just didn't get a couple of balls to drop in the can. However, we put an absolute Brazilian-waxing on the Beavers, which is nice. Its always tough when you look at a road game and see a winnable ballgame you didn't get.
I am going to change up the format this time around and talk about things more topically. Against the Beavers, who rely heavily on Seth Tarver and the Jones kid for their offensive generation I thought our guards played good defense. We rotated well, we got up in their face, we forced them to put in on the deck, we moved our feet well, we didn't foul much, and we made them take tough shots - which they didn't make much. And again, Mitch had another easy breakaway off a perimeter steal. These steals tell me he is watching film, he's pretty much learned the conferences offenses and where the vulnerable passes are, and he is down in his stance and poised for the opportunity. This is not an insignificant improvement by the way, and one that typically comes about this point in a career.
Against the Ducks, who have very good guards, our defense was a mixed bag. I thought we made their guards work very hard for what they got, it's just that they are very good guards so they got what they got, too. For the game we held the Duckies to 42% shooting, 37.5% from three, and only 34.6% second half with 25% from deep. Second half defense, we really did get it done as team. And those numbers were with a few lay-ins.
I think Tajuan Porter and Kamyron Brown knew from the get go they were going to attack Mitch, and Mitch really worked hard defensively, coming up with some good stops and consistent effort. But, the beauty of the Ducks' systems is that they spread you out and Marty Leunen pulls the bigs away from the basket and gives the guards room to penetrate. The room is there guys. Its just there, its akin to what the Warriors ran with Run-TMC and even now. Its different, and it works if you have great guards. People may forget this, but Porter used to go around Chris Hernandez 4 or 5 times a game too, let alone Luke Ridnour. The more interesting matchup for me was Bryce Taylor and Anthony Goods / Fred Washington. Taylor showed great patience because Anthony/Fred was doing a very good job on him. He didn't give Taylor many looks, but Taylor took the ones he had and in typical Bryce Taylor fashion, executed well. Fred also D-ed up everyone else on their team, too. But they are really tough guards to defend and Porter is going to get 15 in a few Pac-10 games, and Brown is going to get nine and Taylor is going to get more than 11. The Ducks are very hard to beat in close games, and have been for years, because they have good guards, they spread you out, and because they usually have four or five players on the floor late that will make their free throws. Its also that they have a power forward in Hairston and a "5" in Leunen that shoot the three well and that really stresses guards because it takes away from where you typically get your help.
Our guys on offense, well, who cares about the Beavers, that was a blow out. I thought, in typical Trent/Mike style, we got a big lead and went to the grind it out mode offensively. I would have liked to have seen us play a bit quicker on offense because I didn't think the Beavers could hang-meaning I wanted Anthony and Law to get 20 each, get Law completely over the schnied (anyone know how to spell that word?) [ed. its schneid, and its "off" the schneid, Scott] and see if we couldn't get Anthony hot. Anyway, Mitch had some turnovers in that game that were strange, one where the ball was clearly slick and flew out of his hand and one where Robin wasn't paying attention, which he is supposed to be doing at that point because in that situation he is the high post trailer responsible for a quick ball reversal to the weak side, which is what Mitch was trying to do. Anyway, we blasted them by 20 and the guards played well. Not great, well.
Against the Ducks, we were right there, man. Right there. I thought Anthony got some good looks, he settled too much for those long looks, but they were there. Bryce Taylor is a very good defender, one of the best in a conference full of good ones. He is bigger, stronger and just as athletic, if not more so, than Anthony and he made Goods take perimeter jumpers. 2-9 on those looks from three is just frustrating. And Anthony turned the ball over three times. He got outplayed. Mitch ran the club well, he really did. We got the ball time and time again where it needed to go and we out-shot the opponent from the field in their house. 14 assists to eight turnovers, and we will typically win that battle. He was late over the top to Robin, good idea, just a touch late. The late turnover was one of those things - I don't like sideline hand-offs and I can't believe that is actually part of our offense - rather I think that was two guys trying to make a play against good defenders. That was a classic, bad basketball IQ play. I thought Fred did a very good job of attacking the basket in this game, he just had one of those days from the free throw line. O.K., its pretty easy to criticize a guy for those misses-and he feels worse than all of us combined, trust me, but what makes it worse for me is that I think Mac Court has some of the best sight lines in the conference for shooting-right there with Haas and Maples. I don't get it. But what I really don't get is that we have good shooters coming off the bench like Kenny and Landry and they look inept at the line. Washington is not a perimeter shooter, he has a flawed stroke. Great kid, good player, class act, bad stroke. At the same time, Fred gives you six assists and no turnovers, along with five rebounds. So he never fails to contribute. But there is no excuse for the bricks that Landry threw up on the court. None. They weren't even close, they had no arc and no touch. And Kenny's miss was that bad, too. However, Kenny gets a reprieve because of that long three when we really needed one.
Execution-wise we were very good against the Beavers. Against the Ducks, we were pretty darned solid. We got the ball to Brook a lot, where he needed it and the Ducks pressure was no issue. But, a big part of execution is getting shots to go down. That is the last little part of execution - and we shot 28.6% in the second half. Yeesh! We have seen worse though and won the game.
One point on execution. Brook Lopez missed a very tough shot with about 31 seconds left and he never should have been taking that shot. About 10 seconds earlier Anthony had Bryce Taylor isolated on the west side of the court with the left baseline there and he drove baseline for a dribble or two and didn't try to make a play and then with the shot clock winding down passed the ball to Brook at 19 feet from the basket. What is that? Anthony is our best off-the-dribble guy and he had a look there - take the shot! You have to take the shot. You have to make a play there and not defer to a big guy out at 19 feet late in the shot clock. That is bad execution. Bad. Bad. Bad. And its not Brook's fault. Its Brook's fault he didn't go to class over the summer, but that one is not on Brook. Shooting guards in this league have to be willing to make a tough play. Say what you want about Mr. Mayo, but is there any question that he would have taken the shot in that situation. Our entire late-game scheme is designed around getting the two guard the opportunity to make plays. Anthony is a very good late game long distance shooter, see the 30-footer with three seconds left, or go back in your mind to Gonzaga or Wazzou last season, but you gotta do it game in and game out and particularly ON THE ROAD! And if you miss, we have two seven-footers on the floor to try and get the rebound.
Anyway, a couple of shots here or there, a few free throws -
in a close game on the road in this conference, this year - well, that is why
UCLA is undefeated in conference (they got those against us) and why we are
2-2. All is not lost, lets not panic. This is how close this is
going to be this year, we could be 1-3 without much use of the imagination, and
yet, we could be 4-0 too. We will see how the Zonas like it outside of the
desert. I got a feeling that UA is too soft, even with Jerrod Bayless, and
I don't trust that ASU, with all that youth, can get it done on the road in
Maples. I am excited to see Bayless live because, from what I have seen,
he may be the most talented offensive player in college basketball not named
Beasley. Don't let him be a shooter, make him have to be a
the paint, rotate a guard or forward over to block out the Hill kid
when the shotblocker attacks Bayless,
and we win this thing. It's the USC
recipe again. Lets get two wins boys! Its time for a home
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