Commentary; +/- Points for VU vs. USC

Wednesday night's game against South Carolina brought me the opportunity to watch the game court-side; I was seated immediately behind Coach Stallings. Thanks to my new pal Marty at Vandy, my wife and I got to move to the first row behind the bench. It allowed me to listen to the coaches all night, and I heard a lot which I unfortunately better not repeat.

Watching the game from this angle made it impossible not to put myself in Coach Stalling's shoes. Folks, all I can say is I pity him as well as his coaching staff. Without getting into details from what I witnessed and from the talk I had with someone in the know at halftime, I wouldn't want to walk in those brown shoes of his. That poor left shoe and the foot that resides in it must be quite sore after all the stomping that occurred. He might have to have hip replacement surgery after this season if the same things continue to occur.
I must be careful how I use my words after what I learned tonight. I will comment as tactfully and as politically correct as I can at almost midnight.  First off, this team has some issues right now. It is not unlike what some of us older geezers remember from the years 1970 and 1971. Not everybody is on the same page (and I won't name names here, as I refuse to criticize amateur student-athletes by name).
Several times tonight, the coaching staff wished for a player or players to do something. Frequently, this something dealt with the pace of the game and the alignment of players. I feel terrible knowing that I have complained about this, and lo and behold, it appears this is not the pace the coaching staff wants; it's the pace, the players have chosen.  Poor Coach Jackson almost dislocated a shoulder a few times, when he saw a huge opening to run the fast break, and the players acted like they couldn't see the Grand Canyon-sized opening for an easy basket. The outlet pass was decent, and all that was needed was for players to fill the lanes. It just didn't materialize. The problem: players refused to do what they needed to do. I don't think it was lack of hustle. I think the problem is too much thinking. Players should move first and think on the run, and not think first and then move.  Even in the half-court set, South Carolina's right front left openings more than wide enough to exploit with a pass to the wing and return pass at the elbow.  Players stood flat-footed and failed to take advantage of the gift USC was offering.
Another problem, and this one is possibly the worst one, is that we have some good man-to-man defensive players, but we have more than one player who has a good bit of difficulty staying with his man. I haven't really heard anyone on the board discuss this liability, so don't automatically think it is one player that has been mentioned on the board; it isn't necessarily the one most people may be thinking right now. It's obvious to me the coaching staff knows about this, from what I witnessed.
There are also a couple of players who have the skills to play good defense, but have a tendency to not be where they need to be. Coach Stallings became beet red once after one of these players basically refused to slide inside when he was on the weak-side (it led to a Carolina basket); then, the player in question talked back after he got a tongue-lashing, something that is inexcusable at the collegiate level).
Now, let me also compliment the fine job Dave Odom did tonight. He recognized the Commodore defensive liability and exploited it to the max. Remember, many times when you see a player who looks to have gotten schooled on the defensive end, it isn't that player who is always at fault. When a team plays a combination defense, sometimes a player who looks beaten has merely released that player to another, and it was the other player who failed to recognize his new responsibility.
Of course, better foul shooting could have made all of this a moot point. I have not discussed foul shooting with anyone on the inside, but here is my recommendation on the subject. In my 20+ years of coaching, we won a lot of games by enjoying double-digit advantages at the foul line. Here's how I approached it (I learned this from more than one coach). My players practiced foul shooting the first thing every day. No pressure was ever put on them (like if they missed, they had to run). I wanted my players to shoot foul shots the moment they entered the gym floor, when they were fully fresh and had the best chance of being confident. Foul shooting is almost 100% psychology and muscle memory. Players can take 10 seconds, so they can release the ball quite slowly. They never have to rush the shot. It is the only part of the game that players can replicate by themselves. If a player had difficulty at the line, I spent extra time showing him/her how to get their shooting hand under the ball with just their fingers making contact, while the other hand gently kept the ball on a level plain. The ball could be gently lifted in a straight line and lofted on a soft arch toward the inside of the back of the rim. Even novice players could learn to shoot 70% at the line.
I better leave my comments at that and get on to the +/- points. I find these a bit misleading tonight. They really don't reveal what the naked eye saw on the floor, except for the fact that DeMarre Carroll is a true gem, and Dan Cage is the Enos Slaughter/Eddie Stanky of the team.
Player             MP     Score      +/-
Ted Skuchas     22       31-31          0
Julian Terrell      36       44-62     - 18
Derrick Byars    31       50-48      +  2
Shan Foster      39       54-59      -  5
Mario Moore      27       33-47     -  14
DeMarre Carroll 31        48-37    + 11
Alex Gordon      14       17-16      +  1
Dan Cage          22       38-30     +  8
Davis Nwankwo   3         5- 0      +  5
Totals             225     320-330     -  10 Top Stories