Game Recap: St. John's 1/20/04
The following post comes from "FL Hoya" of the HoyaTalk board:
Courtland Freeman everyone.
Hoya fans, I swear you better have your Duke tickets already. My recap can't help you anymore. However, the Hoyas ran their record to 5-0 in games covered by the FL Hoya recap. That means something, right?
Well, tonight was my first time seeing a college game in person in exactly a month, and a month and a week since the Elon game. Fun night, huh?
I'll tell you, the eruption at the MCI Center with 0.5 seconds to go was unlike any other single moment I remember in four years. Sure, plenty of crowds have been better during an entire game, but it was, let's say "neat" to see the place go absolutely nuts like that in a single moment. It's the only time something last-second like has really gone our favor (only Gerald's tying three against the Cuse last year is coming to mind). Hey, isn't that the great part about college basketball. Think any of the students were thinking about how ugly parts of the game were or about how the media's been writing about how this rivalry's gone downhill at that moment? Or endowments, debt, Lang, Esherick, his tie, etc.?
That being said, even I feel that this victory, important as it was, leaves us with a lot to talk about and work on for the future. I don't think it was a "looking ahead to Duke" thing. There are noticeable flaws (and strengths too) that are going to keep giving us trouble, beyond this Saturday.
The one thing that stuck out for me was the fact that we played with essentially a 6 man lineup most of the game and all of the second half. Wasn't like we were clear of foul trouble--Gerald had 4 for a long time and Courtland got up to 4 by the end. Causey's 1 minute in my boxscore seems close enough, AKD had only a few minutes, Dizzy came in and out very quickly.
The decision seemed to be clearly taking Ray Reed's defense over anything Causey could offer on the offensive end. Reed continues to be a good on the ball defender and really gets out on a guard, doesn't surrender the three point line and let a guy walk it up there. There was no full court pressure D to speak of tonight, and very little half court pressure (only 5 steals). So it was all halfcourt D, and Ray performed well enough, splitting time with Cook against Elijah Ingram.
The defense was a mixture of man-to-man and 2-3 zone, with more of the latter. Here's where we talk about defense and rebounding together:
The rebounding margin was -6, more importantly St. John's was allowed to have 18 offensive boards, which essentially ran their offense for them in the first and early second half. Why? Well, I mean, how many ways can you get outboarded--poor position, no position, outtipped, unlucky, etc. Seriously, however, the HUGE culprit tonight was poor defensive technique. By this I mean St. John's favored penetration from anybody really tonight. They could usually get to the lane, but seldom got great shots if they created on their own (emphasizing the last three words). But, without fail it seemed not only the GU man guarding the shooter, but TWO other defenders would contest the shot in the air. So the weak side is naturally completely barren and it ain't hard to put it back up. Happened so many times it...well now I'm angry again.
This also created situations where St. John's could drive and lay the ball off for dunks and layups (see esp. their final basket). When GU DID have someone available weak side, it was often a guard. Cook's had impressive rebounding nights, but St. John's had a little more length and height than some other foes he's racked up the boards on. Owens was also largely overmatched in these situations.
What also made me wonder was the reason we switched so much on man-to-man defense without having run through a screen or there being any real reason to do so. I really don't think I'm confusing man-to-man with zone sets here either. There were lots of times when the team looked confused on who they were guarding, and lots of pointing and directing was going on. As for the 2-3 zone, I still think that it collapses into itself too often, i.e. isn't spread far enough out, allowing for cross court passes to really exploit it.
Now, having said all that, it wasn't a bad halfcourt defensive display. But three areas of concern:
Offensively, I think this about sums it up for me: we work much better when we get Courtland involved.
Give yourself a moment to think about that.
I'm not going overboard b/c he had a good game. I simply think that the offense runs WAY better when he touches the ball. First of all, it implies we're actually RUNNING an offense. Seems like we can't take that for granted anymore. At least if Courtland sees the ball, it means no one is immediately jacking the ball. Second, Courtland is developing a much stronger post presence than I thought he could. He's not using power moves a la Mike Sweetney, but he can take it across the lane with a running layup or hook pretty well. I heard this on the radio early on against UCONN and was please to see him doing it. Third, and I'm gonna devote more to this later, Courtland's high post passing is becoming flat out dangerous. Fourth, well, if you've seen the dunk you know what I'm talking about. Wouldn't it be nice to see that play work 3-4 times a game?
People have already pointed out some evidence of selfish play amongst certain players, and I cannot disagree with that assessment. It perturbs me greatly to see this team waste opportunities by jacking up quick shots or by running the offense too fast and wasting chances. Two cases of poor shot selection at the end of the game (Brandon/Ashanti's fallaway) were notable examples of a trend that happened several times.
It's mainly frustrating because Ashanti's got so much to give this team as a pass-first point guard and Brandon as a creator/receiver (i.e. not shooter). For anyone who read "The Upside-down Mayhem Machine" by Tee, I completely agree with him. He got it exactly right.
Fast breaks tonight were bizarre. One problem I think is trying to be too cute and waiting to long to be cute already--turnover off someone's leg or INT. Another is creating a fastbreak when one isn't there--this team does try to fly off of defensive boards, we knew that from Day 1. Darrel Owens receives a ton of outlet passes, but it gets out of control from there. We missed around 5-6 bunnies tonight.Two key plays underscore the frustrating aspect of the night for me, both on breaks:
Gerald also had 2 offensive fouls on charges along the baseline.
The offense just worked the best when Courtland got the ball. I can't say it any other way. Whether it was passing from the post or receiving from a drive and dish Ashanti Cook.
THE FINAL PLAY
If you haven't seen it yet. We have 26 seconds. Takes a few passes to get frontcourt. Ashanti ends up doing the dribble down. Wanders from right side to the left, just outside three point line. Penetrates going right at an angle more towards the corner than the basket. Gets to just inside the foul line, draws the three defenders, and (while in the air I believe) throws the diagonal pass across his body to Courtland. Courtland, right at the line of the paint, takes it straight up and jams it home (rattled a little) with a defender draped on him.
It was absolutely a designed play, I don't think Ashanti was ever gonna shoot that ball, I think it was a designed pass all the way. Props to the coaching staff for designing a good end game play, and one that got it to the center. Weren't we all complaining last...several years about never doing that?
IF YOU THOUGHT THAT ONE WAS GOOD...
The second to last basket was even better. Courtland got the ball high post a little outside the left elbow. Darrel Owens, from around the three point line (with everyone else on the opposite side of the court), loops around to the weak side, beating his defender. Courtland throws an absolutely perfect back door lead pass over his shoulder, springing Darrel for a running bank shot.
AND THE TURNING POINT...
Off a loose ball (think the same situation that resulted in Gerald hitting the tying three against Syracuse, same exact spot on the court). Ball falls to Ashanti, throws it in the lane to Courtland who gets a touch pass to Brandon for a wide open dunk. We never played from behind after that and it really got the crowd and team fired up.
Courtland Freeman everyone.
I know Esherick definitely gave Riley a timeout after some bad shots in the first half. The six people who were in the rotation all played admirably, I don't think using Dizzy or AKD would've helped much in the second half, and the way St. John's was pounding it in there would've likely hurt. Ray Reed impressed on the defensive end. There's got to be either more communication or less chaos in man to man, one or the other. Thought at some points a timeout was warranted to correct some poor decisions on offense--we need to do that more often honestly, I wouldn't mind if Esh went Pete Gillen with the TOs for a game--we took 4 into the final 5 minutes. But we did call TO twice after checking how St. John's setup. I believe the final possession was diagrammed after a St. John's 20 second timeout following their tying the game. He's more vocal in huddles than I remember.
Meanwhile, St. John's coach, Satan's Little Helper, spent lots of the game in a pose that was a cross between deep meditation and going to the bathroom/passing a kidney stone.
A weird game to be sure. The early first half was marred by double dribbles and the types of traveling you don't see often (Elijah Ingram apparently compulsively palms the ball). Lots of missed bunnies and fast breaks gone wrong. St. John's was scoring on offensive putbacks, us on cutting runners and such in the first half, but both shooting around 33 percent.
Second half, St. John's pounded the inside and beat us up a little, but we got the passing going late and wised up on offense save a few possessions and pulled out the end game, aided by the fact that we didn't have to play from behind for the final few minutes.
Two fun stats: we shot 20-23 FT to their 8-9. Largest leads: GU 5, SJU 6, each only happened one time.
Bottom line: Not pretty, but we pulled it out, and got everyone a little excited at the end. Anything can happen Saturday, just have faith...or get drunk at 1:30, whatever floats your boat.
Bottom Line 2: The magic number to get to the NIT eligible status is 3. For BET, we are now 2 games clear of last place w/ a tie breaker, and out of a tie for a spot in the "Danger Zone" (feel free to sing the Kenny Loggins song in your head) since VT lost.
Courtland Freeman--You know he's getting first billing tonight. Let's review the stats: game high 18 points, 12 boards (5 offensive), double double obviously, 7 ASSISTS, 2 blocks, a steal, and the big one--8 of 9 from the stripe. We won this game because of Courtland Freeman. There's no doubt in my mind. He was the only mature one on the court at times. These assists, let me tell you, high quality stuff--when he can run the inside or back door cut from the high post, it's beautiful stuff. Strong interior moves tonight, got to the line a ton as you see. He got backed down too much on the interior, especially after he got beyond 3 fouls and was afraid to foul out. Heck, I'll say it a third time, we're just better when he touches the ball on offense.
Darrel Owens--15 points on 6-9 shooting, nice to have a guy with a shooting touch (he was 2-4 from 3, everyone else was 1-11). I like how he really made an impact at the end of the game too--it's big to have guys step up in crunch time, and this guy is pretty fearless. Had a nasty fall when Hamilton (I believe) of SJU wrecked him with an intentional foul to break up a dunk and he fell on his wrist. Went out for a couple minutes thereafter. A great stuff on a bigger SJU guy in the first half and a good steal leading to his own dunk. One thing you do notice is that he dominates smaller guys on D but is in that position where he can be asked to help on a big man and usually gets punished. But few complaints for Darrel, who keeps improving every game it seems.
Brandon Bowman--I'm gonna end up writing the same thing about him that I always do--he plays out of control and as soon as your about to chastise him for making a couple boneheaded drives he pulls something out of his hat that makes him look like a genius. None of his three pointers were really the right kind of looks for him. He did jack shots up to quick. But at the same time he inexplicably can use his weird off hand dribble and get into tight spaces and if he hits his free throws, whatever. But he's GOT to pick and choose his attacking the hoop more carefully. Would like to see more than 3 boards also, he never seemed to be under the boards, which might be due to him covering a smaller man or guard, or something else. Can't say for sure.
Ashanti Cook--Let me praise the kid first since I mentioned his poor pull-up shot earlier. He did have an 8-to-1 assist to turnover ratio tonight, which is very impressive. I will take 8 assists and 2 points from him ANY day (though maybe not with 1-7 attached) if he's getting guys like Courtland involved the way he did tonight. He didn't fall victim to his tendency to drive into the trees and force a shot much tonight--he was much more skillful at getting there but being in a strong position to provide assists after drawing defenders. I wish sometimes he'd NOT throw the quick outlet to Darrel though--I know we like to run, but it's like we have no confidence in our halfcourt sets. HAVE SOME!!! We are capable of doing it, I know it.
Gerald Riley--3 of 12 shooting for 11 points. When Gerald came off the bench and missed the first intentional foul shot from Darrel's incident, I knew it was one of the off nights for him. Got a good jumper off an in bounds but I can't remember very may quality shots that he took. He missed more than a couple reverse bunnies though, and looked out of control (2 charges) going inside. Perhaps it was going to the full shirt sleeves underneath the jersey.
Causey--So quick you couldn't blink tonight. Obviously a strategic almost DNP from Esherick. He looks less like Theo from Road Rules and more like Quin Snyder with the new haircut. You can decide how that affects your life and the world on your own.
AKD--You know, he actually went 2 for 2 and they were on decent shows in the paint. No complaints there.
Dizzy--A Very brief burn to relieve Courtland early.
Did I mention Courtland went 37 minutes?
RDF, I was crying I was laughing so hard after I read your NFC Championship rant, I lost it at the word "IGGLES"...The band (looking positively reflective in their silver jerseys) has added "Hey Ya" by Outkast (Andre specifically) to the playlist. Great, I haven't heard that song on the radio or at a club in like, 35 seconds...Created an awkward moment when the band director chewed out the band for missing a few notes in the second verse...Hey, how about learning some of the better songs on "The Love Below" CD--maybe "Happy Valentine's Day" for 2-14 or, dare I say, "Spread" would sound good coming from a pep band...the fan of the game was a cute little kid of maybe 3 or 4 yrs who, unfortunately, happened to be sitting in the SJU section, it got a little snippy with the hometowners...the halftime entertainment was, um, just dumb IMO: they played a game where they gave kids 5 seconds to go the length of the floor and make a basket, they all missed...then Kevin Braswell and Drew Hall came out and they couldn't do it either (kidding, kidding)...then, they did (I'm already laughing at how stupid this is) an animated race of a crabcake, hamburger, and hot dog with a kid representing each one...the race went from the Lincoln Memorial to MCI...the hot dog, which was the most absurd jiggling phallic symbol ever, won, much to the delight of the fans, oh the jokes flying around the student section during that one...there's nothing like singing the fight song coming back from a game on the bus...one of your referees was Tim Higgins' prettier younger brother Jim Burr...the warmup music garbled itself, interspersing "Stand Up" with last year's warmup classic "Air Force Ones", please let's never play that latter song again...can we go back to the one-game-only (Cuse 2001) classic "Oochie Wally"...congrats to Kurt on winning Student Fan of the Game.
The FL Hoya recap will return in its full form for a very special recap of Georgetown at Miami on January 31st. FL HoyaMom's flying me home and we're hitting up the Convocation Center with the GTown Club of Palm Beach.
Since everyone's either going to the Duke game or watching CBS, you'll get the full story in front of your own eyes. Might come with a partial recap or non-game stuff.
See everyone there on Saturday, especially my fellow students. Great turnout tonight--and a VERY important one for the "sometimes" fans who saw an incredible positive exciting finish. And now get to see Duke.
You gotta believe I guess.
Homer: "Well Marge, There's nothing left to believe in. Believe in hope."
Marge: "Where'd you get that?"
Homer: "From the producers...of Waiting to Exhale."
The One-Stop Web Site For Hoya Basketball
The One-Stop Web Site For Hoya Basketball