Did I mention that it starts and ends with defense?
Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 27, 2008
There are a few things I want to highlight in the wake of yesterday’s awesome nail-biter, but I can’t really think of a cohesive way to put it all together, so on this non-football Sunday, you get a notebook-style recap.
So, about those keys to the game
If you didn’t believe me yesterday before the game when I said that defensive rebounding would be the key, consider this: How different would the game probably have been if ASU had come up with three more offensive rebounds? That’s what the Sun Devis would have needed to hit their season average, and it probably would have resulted in a Cougar loss.
Tony Bennett thought it was so important that he put Robbie Cowgill back in the starting lineup. Cowgill showed his coach that his faith was well placed, as he was one of the big difference makers in that department.
We still didn’t see the re-emergence of the midrange jumper that made him such an underrated weapon last year — a function of a zone defense, which won’t give up many of those — but we did see the return of the guy who is active on the glass and weakside help defense. He was everywhere yesterday, picking up five rebounds and a couple of blocks. He topped the 30-minute mark for the first time since Washington, which tells you what Bennett thought of what he was doing on the floor.
Gosh, it feels good to write that about Robbie, a truly good guy we all want to see succeed.
Kyle Weaver is the man
Weaver probably won’t get any votes for Pac-10 player of the year because he doesn’t score enough points, but his ability as a basketball player was on full display yesterday. Without him, we don’t win that game — for multiple reasons.
Early on, that ASU zone was giving us fits. About all we could find were some contested 3-point shots over the top of it, and we weren’t hitting them.
How to attack a zone is one of the great quandaries of basketball. It’s kind of like in football: Do you run to set up the pass, or pass to set up the run? Against a zone, do you shoot the 3 to set up attacking the gaps, or do you attack the gaps to set up the 3? I’ve always been a proponent of the latter, figuring an easy 2 is better than a 3-point shot any day of the week, and that’s where Weaver was at his absolute finest yesterday.
Early in the game, I turned to my buddy, Chris, who I was watching the game with and said, “The Cougs are going to have problems against this zone because they just don’t have a good passing big man to put in the high post.” It turns out a 6-foot-6 guard could do the job just fine, as the offense did a stunning 180 once Weaver went to the high post.
Weaver was so effective at finding cutters in the gaps, he finished with eight assists, and probably had another five or six “hockey assists,” where the guy he passed to found another guy after the defense sucked in. That fact wasn’t lost on Arizona State, which more or less shut down the WSU offense for the final five minutes after making a concerted effort to keep Weaver from touching the ball in that high post. They were so dedicated, their zone almost morphed into a 2-1-2, as one guy consistently switched in front of Weaver to prevent an entry pass. The Cougars couldn’t adjust, and the offense went cold. But it had done its job.
Oh, and did I mention that Weaver had eight rebounds, a block and a steal, all while trying to guard James Harden? Truly, a stud effort worthy of note that probably will go unnoticed by most.
Enough about the refereeing, people
Anyone else want to throw up when they read about Herb Sendek and James Harden whining about the non-call at the end of the game?
Look, the Pac-10 has some of the worst officials in the country. Officiating basketball is the hardest job of any of the major sports, so inconsistencies are going to be the norm. But Pac-10 officials take that to an entirely new level, a fact that is indisputable to any college hoops fan who watches other conferences. Outside of the NBA, I’ve never seen a group of officials that generally are so intent on imposing their will on games. I’m as guilty as anyone about criticizing them, but it’s about time we all just accept it — especially coaches and players — as Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen (also the worst at his job in the country) has shown absolutely no desire to make it better.
It’s not like that final no-call was a strange departure from the game. The officials had been wildly inconsistent all evening, calling ticky-tack fouls on guys 25 feet from the basket (Baynes and Pendergraph), then not calling other fouls that could be construed as muggings (Taylor Rochestie’s “turnover” right in front of a referee comes to mind).
But I can see where Sendek and Harden were coming from. I thought there would be a foul called, and perhaps the biggest reason is because Cowgill clearly had gotten fouled before the tie-up on the previous possession — seriously, he had his hands on the ball first, then was undercut out of bounds. I figured the inconsistency would continue, so kudos (I guess) to the referees for allowing the contact to go at the other end, especially when Harden had bullied his way to the cup in the first place.
10 Responses to “Did I mention that it starts and ends with defense?”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.