Huskies Fall to Cougs, 87-80 in Ugly Effort

This being the first recap I've done for the site, I suppose I should count my blessings that this is such an easy game to analyze. As I said in the preview, I thought Matthew Bryan-Amaning's play would be the key to the game, given some of the other, more obvious match ups. He's the Huskies' second scoring option, and in 33 minutes of action last night, he scored just six points on 12.5% shooting. Borrowing a line from a friend of mine, as he said after the game: "Look up the definition of 'ugly' in a dictionary, and it'll be a big, fat UW logo." Predictably, Klay Thompson went off, and I think was in some ways able to use that 40 pound advantage he has on Justin Holiday much of the evening.

I think this is the first game in which we've really, truly missed the much-improved Abdul Gaddy, Strapping our number one scorer with point guard and ball distribution duties really hurt Isaiah's game, as he was held scoreless from the field until the 6:09 mark of the second half. Read that again. Ouch. Looking more at the "ugly" column of the game, the Huskies turned the ball over an incredible 24 times, just below twice their per game average. Additionally, given the purple and gold's 46 (15 on the offensive end) to 32 rebounding advantage, we clearly didn't take advantage of second chances. I'm running out of clever nicknames for the University of Washington, so let's just move on, shall we?

After the jump, I'll focus on MBA's terrible night, and try to decipher exactly why the Dawgs were ineffective in exploiting the weaknesses in Ken Bone's 2-3 zone. Also, I'll try and figure out why a WSU team averaging only 75.8 ppg were able to hang 87 on us on Friel Court, as well as figure out how they were able to force those season-high 24 UW turnovers.  


In re-watching the game, one of the first things I noticed about the zone was just how quickly the Cougs collapsed on MBA in that soft spot just in front of the blocks. There are a few ways to go about attacking the 2-3, all of which depend upon the defense's need to guard the ball, not the man. One is the soft spot I just mentioned, where you can take higher percentage shots. The second is dribble penetration. Either get to the hoop--score or draw the foul--or cause that collapse I mentioned and open up one of your jump shooters. The third would be ball perimeter ball movement, again with the idea of getting one of your shooters open. The latter two force you to take lower percentage shots, and though we shot a respectable 35.5% from three-land, we jacked up 31 shots. That's way too many for an Isaiah Thomas-led squad against the zone. I suppose there's a fourth manner of attacking the zone by going over the top with drop steps and lobs, but WSU played their back three fairly deep for a solid portion of the evening.

That last sentence is troubling. MBA was able to get behind the zone, but he spent way too much of the evening running the high ball screen, and frankly looked a little lackadaisical the whole game. He just wasn't banging or carving out space underneath, and he wasn't establishing himself in that zone-created soft spot where he could work with his back to the basket.  

Out of UW's 74 offensive possessions, I counted only 16 of which you could say MBA was really establishing himself, either deep underneath or in the middle of the paint. As a team, the Huskies scored only 14 points in the paint all evening, all on layups. The lack of dunks is telling given this squads length and athleticism. All this despite the rebounding advantage I mentioned. Of anyone, I thought Darnell Gant looked the strongest underneath, although he only finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Aziz N'Dyiae, who I mentioned as important to stopping Thompson in the preview, simply looked tired and a little outmatched in the few minutes he played.

A couple other notes on the Coug defense: the zone didn't play nearly the role one may think in the turnover situation, as 15 of the 24 were simple sloppiness on our part: throwing the ball out of bounds, stupid strips and telegraphed passes. Also, we should keep in mind that the WSU defense is one of the best in the country, with a 37.4% field goal percentage-against.

But where did their offense come from? Klay Thompson was back to his usual self, showing both range and creativity off the dribble. The Cougars scored 30 points in the paint, and I counted 19 of them coming off short, underneath passes, indicating yet another problem with our bigs last night, a lack of rotation.

But I think the ultimate problem was our inability to capitalize on their foul trouble. The Cougars are not particularly deep offensively, with only three guys coming in averaging over ten points. Faisal Aden really stepped it up last night, dumping in 15 and seemingly always there with a counterpunch, stifling any potential runs we may have made to win. Say what you will about +/-, but Brock Motum led both teams at +10, and has a really awesomely wide FT stance, to boot. God, does he look awkward out there,

According to Statsheet, the game wasn't "statistically over" until less than a minute showed on the clock. According to the same resource's gameflow chart, at no point in the second half were the Huskies able to get a stop then score after having put the game within two scores. By my completely arbitrary and in-no-way empirical impressions, we've been a second half team all year. We just didn't bring it this time.  

Next up for the Huskies, at the Beavers, Thursday, 6 PM.

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