Husky Football is stonewall defense. You will not, can not, move us. That is Husky Football at its core. Husky basketball has developed a different identity. Some view the Washington basketball team as some sort of a run and gun, get quick buckets sort of team. There is a little bit of that, but ultimately Husky Basketball is defense. Play tough defense, grab the rebound and score in transition.
Huskies are very defensive of their territory, as are the Washington Huskies. I can do bad puns just as well as the next guy. This is what the first result is if you do a Google image search for "next guy." Who is this "next guy" that people refer to? If he is a real person, then he must be decent at just about everything. I wonder if this "next guy" excels at something, or if he is just middling at every activity on the face of Planet Earth. In that case, how does this "next guy" feel about himself? Is he satisfied with his life? Screw the next guy, I can do bad puns too.
Washington's matchup with the Saint Louis Billikens showed some semblance of "Husky Basketball." The run-outs weren't frequent but they occurred. C.J. Wilcox went coast-to-coast for a layup in the second half. Abdul Gaddy knifed through traffic in transition several times to get to the rim. Andrew Andrews will be the guy to get many transition baskets as he gets more exposure to the college game, but he isn't there yet.
The game resembled parts of last season for the Washington Huskies. The team came out sluggish in the first half, but hung in the game. This was thanks to hot shooting by Wilcox. The hot shooting continued, but more on that later. The Dawgs then turned the jets on in the second half and were in control during most of the second half.
Scoring was handled by three players: Wilcox, Gaddy and Aziz N'Diaye. N'Diaye was a monster on the boards as well as on the scoreboard, but that is expected at this point. He did not have the pure rebounding numbers that are expected out of him, but he was facing large interior for Saint Louis and would have been hard-pressed to grab 14 rebounds.
Dots for everyone!
- My first note was hand down: man down. Hand down: man down is a phrase used by three point shooters who are not afraid of using a quick trigger off the dribble or out of triple threat. The shooter has the ball, -usually but not always dribbling- near the three-point arc. If the defender gives a cushion and has his hands near his sides, the ball-handler quickly rises up for a jumper. It is a simple concept that has gained popularity over the last several years as shooting has become more and more important.
Gaddy has embraced "hand down: man down." He has hit numerous threes this season from a step off the three-point line because his defender has given him cushion with their hands low. Against some ball-handlers, hands are kept slightly lower in order to dissuade the offensive player from using certain dribbling moves, but when the offensive player has the ability to rise up and drill the three, it forces the defender to keep his hands up at all times. Gaddy's deceptive handles help him in this regard. Because he uses strength, positioning and set-ups more than quickness to get by defenders, he can work his way through defenders because more of his arsenal is available to him thanks to him opening the defender to hand down: man down.
- Early in this game, Saint Louis was leaving the high post open for mid-range jumpers. Jernard Jarreau obliged them for four points early in the first half after missing his first attempt from that distance. Desmond Simmons also had an open jumper from several feet off the free throw line, although his didn't fall. Jarreau's ability to hit that jump shot will prove invaluable. It will prevent defenders from sagging on baseline cuts or from curls off of screens. Even though Jarreau finished three of seven, he showed his promise as an important piece in the high-post puzzle.
Saint Louis adjusted to not allow Jarreau the shot, but that opened up more lanes for Wilcox to run through off-ball and also allowed N'Diaye to be isolated on the block more.
- N'Diaye struggled early against the defense of the Billiken big men, but he ultimately was able to create some points off of the block thanks to a few nice drop-step moves. He still has zero touch on any of his shots, but the ball goes in so I don't think anyone will complain.
Saint Louis began the night by cheating on N'Diaye's best move, his hook shot. They prevented him from isolating them on his left shoulder which would give him the space to get the shot off. After several failed attempts, N'Diaye started using his drop-step -- a new addition to his repertoire on the block this year. Saint Louis continued to cheat on his hook shot, so they got caught fouling N'Diaye on several of his shots, which isn't necessarily a bad plan considering who is shooting the free throws.
N'Diaye made 50% of his free throws tonight (4-8), which I will take at this point. I essentially consider it as if he was making half of his shots from the field, which is a good percentage. Most people will lament about the missed free throws, but everybody knows N'Diaye has put hour after hour after hour on that shot. He has done the best he can. His growth all-around is impressive enough for me. I am more than satisfied with what he is able to provide offensively. He even had a face-up to drive bucket in the second half.
- The defense came out with a mission to block shots. There were only three blocks credited to the defense, but when the blocks connected, there was a definite trickle-down effect. N'Diaye was called for two goaltending calls, which really were close but were very difficult to see even with the benefit of instant replay. Gaddy registered a block when Andrews was defending a driving Billiken and Gaddy came in from the weak-side to send the shot into the stands.
N'Diaye really deters opposing offenses from utilizing scoop shots. They take longer to get the shot up, and by that time the seven-footer has already sent the ball back into the third row. This allows the on-ball defenders to contest shots with more commitment, knowing that the ball won't get scooped under their arms.
- The offense tonight was a blend of motion and high post. The high post was much more prevalent but the motion found its way into the flow of things several times. It seemed the half-court offense ran much more smoothly today than most games in recent memory. Part of that was undoubtedly the hot shooting of Wilcox, but overall the ball movement was a little bit crisper and flowed better. Maybe the high post offense will be the focus in the half-court, but Romar's motion may like to peek its head out every once in a while.
- Gaddy didn't see cutters and roll-men well this game. There were several times when Jarreau would set a pick, either for Gaddy on-ball or Wilcox off-ball, then roll towards the hoop or "pop" into an open spot on the floor 15-feet out. Gaddy then proceeded to dribble into the middle of three defenders and hoist up an ill-advised shot.
Sometimes Gaddy's circus-lite shots went in, but he cannot count on hitting some of the attempts he made with any regularity. He needs to hit the roll-man.
The offense featured quite a few curls off of screens. A curl is where the offensive player doesn't run past a screen but instead comes and curls around it. If the defender is sticking tight, it is a good way to make him spend some extra time fighting around a screen.
Sometimes you take what the defense gives you, and for part of this game, curls were open for either Jarreau or Wilcox. They didn't always take the shot, but it was another look that they gave the Saint Louis defense that kept them from cheating on screens as much.
- I have spend quite a bit of time talking about the different things the offense did tonight, but really the offense was Wilcox. He shot 11-13 from the field, 4-5 from deep. He shot the ball well, to make an understatement. He was in a rhythm, and the whole building knew it. There were times when he caught the ball at the Alaska Airlines logo and I expected to hear the net rip. He can definitely shoot, as we all knew.
His shooting spaces the floor so well for the team, it allows Andrews (led the team in assists this game) to attack the lane and allows N'Diaye more space on his post-ups. It gives Gaddy more room to manipulate his defender and it forces a slight cushion at the high post. C.J. Wilcox will have a 35-point game this season. He has shown that he can get into the lane, and everyone knows he can shoot.