Jordan Gregory was hot. No, not angry. His coach was angry at times He, and the rest of the Montana Grizzlies just could not miss. That's how the first half went. 71 percent shooting in the first half. At one point in the first half, Montana was 6-8 from the 3-point line. That is pretty much on fire.
It didn't matter in the end, with Washington taking home the 83-79 victory over the Grizzlies Tuesday night. This happened despite some suspect UW defense meeting hot shooting from the Grizzles.
In the second half, things changed for the Grizzlies on offense, but less because they cooled off and more because Washington changed the focus of their defense. In the first half, Washington's defense was focused on not allowing drives. They would help on drives, abandoning their assigned man. This is a strategy that can work, just not Tuesday night. Some matchups allow for this defense to be lockdown. Actually, this was the style of defense that my high school team employed.
The UW offense instead focused on denying 3-point attempts. Ken Pomeroy (via kenpom.com and here too) has argued that it is very difficult for a team to actually influence the percentage an opposing team shoots from deep. Some teams, like Jim Boeheim's Syracuse Orange, are adept at it. Sean Miller, currently at Arizona, has shown a pattern for this as well. For the majority of college basketball, they can have little more than minuscule effects on how opponents shoot from deep.
I'll explain why I think this is true sometime this season, I am sure. Aside over.
If a defense just doesn't defend the three-point line, percentages will go up, of course. UW just wasn't pressuring the ball enough off of the pass, and it allowed a lot of looks. Those looks went in because, as established, Montana wasn't going to miss. In allowing more two-point shot attempts, Washington was able to allow less threes. A defense would rather give up a two-point attempt than a three-point attempt, if the opposing team is better at shooting threes.
One of the best, and only, ways to beat a team that is shooting lights out is to win the battle of the boards. UW did that. The big man-deprived Huskies outrebounded the also-small Grizzles by 20! 20! 34-14! Holy crap. Shawn Kemp Jr. played only a few minutes as the reserve big. Walk-on Connor Smith got into the game and hit a three. I don't remember that to be honest, I am very sleep-deprived. Heck, Perris Blackwell only had 9 boards. Four were offensive. That is what we have come to expect out of Blackwell: around ten boards in a night, around half being offensive rebounds.
The next leading rebounder? Mike Anderson. It was his first career start, as Romar went with four perimeter players in the beginning of the game. Anderson had eight boards. One thing that he will need to do is learn when and when not to be aggressive on the boards. He picked up four fouls in a game where Washington was called for a total of 13. He still is someone whose game I really like, despite this rather nit-picky flaw.
C.J. Wilcox and Nigel Williams-Goss confirmed that they are indeed the two best players on the Washington roster. It is an odd mix in one fashion. Wilcox is the fifth-year senior who has seen everything the team has been through over the past five seasons. He has seen players come and go (Hikeem Stewart is transferring, just found that out recently). Heck, logic tells us that Elston Turner left Washington because of Wilcox. NWG is a true freshman playing his first games at the college level.
Wilcox had a game-high 28 points, while NWG was second on Washington with 20. Williams-Goss, as a true freshman might I remind you, scored 20 points and had six assists while committing only a single turnover. That is really impressive, and there is a bright future for him.
While Montana isn't a big name in college basketball, they aren't a horrible team. Right now, any team that is listed as not-horrible will be giving the Dawgs trouble. Maybe that is an exaggeration, but Montana is going to be one of the better teams in the Big Sky while Washington will be middle of the pack - at best - this season. Add in the fact that Montana started the game on a tear, and things were not in the cards for a Washington blowout.