The "just kidding you can stand there and we probably won't score anyways because we aren't actually running a play" offense was in full effect tonight. The offense was stagnant and the defense wasn't much better. The Washington Huskies fell to Albany in an ugly game that showed just how important it is for Washington to find their rhythm, in more ways than just one.
The pace was controlled by Albany for most of the game. Washington is a team that is built to get out and run, and they failed to do that today. Much of that went of the inability to force long jump shots, as the team allowed dribble penetration much too often in the second half which allowed Albany to have shorter bounces on their missed shots.
Longer rebounds mean a better chance for a run-out, shorter rebounds mean less of a chance for a run-out. There are several reasons for this. One, shorter rebounds have the chance to be tipped around a lot, which causes players to be scrambling for the ball and not getting out in transition. If the shorter rebound is grabbed by a defending player, then the player must take the time to find a guard to make an outlet pass or has to run the length of the court. This all means that the Huskies need to force jumpers using stout defense in order to get out in transition effectively. They were unable to do that tonight.
This was an ugly game in which Lorenzo Romar was simply out-coached. He lost Scott Suggs (hope he is okay) to a concussion early, which is a blow to the team, and a scary moment at that. A team can come out playing harder or playing tentative from that. The Dawgs played tentative and it contributed to the offensive issues.
Time to retire the bullet holes. Dots are the new, and they are the old. Dots are glorious, wondrous and near-divine. I'm leaving you, she said. The pull of the Dots are just too strong.
- A very minor detail that may end up as but a footnote on the rest of the happenings in the game, but I noticed that in every single jumper in the first half that the Huskies did not hold their follow-through; that is, holding up the shooting hand high into the air after their release. This helps to keep the release point consistent and accurate. Without it the launch angle tends to be inconsistent. some players shoot it harder (Andrew Andrews) and others tend to shoot it shorter (C.J Wilcox).
Not even Wilcox held his follow-through on his jumpers in the first half. I do have to give him credit for the mid-range jumper he did hit however, it was a thing of beauty. The first time I saw a Dawg hold his hand up high was on Gaddy's three-point basket to open the scoring in the second half.
The reasoning behind why they failed to hold their follow (which undoubtedly was a factor in the multitude of missed threes) could be coaching, could be defense, could be personal, or any number of those factors. It is just a small note and something to watch as the season progresses. The worst offender I noticed when this was happening was Andrew Andrews, as he does not hold his follow on even the most open of jump shots.
- The loss of Shawn Kemp Jr. reared its big ugly head once again tonight. It seemed as if Aziz N'Diaye started to wear down, and wasn't getting back to his man as quickly on pick 'n roll defense. Romar has his big guys hedge, and hedge hard on the screen instead of switching (what he did mostly last season). This means that the ball-handler's defender has to drop back a step to stop the quick pass to the roll man. Oftentimes it takes an alert third help defender to properly defend this way, and that third defender was nowhere to be seen this game.
As N'Diaye wore down, he was slower and slower getting back to the player he defended, the roll man. Kemp can spell N'Diaye and also provide some physical interior play. He will be a force when he returns, as Romar has raved about his improvement.
- Small, quick guards seem to have the Huskies' number so far in this young season. Dylon Cormier had a strong game Sunday night, and Mike Black torched the Huskies again tonight. Jacob Iati also had a good game, but he scored most of his points from beyond the arc, a result of the penetration he and Black were able to get throughout the course of the game.
Black did most of his damage (22 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds) off of the pick and roll. The defense against it was nonexistent, and the Great Danes kept going back to it over and over in the second half with success. It seems to me like the history of switching screen and rolls, which has allowed the rest of the defenders to relax slightly because they typically won't be involved) has hurt the Huskies in having their third defender helping against the offensive play. That is conjecture at this point, but again, another thing to watch.
Abdul Gaddy led Washington in scoring, and when the offense is out in transition Gaddy really shines. He is able to use his strength to get past smaller defenders on the break and use his deceptive moves to get passes to open shooters and cutters.
He has started to use flashy passes more. Not necessarily no-look passes but he moves the ball around to several different possible release points in a very short amount of time, with none serving as a true ball-fake but enough to gain the attention and move the hands of the defender just enough to get the pass off in a different direction.
One spot where he tends to do this more than others is when handling the ball in transition going down the middle of the court with a shooter on one of his flanks. He fakes a bounce pass to the side with the shooter to get the defender to shift his feet towards that side, then while still within his two steps he wraps the ball around the defender and passes behind the defender's back to the shooter. Remember, he has already used his dribble, so the defender is much more likely to gamble on a pass-fake because he cannot get beat off of the dribble.
There is risk in this because if the defender does not fall for the fake then he can get stuck in a no-win position and travel or throw a bad pass to the wing. This happened once when a big for Albany was stuck on Gaddy in transition and just stood straight up and down. Gaddy tried to make an over-the-top pass and it went straight into the hands of the defender.
- In the second half the offense went away from their only successful offensive option in the first half: Aziz N'Diaye. He scored five field goals in the first half, zero in the second. When Wilcox is struggling, a post-up by the Senegal native is the best option offensively for the team. As scary as that is to think, with Suggs out and Gaddy being ineffective in the half-court thus far, that is the team's best choice when forced into a half-court set.
- The team has fallen in love with power dribbles near the hoop. A power dribble is a two-handed dribble off the catch. The offensive player catches, either waits for a beat or not, then puts the ball on the floor hard with two hands for a single dribble while stepping towards the hoop. This can set up layups nicely, and can set up for pump fakes well, but if used improperly can put a player in a position to turn the ball over if all things go well.
Several times Gaddy would get penetration driving to the hoop so a defender would help on him. Then Gaddy would dump the ball off the the help defender's man (often Desmond Simmons or Jernard Jarreau) who would be cutting baseline. At this point the player receiving the pass should either take a power dribble to seal off a defender and get into position next to the hoop or just get to the hoop because they are too far away to lay the ball in. What happens is the player has a good position to get a lay-up either open or slightly contested but takes a power dribble directly underneath the backboard. They then are double teamed and lucky to get the ball out to a player on the wing or cutting.
At this point finishing is nearly impossible, even if N'Daiye kept the ball above his head he would still have trouble getting off a shot attempt against that sort of defense. Simmons, Jarreau and WIlcox all had shots blocked due to this exact happening. Sometimes the power dribble has to be skipped and the ball just laid in.
- One bright spot I will highlight was Gaddy's finishing around the rim. It has improved greatly and has without question been due to an increase in confidence in his injured knee. His alley-oop attempt was a great example of a play he would not have attempted last season.
One particular finishing move I took note of was a special type of floater I have seen Gaddy use. He used it against Loyola and again tonight. It is a floater that is more like a hesitation layup, but it is really a mix of a layup, and a floater. I call it a hesitation floater but I do not know if it has a particular name. It is my favorite finish around the rim (aside from an alley-oop).
It happened as so: Gaddy drove to the basket and leaped into the air close enough to stretch out for a finger roll. With most of his and his defender's momentum going very hard towards the baseline, Gaddy uses the second of his two steps to slow his momentum and jump. This allows the defender to fade off of him. This part rarely works as planned however, so there is more to this shot. if the defender sticks with the ball-handler (Gaddy in this instance) then the offensive player lowers his shoulder while taking the final step that leads into the jump. He jumps, then uses either his shoulder or his off-hand/elbow to push the defender off of him and back towards the baseline. Then the shooter leans back, getting him the little bit of extra space needed to float the ball over the top.
The shot is useful when trying to score inside against a bigger defender, as you can use their size against them, as it will be more difficult for them to stop their momentum than the smaller defender. It is also useful against smaller players, as the strength aspect tends to go into the favor of the bigger player.
This requires the strength to stop one's momentum with one step, the vertical to stay in the air long enough to do all of the above actions -this is the hesitation part; it appears as though the shooter is just floating in mid-air hesitating on the shot- and the touch to float the ball from several feet out.