The Huskies got off to yet another slow start Monday night against the UCSB Gauchos, missing their first nine shots of the game and finding themselves down 9-3 at the fourteen-minute mark. The Gauchos came out in a 2-3 zone and the Huskies were more than happy to settle for threes, as seven of their first nine shots were threes. They also seemed to be rather disinterested on the defensive end of the floor as well, allowing the Gauchos to get to the rim with relative ease. They were also able to take advantage of Noah Dickerson in the post early on, as he was sealed off for two easy layups. The Huskies went nearly nine minutes without a field goal. Dickerson finally ended that drought when he converted a layup out of a post up at the twelve minute mark. However, the Gauchos were able to counter with a simple back cut by DeJuan Smith as Donaven Dorsey seemed to fall asleep on defense. Smith converted the three-point play at the free throw line and pushed the Gauchos' lead to eleven at the 11:52 mark.
Dejounte Murray seemed to help the Huskies find some rhythm on the offensive end following the second media timeout, as he converted a nice layup and then threw an incredible pass to Noah Dickerson for a layup on the following possession. Murray continued his stellar play as he converted another tough floater in traffic, found Andrew Andrews for an open three, then drew a foul and converted a free throw out of a one and one. He was undoubtedly the spark the Huskies needed on the offensive end following a slow start.
The Huskies swung the momentum in their favor when David Crisp threw down an emphatic two-hand dunk in transition following a steal by Andrews. To their credit, the Gauchos responded nicely, as Gabe Vincent knocked down a three. However, Andrews immediately countered with a tough floater in the lane and then the Huskies were able to force a jump ball after Crisp jumped on a loose ball at the feet of a Gauchos guard. (It should be noted that this sequence made assistant coach Will Conroy flex so hard that it looked like he was going to rip his suit.) The Huskies were then able to take the lead for the first time when Andrews knocked down a right corner three.
That lead didn't last very long, however, as the Gauchos knocked down two consecutive threes and regained the lead at 29-24 with a little over five minutes to play. After a few frantic possessions that saw the Huskies jack up threes, Murray found Malik Dime in the paint for a layup and Andrews was then able to draw a foul and convert both free throws to cut the lead to 29-28.
The Huskies were able to force a five second violation out of the media timeout. After a hectic sequence, Dime converted back to back baskets, capping a nice steal with an emphatic transition dunk. Andrews followed this up shortly with possibly the most embarrassing turnover of his career as he threw the ball off of the shoulder of an unsuspecting Marquese Chriss, which led to an easy transition basket that tied the game at 34.
With 30 seconds left, the Huskies trailed by two with a chance to tie or take the lead. However, Crisp missed a three that bounced long off the back rim and out to just short of center court. Bryson was able to gather in the ball and get all the way to the rim and up for a dunk after poor transition defense from Murray. Fortunately he missed the dunk and the Huskies trailed by only two heading into the half.
The Huskies came out in the second half with a clear emphasis on getting the ball in the post. They found Dickerson in the post on the first two plays of the half and then found Chriss inside shortly later. The Huskies were back cut yet again as Bryson threw down an emphatic dunk. The Huskies continued to struggle with their interior defense as Eric Childress finished a nice floater, followed up by a nearly uncontested reverse layup from Maxwell Kupchak. Bryson was able to knock down a fifteen-foot jump shot that stretched the Gauchos' lead to eight. This was clearly not the start to the half that Lorenzo Romar was hoping for, as the Huskies once again looked disinterested in exerting any energy on the defensive end.
Once again it was Murray who was able to help the Huskies get back into a rhythm, as he came down with two consecutive offensive rebounds and converted both to cut the UCSB lead to eight. He then found Dime for a nice alley-oop dunk, cutting the lead to 50-44 with a little over 14 minutes to play. Andrews was then able to find Crisp in transition who connected on a transition three, cutting the lead to five.
Murray then followed that up with a nice floater a few minutes later, and then finished a transition dunk following a steal and dish from Andrews, cutting the lead to 52-51 with 12:20 left in the game. I don't mean to make this entire writeup about Murray, but man, did he make some amazing plays tonight. His most impressive of the night came when he drove the lane and seemed to fall and lose balance. However, on his way to the ground he was able to flip the ball to Dime--who finished with an emphatic two-hand dunk.
For all of the positive plays Murray made for himself and teammates in the paint, he struggled mightily with his jump-shot tonight, as he missed all four of his three-point attempts.
Whenever the Huskies seemed like they were going to take control of the game, the Gauchos seemed to have a response. Kupchak was able to push the Gauchos lead to four, 61-57, after knocking down a nice three-point shot on the right wing.
The Huskies were unable to take advantage of their free-throw attempts, knocking down just one of their four attempts during the six-minute mark. These missed free-throws, coupled with an incredible deep three from Bryson, helped push the Gaucho lead to eight. Crisp responded in kind with his own impressive three, but DaJuan Smith finished with a nice and-one play which pushed their lead back to eight.
Dime turned in a great performance tonight, evidenced by a nice post move out of the right block. A bad turnover from Crisp forced Andrews to foul Byrson while he was in transition, and he was able to knock down both foul shots and push the Gaucho lead to ten with five minutes to play.
After Dime split a pair of free-throws, Andrews knocked down a pair of his own free-throws, cutting the Gaucho lead to 73-66 with a little less than four minutes to play.
Crisp knocked down a nice open three following the TV timeout to cut the Gauchos' lead to four and then followed up by taking a charge. On the following possession, Andrews jacked up a quick three, then Murray was able to corral an offensive rebound but missed the followup. Andrews then came down with the miss and drew a foul, and knocked down both free throws.
The Huskies then put together 27 seconds of solid defense on the following possession, but Seattle native Mitch Brewe was able to squeak free for an open layup. He flipped his first attempt off the front of the rim to reset the shot clock and then cleaned up his miss, pushing the Gauchos' lead to 75-71. After a missed Husky attempt and two made freethrows from Gabe Vincent, the Gauchos' lead stood at 77-71. Andrews then drove and kicked it out to Crisp, who knocked down an open three.
Once again, after a solid defensive possession, the Gauchos responded with an incredible shot as Vincent threw up a wild shot that miraculously went in.
Thybulle followed this up with a quick layup, cutting the lead to 79-76 with less than a minute left. Vincent then had his layup attempt blocked by Dime, which created a two-on-one advantage. Instead of attacking the rim or hitting a wide-open Crisp for a three-point attempt, Andrews decided to stop, pump fake and attempt to draw a foul while shooting a three.
The foul call didn't come and the shot didn't fall. Brewe brought down the rebound and was fouled by the Huskies. He knocked down both free throws. Vincent knocked down two free throws with nine seconds remaining and sealed the Huskies' fate, as they fell 81-78.
- Unfortunately, this was the Huskies team that fans have gotten used to seeing over the last four years. The Gauchos came out in a 2-3 zone to start the game and never got out of it the entire night. This should not have been, and most likely was not a surprise to the Huskies' coaching staff or players. The Gauchos were overmatched athletically and couldn't afford to play man-to-man defense and allow this talented Huskies team to burn them in one-on-one situations. Instead of responding by going inside and using their size and athleticism to their advantage, the Huskies were much too content to sit back and shoot threes, without even attempting to get the ball inside in any meaningful way. To their credit, they adjusted to this for stretches, but there were still too many stretches where they settled for threes, rather than attacking the zone through the high and low post.
- This is the third straight game where the Huskies have come out flat to start the game, and I think it is time to officially worry about their energy coming out of the gates. Maybe it is the holiday break or the extended home stand, but something has changed with this team's approach to starting games, and it hasn't been good. I was hoping to see the Huskies to come out with a sense of urgency against Seattle U following their loss to Oakland, but that didn't happen. And it didn't happen tonight either, which is both disappointing and alarming. Despite the fact that the Gauchos led throughout the game, the Huskies didn't ever seem to develop a sense of urgency (except for a small stretch in the first half), and their effort level and body language seemed to indicate that they expected to eventually walk out with a win. Unfortunately, that never happened, and now the Huskies will have to regroup after their first official bad loss of the season.
- On a positive note, after a slow started that saw the Huskies miss their first nine shots, they knocked down eight of their next eleven shots. This was mainly due to Dejounte Murray. He was the catalyst for the Huskies' struggling offense as he sliced through the lane in both the half out and in transition. He was able to finish some nice floaters and also found his teammates for both open jump shots and also created easy scoring opportunities for his teammates close to the rim. He ended the first half with just three assists and shot a pedestrian 2-6 from the field, but his impact on the team in the first half was greater than the stat sheet shows. He got the ball moving for the Huskies, who started off content to pass the ball around the perimeter and shoot threes. Murray changed this, attacking the zone and getting good penetration and looking for his teammates. He was still erratic at times, but this was the first time all season that Murray looked like the point guard of the future for the Huskies.
- Malik Dime put together the best game in his short Husky career. He finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and also pitched in three blocks. He showed off a wide array of offensive moves, finishing well on rolls to the hoop, dunking alley oops and dumpoffs. He also made a few superb post moves, including an impressive sweeping right hand hook shot across the lane. Most of all, Dime played with incredible effort and energy all game, and seemed to really want to be out there. Dime's energy off the bench has been one of the few consistent factors for the Huskies all season. Chriss and Dickerson are undoubtedly more skilled than him, but I think Dime deserves a shot in the starting lineup. Slow starts have really hurt the Huskies in their two home losses this season, and I think Dime could provide an immediate spark that this team has been missing in the last three games. Don't be surprised if he makes his way into the starting lineup in the near future.
- This was not a good day for Marquese Chriss. He finished with just three points and only one rebound. He got into foul trouble early and stayed there all night long. When he was on the court he seemed rather disinterested and disengaged. The Huskies will need him to figure out how to get his foul issues under control and will need a much better effort Friday if they are going to have any chance knocking off the Bruins.
- Andrew Andrews really struggled tonight as well. He knocked down just three of his twelve shots and also coughed the ball up four times. To his credit, he did pull down eight rebounds, dish out five assists, and knock down all six of his free throw attempts. However, he simply couldn't get himself into a rhythm on the offensive end as he settled for tough threes throughout the night. His night was summed up well at the end of the game, when, after a Malik Dime block that set up the Huskies with a two-on-one fast break down three with a little under thirty seconds, Andrews decided to stop, pump fake and attempt to draw a foul on a three-point attempt. He missed the shot and the foul was not awarded. It was unquestionably a bad decision; he should have either driven to the hoop and finished at the rim, hit Crisp for a wide open three-point attempt on the right wing, or shot a pull-up three. I'm not going to go as far to say that his decision ended up costing the Huskies the game--their lack of energy, complacency to settle for threes despite being ice cold from behind the arc all night long, and their inability to properly execute halfcourt team defense or box out were much bigger factors than this one play--but it was an unquestionably a bad decision in a critical moment in the game. Like Chriss, the Huskies will need Andrews to rediscover his rhythm if they are going to be able to compete on Friday.
- Speaking of team defense, the Huskies struggled to execute their team defense all night long. The Gauchos had an incredible amount of success with simple back cuts and dumpoffs of drives.The Huskies also struggled inside at times, as USCB was able to seal off the Huskies' big men and finish easy layups multiple times. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Gauchos carved up this young Huskies' defense. Most Husky fans know that defense has been a work in progress for this team all season long, but tonight showed the Huskies still have a long way to go before they can be considered "good" at team defense.
- Though the Huskies struggle in the half court on defense, they seem right at home applying full court pressure. I know that this is something the coaching staff has backed off from due to the Huskies' propensity to foul, but regardless, Romar needs to have this team pressing for longer stretches of the game. They can really disrupt opposing teams' offenses and they seem to feed off of the energy that it generates.
- Finally, the Gauchos deserve some credit. First of all, their role players proved me wrong. I overlooked them in the preview leading up to this game and I am eating crow for it as a result. Eric Childress turned in a solid game, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and seven assists. DaJuan Smith also had a nice game, as he finished with 10 points on 4-7 from the field and also pitched in three rebounds. Seattle native Mitch Brewe finished with a solid eleven points and eight rebounds, and knocked down two crucial free throws at the end of the game that extended the Gauchos' lead to five. He was very animated throughout the entire game; you could tell he wanted to knock off his hometown team. The Huskies were able to hold UCSB's Michael Bryson below his scoring average, as he finished the game with a respectable 17 on 7-17 from the field. Gabe Vincent knocked down an incredibly
luckytough shot with a minute left in the game. It looked like the Huskies were going to finally get a stop against the Gauchos, but Vincent had other ideas. He finished the game with 14 points and three rebounds.