Watching this No Expectations Husky Basketball Team is, I have to admit, pretty entertaining! Don’t get me wrong, this team isn’t good. It’s deeply flawed for any number of reasons – many of them, we saw examples of in this very game – but they play hard and they play a brand of basketball I can get behind.
I think I’m a fan of the full-court press defense! Who knew that’s what I’ve been missing all this time?! It’s exciting, it pressures the other team for the full amount of shot clock, and if done properly it can force them into turning the ball over. This has been a HUGE development for this Husky team that otherwise has been just okay in man-to-man, but has been truly God-awful at the zone.
The zone, at its best, is supposed to limit three-point opportunities. When we were running it at its best – with Matisse Thybulle dominating everyone in his path – we still weren’t perfect, but for the most part we could shut down an outside game and funnel shots to the mid-range. That has decidedly NOT been the case since Thybulle went pro; teams have been doing whatever they want against our zone.
Thankfully, Mike Hopkins has recognized that he doesn’t necessarily have the guys to properly enforce the zone. He also recognized that if he has another season like the last two, he’s probably out on his ass, so it’s time to adapt to the personnel he has. The man-to-man has been a breath of fresh air; we’re at least able to stop the bleeding caused by the zone leaving guys with wide-open looks all over the court. But, the full-court press has been a jolt of caffeine straight to the heart! Teams aren’t expecting it, and at least in the early going, it’s almost single-handedly kept us in ballgames.
The Texas Southern Tigers came out absolutely on fire in the early going last night. They were making shot after shot, but luckily so were we. They didn’t necessarily have the long-range game going – not for lack of opportunity, as they were 2 of 18 on the night, many of them wide open – but everything else was on the table.
That was, in large part, thanks to their offensive rebounding. They didn’t have any one huge behemoth out there dominating us; it was a true team effort. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team so pesky on the offensive glass. They CONSTANTLY had guys crashing after balls, and we were fundamentally incapable of boxing them out. I do recall games in the last couple years where giving up offensive rebounds was an issue, but not like this! They had 29! They had more offensive rebounds (29) than defensive rebounds (23). I was absolutely blown away. As a result, they were able to put up 72 shots to our 57. But, they only hit 36.1% of them to our 40.4%.
We also, as indicated above, made ample use of the press to help force 21 Tigers turnovers. We had 7 blocks and 8 steals as a team, and we made 20/28 from the free throw line (we’re getting better!). While our three-point shooting wasn’t terrific (6/22), it was just good enough. All told, it amounted to a 72-65 victory for the Huskies.
Terrell Brown led the way with 20 points and 9 assists. It was a steady, quiet performance that nevertheless showed up in a big way late, as he finished the game making 6 of 7 free throws. Daejon Davis stood out to me, having his best game as a Husky so far. He had 15 points, hitting 2 of 5 threes (4 of 7 overall) and 5 of 7 free throws (tack on 2 steals and a block to his line). Jamal Bey had 10 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. P.J. Fuller had 11 points, 3 boards, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. And Langston Wilson had 7 points and 7 boards in 22 minutes off the bench.
This was a really well-rounded Husky victory, with lots of people contributing. And if you shield your eyes from who the opponent was, and how they were able to push us to the last minute of the game, this was a nice little victory.
Right now, the Huskies just need to learn how to play together and learn how to win some ballgames again. Get a little confidence as we head into conference play. It’s probably going to be a long year, but I still don’t see why we can’t at least improve upon expectations and be a Top 10 team in the Pac-12.