Washington seems fixed on a mission to revolutionize basketball.
The Huskies are eschewing use of the entire court. They don’t want all 94 feet. Let other teams deal with that. They just need 70 feet or so. Anything inside the three-point line, they would rather just fly over.
It’s like there’s an abyss inside the three-point arc. Dunks and lay-ins are not attainable.
If the Huskies continue to live by the three-pointer, it could be terminal for this season. Opponents are ready for them. They’ve devised game plans that work. The Huskies have not adjusted.
The 20th-ranked Huskies’ 68-56 upset loss to Oregon State Thursday in Corvallis knocked them out of first place, where they’ve been all season. They likely will fall from the polls next week. And their goals of the Pac-10 title and an NCAA Tournament berth are even in some jeopardy.
Sunday in Pullman, they struggled in all phases in their 87-80 loss to rival Washington State. Thursday, they couldn’t handle the Beavers’ 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones.
In those games, the Huskies have combined to hit just 18 of 60 three-point attempts. Against the Beavers, they couldn’t hit anything, shooting season-lows of 32 percent from the floor, 24 percent behind the arc and 47 percent from the foul line.
The Huskies put up 62 shots, eight inside the lane.
The Huskies’ game plan is not to pass inside but pass it to the hot hand of the moment, from Terrence Jones to C.J. Wilcox to Darnell Gant to Isaiah Thomas to, Thursday, Scott Suggs, who had a career-high 18 points. He made 5-of-11 three-pointers. Teammates were 2 of 18.
Too many three-pointers in the first half. We shot 10 in the second, which is fine,” UW coach Lorenzo Romar said afterward. We’ll still shoot the three-ball when it’s open and non-contested, but not when it’s contested.
That is not as much my concern as it is our defense. You can negate any of (the bad shooting), if you guard. That will get you through the storm if you play defense. That’s something we pride ourselves in doing.”
What we know about the Huskies especially what we saw in their first 15 games is that defense triggers offense. They fill lanes, they steal, they take charges, they limit opponents to one shot. Then they counter quickly with outlet passes and full-court breaks.
That style was a near-complete failure against the Cougars and the Beavers. It’s one reason why Romar used defensive specialist Venoy Overton for extended stretches in the second half Thursday, while Thomas (14 turnovers in two games) remained on the bench. He futilely sought a spark that could ignite his defense.
The Beavers were not about to allow the Huskies to run. They witnessed Washington’s 63-point second half Jan. 8 in Seattle when the Huskies broke from a 40-39 halftime lead for a 103-72 victory. They were determined to keep it a half-court game. The Huskies ran as infrequently as they have all season.
So if the defensive stops aren’t there, the Huskies are forced to play a set offense against a packed zone. They tried to beat it by shooting from long range.
It’s hard for a 7-footer to get lost, but the Huskies never found Aziz N’Diaye in the lane. He played just 12 minutes with no points not even a shot and two rebounds. Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who had six points against the Cougars, was almost a non-factor through 35 minutes. He scored 12 as he worked through game-long foul trouble.
MBA scored his first basket at 15:44. It took him another 13 minutes, 24 seconds to score another. That was only after a rebound from yet another perimeter shot.
Give OSU credit for its zone denial inside and its help defense. The Beavers were a compact, effective unit inside. But enough about zones. The Huskies have and will continue to see them the rest of the way. Maybe it’s time to break them down instead of the other way around.
We’ve seen Thomas do it frequently. He penetrates, dishes or takes the shot. Overton has done it. Not Thursday.
Zones are not death to this team, but Bryan-Amaning was hard-pressed to receive a pass. Was he not open? Was Thomas not looking? Was the effort there?
Often in these past two games, Bryan-Amaning was out of position. Zones have forced him beyond his range. Once he drifts just a few feet from the basket, it’s advantage to the opponent. He has to stand his ground, or move.
Thomas was on a fast break midway through the second half and instead of taking it to the hoop using all 94 feet allowed he pulled up at 19 feet and missed.
Washington is a three-point shooting team. But at no point until the last couple minutes was one necessary. OSU did not have more than a four-point lead until three minutes left yet the Huskies preferred flying over throughout.
If zones are all that effective, why don’t the Huskies play zone for 40 minutes? Maybe the Beavers would not have had 38 foul shots. Maybe they wouldn’t have had 41 of 48 shots INSIDE the three-point line. Maybe they wouldn’t out-rebound the Huskies, 44-31.
The Beavers lived inside; the Huskies barely visited.