Saturday, September 26, 2015
Why am I writing about this game? Opportunity. In March I taped some women's basketball games that I hoped to watch but never got around to seeing. My wife asked me to clear up some space on the DVR so I told myself that this weekend I'd watch at least one of those games.
This was a Sweet Sixteen game in Albany, New York. Texas was supposed to be this big tall team that would give Connecticut trouble; you can see from the score that it became a laugher. Connecticut extended its lead throughout the game all the way to the end.
* It really makes a team look good on offense when the defense can't get to the ball. When most teams have the ball, one person holds the ball and the other players move like chess pieces to try to position themselves to be in the best position to take a pass or threaten to take a pass.
Not UConn. If you forced both teams to play in the same color, you'd never be able to tell which players were the defensive players whenever Connecticut had possession. Connecticut's defense seems to be less like chess pieces and more like those little linemen in those "electronic football" games from the 1950s where the metal board jiggles the pieces around. Basically, the Huskies defensive players are clearing space, foot by foot, for the offensive player to make the best shot, while at the same time trying to be ready to receive the pass just in case.
This is the opposite philosophy that a lot of teams have during their possessions. The offensive players without the ball are more worried about catching the pass than overcoming the defense. When they say that the Huskies are unselfish, they mean just that. When a Connecticut player has the ball, the other offensive players are looking to help her score first and foremost.
* Part of that help comes from off-the-ball screens. I don't think I've seen so many off-the-ball screens in my life. "Unselfish play" is almost a platitude in women's basketball, but you'll really see those things that prove that Connecticut players care more about winning than individual glory.
* Watch the Huskies players move their feet when they play defense. They are on the balls of their feet pretty much the entire game. Watch the Longhorns. They are flat-footed a lot of the time.
* Kiah Stokes is out there getting blocks. I don't recall how many them she had this game but it was a lot. I'm starting to come around to the fact that steals and blocks are much more important than a lot of people realize because those stats can't be cheapened - the player has to actually do something by herself to get the block; for the most part no one else can give it to her. Rebounds are a different story. Breanna Stewart was all alone after a missed shot and the ball went off the backboard and right to her; David O'Brien exclaimed "Another rebound for Breanna Stewart!" as if she fought off three Texas post players to get it and it wasn't a sub-ordinary rebound that a semi-alert grade schooler would have caught.
* Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was also a senior for this game. I don't know if she has the defensive lapses that people claim she has but I saw at least one occasion where I questioned if she was making good decisions on defense. She hit a few threes.
* Breanna Stewart scored close to 30 points before Auriemma sat her down and the Huskies lead ballooned to ridiculous proportions. Is she the real thing? Oh yeah. Tall, can play the perimeter, good shot blocker, ridiculously good shooter.
* Moriah Jefferson was less impressive to me even though she put up good numbers.
* What put the game away was a 26-5 run just before the end of the first half that saw the Connecticut lead go from seven to twenty-eight.
I think what happens against UConn is not that teams stop trying as it is they really don't know what to do when they're down by 20 points. And not "down by 20 points against UConn", I mean down by 20 points in any game. The teams that make it to the NCAA tournament are used to winning and certainly don't fall into the kind of deep ditches that UConn loves to create. The players have no emotional plan for that situation - indeed, they block it out of their minds completely because to think about losing doesn't betray "the mindset of a winner" or some bullship phrase.
Everyone panics. The coaches panic, the players panic, and Connecticut just pours it on.
at 4:54 PM