Question of the day: Was it the offense or the defense?

Rochestie, last night:

“A lot of Washington State basketball is about is getting motivated and getting pumped up on the defensive end,” said Rochestie, who had two of WSU’s four assists and four of its 14 turnovers. “When you’re not getting stops, and you’re a defensive team, that plays a role offensively.

 

“When we’re getting gritty and getting stops defensively, it fires up our offense and we start breaking teams down.”

Grippi, today:

So why am I harping so much on the offense? This is WSU isn’t it? Well, it’s because the defense is sound, despite UW’s 60 points and 48 percent shooting. Sure, there are matchup problems at certain spots and will be throughout the Pac-10 slate, but Klay Thompson has grasped the Cougars’ concepts, Aron Baynes and DeAngelo Casto have defended the rim to a degree it never was last season and the rest of the Cougars are, for the most part, playing solid. It’s only when the offense becomes timid and inefficient the defense seems to break down. (As he articulated last night, Taylor Rochestie sees it the other way, but it’s kind of the chicken-egg argument here. From our vantage point, the offensive end seems to be the key element this season.)

 

The one thing we haven’t seen this year is someone coming off the bench and nailing a couple 3s in key situations (think Chris Matthews two years ago) to get the offense going. Such a lift would have been helpful a bunch of times this season. Last year, with Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver able to go off in bunches, it wasn’t so critical. Now it is. I thought before the season started that guy would be Abe Lodwick. Maybe it still will be. Or maybe it’s Mike Harthun (though that’s a lot to ask of a true freshman). Or maybe all that’s needed is taking the ball out of Rochestie’s hands for a few minutes each game, let him run off screens and get open looks, like last season. We’ll see.

So - is it the offense that's the problem, or is the real issue that our defense isn't setting up the offense the way it used to?

I'm with Grippi 100% here. Sorry, Taylor, but the defense is still pretty solid. It didn't help us whatsoever that UW drained their threes (6 for 11) while the Cougars had their fair share of shots rim out yet again.

This is vintage Grippi, too. I love two things about the last paragraph. One, the idea that Rochestie should spend a few moments away from running the point. That's something I've heard people mention before, but it has new meaning after the UW loss. Taylor is shooting the worst 3-point % of his career right now, and it's not because he's getting worse. It's because he's not getting open, and we have to find ways for either him or someone else to get in rhythm. I hate to see him force shots, like he has all season long.

Second, I'm extremely excited to see I'm not the only one that was on the Abe Lodwick bandwagon at the start of the year. The kid can shoot - but due to his 1 for 16 long-distance start I feel that Tony is hesitating when it comes to putting him in games. He shouldn't. That may not be Grippi's opinion, but it's mine. We need another 3-point shooter off the bench to give us a lift. It's not going to be Capers - so it has to be Harthun or Lodwick. Or heck, maybe even Witherill. We need someone.

I'll add two things of my own to the offense/defense debate. Number one: turnovers. The Cougs have been uncharacterstically bad at coughing up the ball this year, and they did it again against the Huskies. A 24.6 TO% is not going to help us win games in conference. When you're offense turns the ball over, you give away easy transition opportunities to the other guys - something the defense can't always bail you out of.

My second issue with yesterday's game was the free throw rate - the Huskies didn't kill us here, but once again we let an opponent make more free throws than we took. What's odd is that we did draw a lot of fouls in the first half. However, they just weren't shooting fouls - which gave the advantage to the Huskies as long as they could keep their guys out of foul trouble. Which they did (for the most part). Again, our offense not getting to the line is not the defense's problem.

Role Reversal

It's nice to see the Huskies play their very best against us. And not, someone like, oh I don't know... Portland?

From Condotta's Blog:

-- This was UW's best overall shooting game of the year if you throw in the 12-14 performance at the free throw line. UW was 25-52 from the field, the fourth-best percentage of the year, and a critical 6-11 from the three-point line. Romar again praised his team's improving shot selection saying that the Huskies did an especially good job of regrouping after getting offensive rebounds instead of immediately hurrying up another shot.

--- But there wasn't much UW didn't do well today. The 11 turnovers were a season-low, and the plus-16 margin on the boards the third-best of the year. UW also had 11 assists to just four for the Cougars.

--- This was also as much of a team effort as UW has had all season with four players scoring 10 or more points --- impressive balance in a game when it scored only 68 total.

--- Several players turned in what might have been their best games of the year, notably Pondexter (16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, no turnovers in 34 minutes) and Justin Dentmon (17 points on 6-8 shooting and 4-4 three-pointers). His threes were especially big as the Huskies knew they would have to hit some to win this one --- and that hasn't been UW's strong suit to date. All six came from Dentmon and Isaiah Thomas, but it proved enough.

The Huskies do deserve a lot of credit, especially for having success in transition. Isiah Thomas did a great job emulating what the Oregon guards used to do well against WSU. That is, push the tempo just enough coming down the court to create a mismatch or an open shot, even if you don't drive all the way to the basket. Thomas, as far as I'm concerned, really was the difference this time for UW. When it was just Appleby and Dentmon, the Huskies didn't have a guard who could change the game like that.

There is a silver lining:

--- Don't let anyone kid you that this wasn't a big one for the Huskies. As they ran off the court and up the tunnel to the locker room --- and out of public view --- some of the UW players leapt into the air as if they were going for a game-winning dunk. Justin Holiday ran up the tunnel and gave a hearty chest-bump to Quincy Pondexter who screamed a hearty "yeah.''

A little funny, isn't it? The lowly Cougs, who didn't have much of a program whatsoever until 2003, now have a bullseye on their back. Instead of UW vaulting to elite status and expecting to beat us every time out, they're the ones going crazy after a lone win in eight attempts. There's something refreshing about seeing that. They didn't expect to win this game, and that says a lot about the status of both programs. As I watched the Husky players celebrate at the end I couldn't help but think to myself, "should they really be that excited?".

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