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Offense Better, Defense Poor in Viking Loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay
Offense Better, Defense Poor in Viking Loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay
This night we got a glimpse of the Cedric Jackson we'd hoped to see on offense all season, slashing to the goal, stealing and running, gaining confidence, even hitting from the perimeter. And Ced's 21 points along with J'Nathan Bullock's 22, resulted in team totals of 36 at halftime, and 65 for the game. Enough most nights to win in the modest-paced Horizon. But not this night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as CSU's poor defense, particularly on the perimeter, allowed lots of guard penetration and a myriad of easy three-point looks for the Phoenix.
This night we got a glimpse of the Cedric Jackson we'd hoped to see on offense all season, slashing to the goal, stealing and running, gaining confidence, even hitting from the perimeter.
And Ced's 21 points (on 7-12, including 4-5 from the arc), along with J'Nathan Bullock's 22, resulted in team totals of 36 at halftime, and 65 for the game.
Enough most nights to win in the modest-paced Horizon.
But not this night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as CSU's poor defense, particularly on the perimeter, allowed lots of guard penetration and a myriad of easy three-point looks for the Phoenix.
Led by forward Ryan Tillema (19 points, 2-4 from the arc), coming off the bench since his return from injury, and guard Ralimon Fletcher (17 points, 2-3 from the arc), six Green Bay players hit 10 treys in 19 tries, and in a game not close the last five minutes the Phoenix bested the Vikes 80-65.
Two weeks ago in this space, in describing the defense played by Wright State the night it beat CSU, this writer distinguished the defense played by Brad Brownell's Raiders and that of Gary Waters' Vikings.
I wrote that Wright State's defense was not like CSU's, but rather more like that played by Bob Knight's Indiana teams, particularly in the late 70s and 80s.
Individual man-to-man defense on the ball in the half court (in modern parlance, from the arc), not frenetic, aggressive physically and in terms of spacing but not reaching or lunging, forcing the ball away from the middle of the court, and defenders always (almost always) keeping the ball in front of them (my first head coach used the phrase "crotch over").
I never heard Coach Knight say the following, but I'm sure he'd agree-as Coach Brownell would-that great man-to-man defense begins with great individual defense, particularly at the guard positions, and to coin a phrase, that help- or team-defense is best which must be used least.
Wright State played just such man-to-man defense two weeks ago, and to a lesser degree Coach Tod Kowalczyk's Phoenix played it at times last night.
Even CSU has occasionally played that way (I'm thinking of when they were on the lead all night against Kent State, and even against Butler), but they've been unable to play that way when they're behind.
And that's starting to be a problem.
A story comes to mind that makes the point.
I remember a pretty good college and pro coach, who before coaching at Notre Dame and before coaching the Knicks spent some years coaching the NBA team in Phoenix, by the name of John MacLeod.
MacLeod was never known as a defensive guru (even back then I remember the Phoenix team more for run ‘n gun than for half court defense).
Well, back then CBS had the national television contract for the NBA (weren't Dick Stockton and Hubie Brown awesome together), and all these years later I remember a commercial CBS was running for its basketball package.
In that old commercial, the camera zoomed in on the Suns' huddle during a timeout, and MacLeod was screaming at the top of his lungs, trying to get his team to play better defense.
He yelled something like:
"I don't want steals, I don't want reaching for the dribble, lunging for passes;
I want good solid position defense on the ball, increasing the pressure and closing the spacing.
That'll make them take longer tougher shots, under pressure, or just give up and turn the ball over, without you having to take it."
Anyway, that's how I remember it, all in a 30-second commercial, or maybe a 15-second spot.
And defensive guru or not-and whether or not his teams ever actually played that way-that day in that huddle, MacLeod was right on the money.
Another story, of much more recent vintage.
The last two years I covered the Colonial Athletic Association, even had a vote on its season-ending awards.
(Everyone knew I was prejudiced in favor of Northeastern and its coach Bill Coen, but somehow they managed to forgive me for that).
Anyway, the other 47 (two media members, the coach and the SID from each city) outvoted me on last year's Defensive Player of the Year, naming Old Dominion's senior guard Brandon Johnson.
Johnson was known for his steals, averaging 2.8 for a season total of 86 as of the night we voted, seventh in the nation and second in CAA history.
I saw Johnson as a player whose hands were quicker than his feet, whose speed was good but not great, who preferred guarding passing lanes to guarding his man, and who didn't want to guard for a full 35 seconds.
(Think Walt Frazier, as compared to his teammate Dick Barnett).
I didn't even place Johnson on my All-Defensive Team.
Well, to my surprise (and selfish pleasure), some time during that post-season-it may have been during the inaugural College Basketball Invitational--ODU Coach Blaine Taylor reduced Johnson's minutes, and I thought one of the reasons he sited was poor defensive position in his individual man-to-man defense on the ball, and Johnson's reaching and lunging for too many steals.
Time and time again last night, CSU's guards-and particularly Cedric Jackson-dug or reached around for the dribble, and lunged for passes on the perimeter.
Always a double-edged sword, those tactics resulted in a total of 9 steals (3 by Jackson, 2 by Norris Cole, 1 by Trevon Harmon), and to be fair those tactics did fuel CSU's mid- to late-first half comeback that tied the game at the half.
But particularly in the first half of the second half, when the Phoenix regained an 11-point lead and basically won the game, that lunging and reaching (and awful recovery to the perimeter) resulted in oft-unfettered penetration to the goal by Green Bay's players, and a ton of wide-open treys.
It wasn't sound, and it wasn't pretty.
And it put pressure on CSU's offense to keep up with Green Bay's prolific scoring, something CSU's poor shooting team just couldn't do.
One additional piece of news out of this game, on Trevon Harmon featured in this space after last week's stellar performance against Loyola.
No, this is no retraction of the words said in that piece, or waffling on Harmon's future stardom.
What it is is an admission that pure skill and ability is not enough, but must be joined with experience, maturity, the stuff of repetition.
The late Al McGuire used to say that "the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores."
Well, as wonderfully as Harmon played last Thursday at home, he was just that invisible in 27 average minutes last night, more than once turning his head on defense and losing his man.
He will be a star at CSU (next season to be teamed with talented center Aaron Pogue currently sitting out), but he will be hit and miss this year, particularly on the road.
Thus, even on a night when Jackson contributed offensively, no third scorer joined Jackson and Bullock, and CSU was pretty much out of the game at the under-eight second half media timeout.
The Vikes are now just 4-3 in conference, as they head south to face the tough Wisconsin-Milwauee Panthers on Saturday night.
CSU News and Notes:
No help was expected in other Horizon games last night, and none was received.
Butler rebounded from its poor showing last Saturday against Detroit, winning easily at Loyola 78-55;
Freshman Shelvin Mack had 20 (including 4-7 from the arc), and Matt Howard had 18 points and 11 boards.
In a warm-up for CSU on Saturday, Wisconsin-Milwaukee easily bested Youngstown State 69-50;
Tone Boyle scored 18 (on 6-12).
Illinois-Chicago rebounded from four straight losses, besting Valparaiso at home 77-52;
Robo Kreps had 23 points to lead the Flames, on 8-13 shooting, including 3-6 from the arc.
In tonight's second installment of the Horizon Friday night ESPNU game, Wright State visits Detroit for a 9 pm tip.
This writer is still holding out hope that we get to see Vaughn Duggins back from injury tonight for the 3-3 Raiders.
The second game of CSU's Wisconsin swing, at Milwaukee, will again be televised in Cleveland on SportsTime Ohio, and you can catch Mike Cairns and Franklin Edwards on the game beginning at 8 pm tomorrow night.
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