Saturday, December 10, 2011

Loss to Wisconsin

Wisconsin loss – 62-51

Here’s my observations about the game:

Energy – Rebels defense, on the whole, was not there, neither was the energy needed to play Runnin’ Rebels basketball – defense that dictates offense. The last time this happened was about the same time last year the Rebels sustained several losses in a row, after the perfect 9-0 streak. This year, after eight wins in a row we now have two losses to good, but beatable teams. My theory last year, was that the Rebels just got tired from playing such hard defense game-in and game-out that it wore on them, leading to a breaking point at this time in the schedule. While a lot has been made of the strength and conditioning Coach Rice has implemented prior to the start of the season, the result has been the same – it seemingly cannot be sustained a third of the way into the season against the better teams. Solution – you can only play with the guys you have, limiting minutes is one approach, calling timeouts not to correct things but to give guys a breather is another, but going deeper into the bench is another option.

Missed layups – this game could have been a lot closer if many of the Rebels attempts to make layups, by Moser, Marshall, Massamba, and Bellfield, would have just bounced in. Layups are the next easiest shot to free throws, and our guys normally can sink them. Solution – more layup drills.

Players having career three nights against the Rebels – this afternoon, it was a player named Ben Brust, in the Wichita State game, it was a player named Joe Ragland. They both torched the Rebels from beyond the arc. While the signal was too bad for me to play close attention to in the Wichita game, Anthony Marshall said they were looking (at Ragland) to be a driver, when in fact it was a spot up shooter. In today’s game I saw the Rebels play a ‘we don’t respect outside the arc’ defense, a modified zone so that players could supply help defense when someone with the ball wandered inside. The problem with that kind of defense (which is usually effective) is that it fails when the opposing team, or player in the case of Brust, is not missing from deep. Solution: The Rebels need to employ a rule from here on out – when a player is shooting 60% or better from anywhere on the floor, at least have a man on him at all times from there on out. For example, when Ragland was 3 for 3 from deep, the Rebels should have been in his face the whole time, even be a little dirty if necessary. That would prevent these players from destroying us. Likewise, after Brust was 3-for-3 from outside, he should have had pressure-man defense the rest of the game, at least out to half court.

Oscar’s bad decisions – It’s a tough one, when those shots go in you say, man great job Oscar! and lord knows he’s made some big shots over the years. But when they continually don’t go in and he jacks them up before the shot clock has even reached 25, we have problems. Besides Bellfield’s terrible shooting, he was playing the point guard position today, but didn’t do that job very well. He had three assists, and three turnovers – a ratio of 1. He jacked up 12 shots and ended with 7 points. Obviously, Marshall is still hurting and cannot effectively run the point, but Bellfield ran the point for almost 3 years – he needs to relearn what made him good and go with it. Solution: More practices where Oscar runs point, maybe for the scout team if they want to plug Marshall into the primary point guard role. Problem may also resolve itself when Reggie Smith becomes active in a few days. The key is, when the Rebels were really doing well, assists were off the charts – people were helping each other. Right now, the team finished the game with 8 assists – that’s a freaking joke, and it won’t win basketball games.

Moser is still not 100% - I don’t even think he’s 50%. Everything he was doing well isn’t there for him right now. Basketball players are finely tuned athletic machines, and a sprained wrist is really going to hamper a guy who is a primary scorer and rebounder. For more on this, read this article:

Finding the hot hand – there was only one scorer for the Rebels who actually had his shot going – Chace Stanback. He was 5-9 from the field, 2-3 from three. Why he didn’t get the ball more often, who knows. The next best scorer percentage wise was Carlos Lopez, 3-4 from the field. Only four attempts when shooting so well is unacceptable. Solution – Coach Rice needs to tell his guys to look for Lopez, Stanback, or whomever has the hot hand, rather than the Bellfield takes another unassisted jumper and misses.

Shutting down the point guard – the Rebels did achieve one of their main objectives, shutting down Wisconsin’s phenomenal point guard, Jordan Taylor. Rebels defense limited him to only scoring points by way of free throws. Great job to the Rebels by shutting him down.

Overall impact – This loss is not a bad loss. It wasn’t by as large margin as the Wichita State game was, and it was a road game against the #14 Badgers. So, in terms of – does this hurt our tournament resume, it probably doesn’t. The disappointing thing was it was a winnable game, Wisconsin did not look invincible by any means, and if the Rebels had just worked together to grind the thing out, we could have potentially won it, or at least made it close.

Looking ahead – UTEP is the next game, and then comes Illinois. UNLV needs to workout the kinks against UTEP, be it doing things better, or resting injured players (Marshall and Moser). Rest is an achievable scenario, as UTEP is a horrible team, and should be an easy win once the manure smell clears out of the Thomas and Mack (NFR reference). If things don’t change, a loss is guaranteed against Illinois. Should that be the case, we’re running out of quality teams to beat on the schedule. 

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