Saturday, February 4, 2012

Disapointment in Laramie, the Rebels lose 68-66

So a day has passed since the Rebels traveled to Laramie and lost by 2 to the Cowboys. Clearly, anyone here at this point knows what happened in the game, and has either watched it or has read about it, so there is no point in retelling the entire game. Links to recaps of the game, video will follow at the end of this article. 

But having time to reflect on this loss has been valuable, and here’s a perspective a day removed.

This loss will help in the long run: Everyone knows you learn a lot more from your mistakes than victories. While nobody expected a loss at Wyoming to be a bump in the schedule – fortunately its merely a bump in the schedule. Coach Rice will digest this game and find that his team will learn how to better deal with the following things:
  1. How to overcome Players that rely on physical strength over talent
  2. Teams who make every effort to prevent the Rebels from Runnin’
  3. The importance of maintaining defensive intensity
  4. The importance of taking the time out
  5. Free throw shooting still needs improvement

How to overcome Players that rely on physical strength over talent
The Cowboys are a team chocked full of what appears to be football team rejects, from behemoth Adam Waddell who looks like a linebacker, to even little JayDee Luster who could be a running back and everyone in between – this is an unassuming team. Couple that with their RPI prior to beating the Rebels, and you have a recipe for underestimation. The Rebels did some things right, such as goating the Cowboys into foul trouble by out quicking them. The things the Rebels did wrong was not being careful and committing silly offensive fouls. Foul trouble affected Chace Stanback, who had three fouls in the first half. Foul trouble was not limited to Stanback, Massamba fouled out shortly after Waddell, and Moser and Lopez each had three as well.
A team as good as the Rebels are cannot rely on friendly whistles from the refs, who may have been reacting to the ridiculously sensitive crowd in Laramie, as much as making bad calls. The Rebels need to move without the ball, pass to the open man, and be confident the ball is going in. That’s how we’ve won games all season and will continue to win games.

Teams who make every effort to prevent the Rebels from Runnin’
Credit to Coach Larry Shyatt to neutralizing what the Rebels do well - rebounding, running, and shooting the three. Well, many of the Rebels three point attempts were open shots that didn’t fall, so only collaterally can Coach Shyatt get credit for that. The most obvious thing he did was make the ultimate change by not lining up his players when the Rebels were shooting free throws, instead opting to keep them in the half court to defend against running. I’m still not quite sure how the Cowboys prevented the Rebels from their normal offensive rebounding success, other than having bulky players who rebound pretty well. One factor in the lack of rebounds is that the Rebels overall shot well from 2 point range (22-37) so rebounds aren’t there when you make them. Three point bucket rebounds, where the Rebels shot only 3-14 bounce out unpredictably taking Moser and others out of the equation. Also, if the Cowboys are playing back a bit to prevent the run, they tend to be in better position to rebound a missed three pointer. I’ve never seen a team not line up their players for free throws, so it’s a gimmick that now has been tried and the coaching staff will have to learn to adjust to all three of these things. Obviously, if the Rebels had just made 1 additional three point basket we would have won this one, but sometimes the ball just doesn’t fall in.

The importance of maintaining defensive intensity
There was only one point in this game where I actually saw the Rebels been dominant on defense, and that was in the first part of the second half. The Rebels have been a second half team, but implicit in that is that the Coaching staff at halftime makes the changes necessary to be effective. Be it from travel, exhausting schedule where the Rebels have played more games than anyone in the conference (any probably anyone in the country) or altitude, our signature defensive intensity reared its head only once during this game – and that cannot be the status quo. Runnin’ comes from defense and rebounding, something that Coach Rice frequently mentions, so without those two we have no Runnin’.

The importance of taking the time out
Obviously, down by two points and with the ball with about 30 seconds to go, the Rebels should have taken a time out to make sure a play was drawn up, the right players were on the court, and everyone was on the same page. Everyone knows this didn’t happen. The commentators on the broadcast explained it away by saying that the Rebels were a veteran team and didn’t necessarily need to take a time out in this situation. Bullsh*t. I’ve watched enough NBA games, chocked full of veterans, the best and brightest players, and its rare that they don’t take a time out in this situation. This fault comes down to Coach Rice. Frankly, I’ve been beginning to think he’s superhuman given his success as a first year head coach, but this was an obvious mistake. Now, even if they took the time out there is no guarantee that they would have made the shot. And even if made, in overtime we may have still lost the game – or we could have won, we’ll never know. Either Coach Rice has a standard play drawn up for this situation – which is nearly impossible to do because there is no way to know what team its going to be needed against, or just call the time out.

Free throw shooting still needs improvement
Close games are won and lost at the free throw line. The Rebels were better than they have been from the line, shooting 72% for the game, but it was two unlikely players who underperformed from the line and could have won us the game. Both Reggie Smith and Anthony Marshall were 2-4 from the charity stripe. Now I’m going to stereotype here, but the shorter guys are supposed to have the highest free throw accuracy (has to do with the arc they’re flat footed shooting at). Both should be embarrassed that they were out shot by Quintrell Thomas, who was 5-6.

Final thoughts
It was another loss, not a great loss, but explainable. We shot horribly from three point land, and that’s why we lost. Hopefully much can be learned from this game, and we utterly destroy Wyoming when they set foot in Las Vegas. There were two bright spots in this game, and they deserve to be Reign men even in the loss. Quintrell Thomas and Oscar Bellfield were big for the Rebels, and its important for these two role players to increase their offensive confidence for the Rebels to go deep into the tournament. Thomas scored a season high 15, and Bellfield 12. With a week off the Rebels have a great shot to regain the 1st place tie once we beat SDSU. GO REBELS!

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