Monday, November 20, 2006

Hoops - Jackets Win #1 in Maui

Purdue proved to be a tough match-up, but the Jackets proved to be the tougher team tonight, pulling away in the 2nd half with a 79-61 victory in round 1 of the Maui Classic. That means a match-up with Memphis and the town that Thaddeus Young said "no thanks" to in order to head to the ATL.

There were two key stretches that decided this game - the last 3 minutes of the 1st half, and a 4 minute stretch almost mid-way though the 2nd half. Early on the Jackets found themselves in a dog-fight, finding it difficult to take good shots with a pressuring Purdue defense. The Jackets took a lot of bad looking shots, and turned the ball over quite a bit. In fact, it was the freshman who committed most of the errors (13 of their 21 total came from Peacock, Critt and Young).

The first key stretch started with the Jackets down 24-17. The Jackets went on an 11-0 run to end the half. Honestly most of that stretch was marked by some bad Purdue shotmaking and excellent transition offense from the Jackets, combined with very solid rebounding. Purdue just couldn't knock anything down as they even missed some wide open looks. While the run was impressive, it only put them up by 4 at the half.

The second half was neck and neck for awhile, until Zach Peacock hit a 3 pointer. The Jackets extended the lead but let the Boilermakers back in it. Then it became the Javaris Crittenton show. Check out this quote from JC after the game:

"My coach told me at halftime to slow down and let it come to you. He gave a boxing analogy, throw a couple of jabs to get your opponent offbalance and then go at him and give him the knockout punch," Crittenton said. "It was almost prophetic what he said. Because he said I would have the ball in my hands at the end of the game and I would win the game for us, and that's what happened."
Umm, does anyone remember another PG being told the same thing by Coach Hewitt and it leading us to a Final Four? Yeah, remember Coach Hewitt telling Will Bynum to be patient, be patient, your time will come and you'll win some games for us. I guess Coach decided Javaris was ready to step up already.

"Javaris Crittenton just put it on himself and he took over that game in the last part and that's really what got us," Kramer (PG) said. "(It was) just high-ball screen after high-ball screen and they just let him go to work."

What happened? Well Javaris took the game over for a 4-minute stretch. He had two of the most beautiful dribble penetration moves, both slicing through multiple defenders and both resulting in acrobatic lay-ups. Pretty indeed. If he wasn't making creating lay-ups he was going to the foul line and knocking down free throws or dishing a great assist for Thad for an easy and-one under the hoops.

The Jackets extended their lead to double digits during that stretch and never looked back.

DEFENSE............... B-
Another solid effort, holding Purdue to 37% shooting and 17% from 3pt range. However, Purdue did shoot 45% in the 2nd half as a result of creating some easier baskets. The Jackets only had 5 steals but Purdue turned the ball over 15 times. While the players were active and moving their feet a lot, there were a number of clear breakdowns that I would characterize as communication problems. The help defense and trapping defense was spotty at times, particularly with guys driving right down the middle from the top of the lane and passing down low to their big man.

REBOUNDING........... A+
The team deserves a good grade tonight. They dominated the overall rebounding 48-29. Let's continue our trend looking at rebounding efficiency:

Rebounding Efficiency
Purdue...........OR 58.6%...... DR 79.5%
Ga St..............OR 37.5%....... DR 79.3%
Jackson St.....OR 52.4%....... DR 70.3%
Elon................OR 54.8%....... DR 73.7%

Bottom-line is that they got the job done tonight. Box outs were more consistent, players positioned themselves more effectively, and there were fewer lapses. Remember rebounding is really about desire, toughness and technique. They clearly showed they have all three. Now can they do it every night?

OFFENSE......... B
The Jackets shot 49.1% overall and 38.5% from long distance. However, it really was the tale of two halves. The first half consisted of a lot of turnovers and a lot of poor shots. The result was only 34% shooting in the half and 25% from long distance. Throw in poor free throw shooting in the half (4-9) and you have to be happy you're up by 4 going into the lockerroom. We have to thank Purdue for pressing a bit at the end of the half and then credit the Jackets for taking advantage.

The 2nd half was a different story with the Jacketts shooting 68% overall and 60% from long distance. Throw in 14-17 from the stripe and you have the makings of a one team putting away another. Better control of the ball and Javaris Crittenton willing his team to a victory proved the be the difference.

Overall the Jackets turned the ball over 21 times and only had 13 assists on 28 buckets. Definitely work to be done here. However, freshman are freshman, no matter how talented they are. Again you can just see the potential in this team.

Four guys in double figures (JC, LC, TY, ZP) #1 Javaris Crittenton - which has already been mentioned. He scores 20 pts, goes 11/12 from the stripe, dishes 5 assists, grabs 3 steals, but has 5 turnovers ..................... Thaddeus Young gets the tough-man award. He got his knee / ankle banged up but wanted back in and toughed it out, making some nice shots and grabbing 10 boards on the night. Thad ended with 13 pts / 10 boards, but did have 5 turnovers........................ Ra'Sean Dickey had another nice night coming off the bench. He had 2 key blocks, grabbed 7 boards, 4 pts.............. Zach Peacock scores 13 pts including a pretty 3pt shot, grabs 5 boards, and turns the ball over 3 times.

Concerns - Anthony Morrow is still not looking comfortable. With the emergence of Lewis Clinch and coming back from injury, he seems to be having a hard time finding his role on the team. He played about 12 minutes and missed two shot attempts. We all know he's a competitor and he's also an assasin from long range, so we'll see how it plays out with A-Mo.

By the way, the rotation tightened up tonight. No D'Andre Bell. No Alade Aminu. No Paco Diaw. TY and JC led the way with over 30 minutes each.

Memphis. Tuesday night at 7:00 EST. Quick turnaround and a tough match-up. Definitely going to be a tough game to get a W, but certainly possible............... by the way, Memphis has a little cloud hanging over their program a the moment.