Floriani: A Tempo-Free Look at the PNITPosted by rtmsf on December 2nd, 2009
Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences. He also regularly covers all levels of basketball in the New York City area.
NEW YORK CITY – The morning started on a Northeast Conference note. I officiated three basketball games in the NJ Goats (love that name!) Thanksgiving Tournament. My partner was Ed Mills, a NEC official who occasionally will do a 12-and-under boys tournament such as this. Our third and final game had a former NEC official, Tony Banks, who stepped down a few years ago due to illness. Three nice games in the book and off to New York. Forget Black Friday shopping.
A final look back on the Pre-Season NIT finals and consolation. Duke knocked off UConn 68-59 for the championship.
Think of Duke and the images of motion offense, passes quickly distributed around the perimeter, precision cuts and open shots come to mind. Friday’s Pre-Season NIT final gave us a look at this year’s Duke, a team that will battle you in the paint and contest everything. The offensive rebounding rate is proof enough. Overall the Blue Devils outrebounded UConn 56-43 with a 25-14 edge on the offensive glass. And this was against a Husky team with several skilled, tough big men. The principal damage on the offensive glass was inflicted by Brian Zoubek (7 off boards) and Lance Thomas (5 off rebs). Zoubek scored only 2 points but impacted things contesting the paint and adding 11 rebounds overall. Coach Mike Krzyzewski noted two of Zoubek’s offensive rebounds resulted in pitches back out to the perimeter that resulted in three point field goals.
UConn shot 0-4 on the afternoon from three. Not a big concern for Coach Jim Calhoun as the gameplan was to attack the basket. Offensively two things stood out for the Huskies: the field goal percentage of 37% (22-59) and worse yet, a 15-28 mark from the charity stripe. Time and again as UConn was in the process of a run a missed free throw or two put a serious dent in their momentum. Two key points were emphasized by Calhoun. “I can’t remember holding an opponent to 28% field goal percentage (for the game) and limiting them to eight second-half field goals and losing.” Calhoun answered his own question looking at the stat sheet and lamenting the loss of the battle of the boards.
Virtually overlooked was Duke’s excellent 16% turnover rate. The UConn pressure was a major concern of the Blue Devils coming into the game. With only 12 turnovers and a great turnover percentage, Duke handled any half- or fullcourt pressure with poise and excellence. Another concern was UConn’s shot blocking ability. The final block totals: UConn 9, Duke 7. The Blue Devils showed some ability of their own to reject shots. Jon Scheyer had 19 points, led all scorers, and earned MVP honors. Jerome Dyson led UConn with 15 points. Kemba Walker had 9 assists but committed 6 turnovers and shot a subpar 4 of 12 from the floor.
In the third place game LSU came out strong and with a purpose. The Tigers couldn’t sustain it, and in a wildly schizophrenic performance wound up losing to Arizona State 71-52. The breakdown of a 57-possession game, very suited to Herb Sendek’s ASU Sun Devils :
Just chalk this up as a total meltdown. Once Arizona State drew even and eventually pulled ahead, it was as if the life was gone from LSU. The ASU zone is not the easiest to break down. Still, on many a possession the Tigers remained almost stationary in their zone offense and were without player movement or finding gaps. LSU shot 5-25 (20%) in the second half while ASU was 68% (15-22) . Again, Derek Glasser of ASU impressed with a fine game-leading 24/6 assist outing. Eric Boateng, who struggled against Duke, responded with 17 points and 8 boards. Tasmin Mitchell had 17 to lead LSU and Storm Warren added 14. The Tigers were without point guard Bo Spencer who injured his ankle in the waning moments of the UConn game.
LSU coach Trent Johnson thought his club’s defensive effort was “for the most part better.” In comparison to the UConn game it was. Against the Huskies, LSU had two bad defensive halves. Against ASU it was a respectable half followed by a nightmare of almost epic proportions. Johnson sat motionless and almost stunned at times during the second half of the consolation, but he later refused to cite Spencer’s absence as an excuse. But it isn’t easy with your point guard suddenly out and a good shooting guard, Alex Farrer, already gone for the season. The Tigers want to put these two games behind them and understandably so. In the next few weeks we will learn how much they realize the game is 40 minutes and the effort that it requires to be consistently successful.