Questioning Craig Robinson’s End-Game Decisions Against StanfordPosted by AMurawa on January 9th, 2012
In any four-overtime game that is eventually decided when a three-pointer at the buzzer goes astray, the losing coach is going to have plenty of decisions that didn’t pan out that he can blamed for. Even the winning coach probably has a decision or two that could have ended the game earlier had they been made in a different fashion. But Saturday night’s four-overtime epic in which Stanford outlasted Oregon State left me repeatedly befuddled with the decisions that OSU head coach Craig Robinson made in crunch time. Below is a partial list (believe me, there were more) of head-slappingly poor decisions in the overtimes alone that helped to leave Oregon State at 1-3 in conference play.
- At the end of the first overtime, with the game tied, Oregon State uses one of its four remaining timeouts between a pair of Chasson Randle free throws (this decision actually goes in the good decision column, as Randle missed the second free throw following the TO, keeping the game tied), but apparently in the timeout, the play that Robinson set up was to give the ball to Ahmad Starks and let him mount a wild drive to nowhere leading to a turnover. There was no ball screen, no player movement, no real plan, and Stanford was able to get through to a second overtime without even needing to dodge a bullet at the end of the first OT. Another timeout in the halfcourt to set up the final play would have been a good decision.
- At the end of the second overtime, OSU was up one point and playing defense with twenty-some seconds left. After a sequence that winds up with the ball out of bounds off of the Beavers, Devon Collier was injured and needed to be replaced. OSU had a boatload of timeouts should they have wanted to make an offense/defense substitution later, so the obvious decision for Robinson was to get his best defensive squad in the game. But, instead of replacing Collier with Eric Moreland, Robinson subbed in Angus Brandt to pair with Joe Burton up front, alongside three guards. Now, nothing against Brandt or Burton, both of whom are nice players, but are you really telling me that Moreland is not a better interior defender than either of them? In the end, Randle scored the go-ahead basket in the middle off a dish from Dwight Powell. It seems that even Robinson realized his mistake when on the final possession with three seconds left, following a game-tying free throw from Burton, he switched things up and got Moreland in the game in lieu of one of the guards and he came up with a third-overtime-inducing block.
- At the end of the third overtime, again, Robinson had plenty of timeouts remaining. OSU’s had the ball and a three-point lead with a minute left following a Moreland offensive rebound. They had a clean shot clock and if they can get a bucket late, they’d be a long way towards sending the crowd home happy. However, instead of learning from the end of the first overtime when the Beavers were unable to get up any kind of a shot on the final possession, Robinson again opted to let the game play out rather than calling a timeout and setting up a play. So, what did the Beavers wind up doing? Well, Jared Cunningham dribbled the shot clock down to seven seconds, then handed the ball to Brandt out beyond the three-point line with Brandt’s defender right up on him. Cunningham then stepped back, apparently expecting the big man to do something with the ball 22 feet away from the rim. Brandt looked around bewildered for a second or two until Cunningham made a move to get the ball back from Brandt, whereupon he was forced to throw up a wild three as the shot clock expired.
- Even after that awful possession, and even after Stanford’s Anthony Brown came down and drilled a three with 15 seconds left, the Beavers still had another chance at a potential game-winning shot. They had the ball with 15 seconds left, the game was tied and they still had a bucketful of timeouts. Okay, by this point, you sort of understand that Robinson isn’t big on using timeouts to set up end-of-game plays. I get it. But at this point, the Beavers have had basically seven guys play the bulk of the 55 minutes worth of game action. Not only would calling a timeout allow you to set up some reasonable offensive plan, but you’d give your guys a chance to recharge their batteries just a bit. Instead, no timeout and again, instead of anything reasonable on offense, Starks dribbled around for awhile and threw up a wild shot that had no chance. On to a fourth overtime, where the Beavers lost in dramatic fashion
There is no guarantee that if Robinson had called timeout on either of the possessions at the end of the third overtime or the one at the end of the first overtime, or had he inserted Moreland into the game instead of Brandt at the end of 2OT, that the Beavers would have made that one extra play that would have earned them the win. But, the mere fact that his team, on three separate occasions with the game on the line, failed to mount any coherent offense, is a significant strike against him. There are plenty of areas on the basketball court where OSU needs to improve in order to have any chance at a conference title, but Saturday night it became apparent: They also need to improve on the bench.