Defensive Score Sheet
Last night's quarterfinal game was a much more efficient affair than the regular season closer between Oakland and Southern Utah a week ago in Cedar City. Both teams scored well above last week's rate, despite the fact the score was nearly the same. As a result, the defensive score sheet from this game was a bit less extreme than last week's edition. For a brief introduction to the concept of a defensive score sheet, check out the debut post from Friday. Now we'll dive right into the charts, starting with Oakland.
When comparing charts between games, one might wonder why this week's individual defensive ratings are higher. This is due to the fact that individual defensive ratings are calculated in part from the team defensive rating. The tournament game featured a much more average defensive performance by Oakland, on a per-possession base, than the last one which was on the extreme low end (note that OU's "average" defensive output is tops in the league - so this is a good thing). As a result, the numbers look higher, when indeed they are still quite strong. The column that really stands out to me is that of Percent of Team Defensive Possessions. We would expect, on average, each player to account for 20% of a team's defensive possessions, and Oakland comes really close to achieving this standard. As opposed to the last game where Keith Benson was active at a very high clip, this time he's right on the average mark at 20%. SUU went at Travis Bader quite a bit for the second straight game as the redshirt freshman, along with Benson and Will Hudson, faced the highest number of possessions in raw terms. In what has been a trend between these two teams, Ilija faced an incredible amount of possessions in very limited minutes. But his stop percentage improved drastically here (from 16% to 35%). Kudos.
Now we turn to Southern Utah's score sheet. Unlike Oakland, SUU allowed the offense to score well above what it has allowed on average in conference play.
Oakland's bigs went at SUU's frontcourt from the post and the guards attacked them from the perimeter, so we end up seeing guys like Matt Massey and Kyle Davis accounting for a lot of the team's defensive possessions. Ray Jones, Jr. was also above the average by this standard, no doubt due to the many times he found himself trying to prevent Reggie Hamilton from driving to the hoop in the first half. Here's one play where Hamilton shakes off Jones and scores over Massey's out-stretched arms:
There's nothing too alarming here with the rest of the SUU defensive score sheet, though I do want to showcase the individual lines of Matt Massey and another of SUU's many post options, Matt Hodgson.
Massey had a stop percentage of just 12% in the time he was on the floor, in large part due to Keith Benson getting the best of him. Benson was hitting most of his jumpers and hook shots, and he was going up hard when deep in the post. Massey took the brunt of those makes, and while he hit a few jumpers over Benson himself, he was definitely overmatched on this night. Matt Hodgson, on the other hand, used his length to bother shots. He and Benson shared the court at times during the game, and a few of those forced misses or defensive boards were while guarding Benson. Perhaps most incredibly, Hodgson didn't commit any fouls that sent a player to the stripe - this from a guy whose minutes have often waned due to foul trouble. Hodgson did, however, make a lazy pass that led to this:
And that was the story of the game for Oakland. No matter the adjustments Southern Utah made, they were just too talented and focused for the Thunderbirds to pull an upset.
Reggie The Conquerer
In his first elimination game as a Golden Grizzly, junior Reggie Hamilton did not disappoint. His performance in the first half was simply otherworldly. He scored 21 points during the opening 20 minutes, hitting everything from floaters in the lane to spot-up threes from downtown. He used his defense to create offense, and he got to the free throw line off the dribble-drive. All aspects of his skillset were on display, including his constantly improving ball control (just two turnovers). That run he made in the first half ensured Oakland's lead was safe while SUU was still within striking distance, and his teammates picked up where he left off in the second half. What I enjoyed about Hamilton's performance, more than the numbers, was his demeanor. At one point while he was shooting a free throw, the camera panned in on him and he looked mean, confident, ready to win. It's the "gunner" face:
Hamilton had that face early in the season, especially during the first few road games, but I had thought it was born more out of frustration from his early struggles than anything else. But as I watched him more and as he found his fit as the team's lead guard, it began to look more and more like that gunner mentality. Sure, such play can lead to mistakes from trying too force the issue, but more often than not, it has worked for Hamilton to the benefit of the team. It's a trait that is unique to him on this squad; no one else has exhibited that same kind of "take it to you" attitude. And for Hamilton to put it on display in the tournament, as he has done often in conference play, is a good omen for the Golden Grizzlies as they try to move forward.
An Excuse To Show You Travis Bader's Block
We all know Travis Bader has the smoothest stroke on the team, but apparently he's also been working on his swatting form. At about the midpoint of the second half, Bader had a great block on Ray Jones, Jr. from the weak side. Not only was the block cool, but it lead to a transition three-pointer for Drew Valentine assisted by, you guessed it, Travis Bader!
That was Bader's fifth block of the year, so it's safe to say it's a moment that should be treasured. Bader's passing ability has also been on display in recent weeks, including this quarterfinal game where he had four dishes. He was also the recipient of a pretty sick pass from Larry Wright:
Bader also had an NBA-range three, available in .gif form here. In non-Bader multimedia entries, you can also check out a great play from Larry Wright here. What I liked most about that one was that he was aggressive on the defensive glass and used his quickness in the open court and agility in the paint to get a good look in transition. Finally, a little love for Keith Benson: a stop and pop jumper tailor made for the NBA.
Oakland moves on to the semifinals face the winner of tonight's SDSU-IPFW game. In addition to being available on ESPN3.com, the game will air live on Fox Sports Detroit, which is also a win for the local area! That game will be played Monday night at 7:00pm.