Bulls Build a Brick Haus in Milwaukee

February 14, 2010

How can you lose
With the shots you choose?
Stay outside
Jack ’em up
Miss ’em all
That’s a losing plan

What an exasperating game that was.

USF’s outside shooting is officially a serious liability. Marquette played excellent defense overall, but their defensive game plan was set up as if they knew the Bulls couldn’t beat them shooting threes. They trapped the high post and the corners on zone defenses to eliminate the usual holes in a zone. They mixed in some trap at the half-court line to make the Bulls waste shot-clock time before starting their offense. And USF couldn’t beat the quick Golden Eagles guards off the dribble to get to the basket when Marquette played man. Their only choice was to shoot from the perimeter, and they had another terrible shooting night.

Well, actually there was another choice. But the Bulls either didn’t or couldn’t get the ball inside on the smaller Golden Eagles. While this goes against my theory that USF could not become a dump-it-in-the-post team after Gus returned, tonight was a good time to try it. With 6’11” Jarrid Famous, 6’10” Gus Gilchrist and Alex Rivas, and 6’8″ Toarlyn FItzpatrick, and no one in the Marquette rotation over 6’7″, I figured it would be important to get the ball inside. Or in the words of Charles Barkley, they needed to “punish them midgets.” Didn’t happen. USF only sparingly got the ball inside, where it was usually successful. The announcers asked over and over why this wasn’t happening more often. They weren’t the only ones. It was senseless.

(In a related story, the Bulls only shot six free throws. The USF media guide doesn’t list the fewest free throws the Bulls have ever attempted in a game, but this might be near the bottom of that list.)

I mentioned this in a comment to Astro’s post about Hugh Robertson, but before tonight’s game the Bulls were only shooting 29.8% from the season from three-point range, a number that went down after tonight’s 4-for-20 effort. Take out DoJo’s  relatively good percentage beyond the arc and the season average drops below 27%. When teams force the ball out of DoJo’s hands, or when he draws the defense to him and leaves other guys open outside, no one can consistently make the defense pay. Still, the Bulls settled for threes all night long… sho ’nuff to bring Stan Heath to his knees.

The Bulls’ reluctance to get the ball inside turned the two teams into near mirror images, and the game came down to shooting, ball security, and defense. Marquette played tight, tenacious defense and USF didn’t, especially inside. (Someone please send our bigs to a Pete Newell camp this summer so they can learn how to defend in the paint.) Marquette only had four turnovers, keeping USF from running. Marquette got to the rim and USF didn’t. Marquette is right at the top of Division I in three-point shooting percentage and USF isn’t. There’s your ball game.

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