No offense

By JON GAGNON
On November 29, 2012

When I played basketball in high school, the offenses were simple. Every team ran the standard motion offense, which mostly meant passing the ball around the perimeter until someone eventually got an open shot. But this strategy doesn't work in higher levels of basketball because there is a shot clock.

However, the men's basketball team exemplified this inept offense on Wednesday evening. Through eight games this season, the squad has reached 60 points only twice.

The most recent loss to Temple was by far the Bulls' worst offensive production of the season. They managed to score only 39 points, which leads me to wonder: where exactly is the offense going to come from this season?

The roles of some players are unquestioned. Senior guard Tony Watson is going to knock down the perimeter shots. Junior forward Javon McCrea is going to get his points in the paint and consistently lead the team in scoring. But what about everyone else?

Sophomore forward Will Regan has had an honest contribution on the offensive end, but as head coach Reggie Witherspoon has pointed out, Regan is still not up to the speed of the college game.

It was clear entering the season that the Bulls were going to struggle from behind the arc (they shot 3 for 16 against Temple) in the absence of graduated smooth-shooter Zach Filzen. Aside from Watson, and Regan's occasional exodus from the paint out to the perimeter, there isn't any semblance of consistent outside shooting on the team.

Witherspoon has compiled a lineup of athletic guards and swingmen to help offset this deficit, but it hasn't worked out yet.

The Bulls' opposition always has an easy game plan. Give them the outside shooting and cover McCrea in the post. I'm not questioning the skill of juniors Jarod Oldham, Corey Raley-Ross and Auraum Nuiriankh, but simply wondering: Where is their aggression on the court?

The box score from Wednesday says enough, but if you were there to watch the game, their struggles were even more apparent than any stat can portray. Countless possessions resulted in near-impossible last-second field goal attempts, after 30 seconds of passing the ball around the perimeter without anyone looking for a shot.

When is someone going to drive the ball into the defense and attempt to create a shot? Everyone in the gym knows the three-point ball is going to be nearly non-existent, so someone needs to penetrate, draw a double team and dish it to McCrea or just attempt a layup. At this point, if you miss - so what? At least go down swinging.

All offseason we heard how this was going to be a run-and-gun, fast-break team, but that part of the squad has been entirely absent.

Instead, the Bulls set up in their half-court offense and no one except McCrea seems to look for a shot. Watson is a great shooter and everyone knows that, but he's not going to be able to create shots for himself. The other players on the team need to be trying to get him open looks via off-ball screens, driving and kicking, etc.

If no one on the team steps up and tries to assume any type of role on offense besides McCrea or Watson, it's going to be a long season for a team that is one year removed from barely missing out on an opportunity to reach the Mid-American Conference championship game.

All I'm asking for is a little aggression on offense. You're not going to get a worse attempt than the end-of-the-shot-clock, three-point heaves, so what's the worst that could happen?

I know it's still early and the team lost a lot of key contributors from last season, so maybe it's taking the guys some extra time to find their groove.

Let's just hope they find it before conference play starts up.

 

Email: jon.gagnon@ubspectrum.com


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