This is an exclusive Gaucho Hoops game summary From the Sidelines:
Major props are in order for Chris Geraghty, University of Oregon Asst. Director of Media Services for running an organized event, but the ushers take their jobs a bit too seriously. I'm here to take care of business and have no desire to get in anybody else's business--especially when the gym is almost entirely empty. They should take a chapter out of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People." Perhaps my UCSB sweatshirt had something to do with it. Or their #1 ranking in the BCS Football poll. But alas, this is a Gaucho Hoops report, so enough of Duck hospitality...Before I delve into the Denver / UCSB game report, I feel compelled to make one more comment: U of O cheerleaders live up to their reputation: stunningly beautiful and spirited.
The University of Denver Pioneers are were well-coached, and passed the ball well against our strange, malleable matchup zone, making the Gauchos work hard on defense, shifting from side to side on ball swings. The Denver offensive scheme worked in the first half, and some of our players were noticeably fatigued on offense. I was thinking let's just man up and out-athletic this Denver team of heady, patient shooters, instead of having to cover so much ground in the zone D, because they were hitting their 3 point shots in the first half and the start of the second half. Of course, eventually, the shots predictably stopped falling, and the Gauchos pulled away. BUT THAT WAS DUE TO THE GENIUS OF COACH WILLIAMS.
He inserted the all-defense team, short on height, but tons of hustle. Joyner, Brew, Weiner, Peterson, and Serna. With the exception of Serna, these players are not necessarily known for their offensive firepower among them, but they got many steals, even though they would turn the ball back over a couple times. It didn't matter, the hustle was rewarded, the damage was done, and Denver was clearly frazzled. It went from a tie of 37-all to a lead of 10 points in a few minutes midway through the 2nd half. Based on point differential, THIS WAS THE BEST LINEUP WE HAD ALL NIGHT. This scrambling defense team will be fun to watch. It will probably only work in 2nd halves of games, because players are juiced up with adrenaline in the 1st half. But as opponents tire, they will get careless with passes. The steals came more from intercepted passes than outright pick pockets.
When Coach Williams put in this lineup, I was thinking to myself, "What the hell is he doing? We won't be able to score." But I immediately I turned to a UCSB player's parent and I yelled out, "He's putting in this lineup to wear down the other team!" I was unsure if it would work at the time, but I'll be damned if that's EXACTLY what happened. We had the depth and the quickness--we used them to our advantage. The Denver coach was up to his usual antics, but even he succumbed to it, and eventually just sat listless on the bench, unable to turn around the assault. He must have felt like Napoleon at Waterloo.
Here are my observations on the Gauchos: to a man, we are definitely quicker than we were last year. OJ, Nunn, Somogyi, JJ (he was struggling with his ankle last year), Weiner, Brew, Pastorek, Serna, Devenny--all of them. They did something in the offseason to get quicker. Somogyi had a couple nifty post moves, but then committed an intentional foul out of frustration, and was rewarded with a visit on the bench.
Nunn and OJ didn't have their best shooting night, but we still got a decent win. Serna showed no ill effects from his injury, and Christian Peterson probably closes out on a shooter better than any defender we have, even if he is not the quickest player we have. He takes the short, choppy steps coaches preach when closing in on a shooter, as it reduces his chances on being head-faked out of position and leaving driving lanes open.
We also mixed up the defenses, going to a 1-3-1 zone occasionally, without too much trapping up top. Having Pastorek at the point was intimidating, all 6'10" and arms. Nunn also did a good job at the point in that defense. But the key to the success of the zone is to know when to cover the ball, or whether to back off and play the passing lanes. Gaucho defenders have to be somewhat smart to know who, when, and where to guard the ball. Basketball requires instincts and quick reaction. However, there's a cerebral aspect to the way the Gauchos defend, and I still can't figure out the rotations. Sometimes the wing covers the wing, but on the swing of the ball to the weak side, the defender under the basket may cover the potential shooter. Sometimes a wing defender ends up on the other side of the court. It looks haphazard, but it surely isn't. But it definitely takes communication and sharing of responsibilities--I'm sure it takes a lot of reps to make it 2nd nature for them. And I'm sure opponents will scout it during film sessions, but Denver's players appeared confused by it, despite preparations.
All in all, it was a good win, as the Gauchos didn't require our two stars to have outrageously outstanding shooting games to win decisively. It took hustle, grit, and execution. There's still gas in the Gaucho tank when they'll need to step on the accelerator.