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Down by 12 points with just over 11 minutes left in last night's game against a taller and more athletic Oregon State team, Seattle University began an eight minute 24-5 run on pure heart.
Seattle U forward Alex Jones had a layup attempt blocked by OSU post Joe Burton, forward Chad Rasmussen snatched the offensive board among the mass of bodies in the paint and missed a putback, and Jones got another chance with an offensive rebound and missed putback. Then, apparently waiting for the right opportunity, 6-foot-5 junior forward Aaron Broussard snuck through a crease in the scrum and got a tip-in off Jones' second failed attempt.
It wasn't pretty and the Redhawks had honestly been dominated on the boards to that point in the half. But they kept fighting even when the ball just wouldn't seem to bounce their way and eventually got the opportunity to make something happen.
While solving OSU's zone defense(s) was certainly a major part of how Seattle U came back to win 83-80, it was that mentality - an aggressive, determined, and gritty attitude without sacrificing focus - that helped the Redhawks win last night's game.
"When you're playing against them it's the psychological wear down of 1-3-1, Princeton, 2-3, you get tight, you turn it over once, now you're scared to go in there again," said Redhawks coach Cameron Dollar. "So you gotta go in there - you gotta go try to make plays."
And that has toe be near the top of the list of why the Redhawks are so intriguing to the Seattle basketball dork set - this team fights to get everything they achieve, occasionally winning games simply by outworking their opponent. And last night, Oregon State simply got outworked and outsmarted once Seattle U turned the pressure up and the KeyArena crowd of 4,526 really got going.
After getting thoroughly outplayed in their first three games, last night's finish was the perfect way to celebrate this team turning a corner and showing signs of life when vital signs looked to be getting low and falling fast.
Beyond winning the game, that's what got Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar most excited about this game - they finally started to play winning basketball.
"It's great to see some fruit - ain't no doubt about it - on regional TV," said Dollar. "That's tremendous. It speaks volumes of our kids. Good exposure and opportunity. But the early struggles for us are nothing but being laser focused: making sure that our team gets focused on every possession - doing things right, continue to improve as a sound basketball team. So that's real big."
However, while the improved execution against the zone was evident in the first half, it wasn't immediately obvious what they did to get them selves back into the game after being down by 12 - it was one of those times that it was so easy to get caught up in the emotion of the game that it was hard to follow the specifics about how the Redhawks were finally able to just win a game.
Of course on the game level, freshman Sterling Carter's 3-point shooting (4-for-5 in the first half) was huge for helping to force OSU out of the zone. But narrowing the focus to the Redhawks second half run - during which time Carter was on the bench - three other things stood out as significant as they continue to improve as a basketball team.
After Broussard catalyzed the run with his put-back on the offensive end, Cervante Burrell led a personal 6 to 2 run that brought the Redhawks within six points of the Beavers. And again, more impressive than the outcome was the way he got it done.
"If Cervante didn't go in there all night and try to pass it, he wouldn't have scored 20 and we would be shooting what we shot against Cal Poly," said Dollar, referring to the Redhawks' 21.1 percent shooting in their 76 to 60 loss to Cal Poly.
Burrell finished with a team-high 22 points and shot a rather efficient 7-for-14 from the field. But most importantly for a team that had struggled so badly to hit perimeter shots to this point in the season, Burrell found gaps between the guards in OSU's 2-3 zone to hit two jumpers during his personal mini-run.
A yet even more important development down the stretch that really started with Burrell was also free throw shooting - Burrell finished the game with a strong free throw rate and hit six of his eight free throws during the Redhawks big run. Which leads to the second major feature of the Redhawks second half performance: the Redhawks lived at the free throw line.
While turnovers were the focus of OSU coach Craig Robinson's post game comments and the Redhawks much improved shooting definitely had the biggest impact viscerally, Seattle U had an outstanding free throw rate getting as many free throw attempts as field goal attempts in the second half.
That started with Burrell, who eared six of those 24 free throw attempts. And that aggression was key to breaking the zone and being more efficient offensively.
"It's the 'Evil Kenieval' type play because we're just saying you gotta go be aggressive," said Dollar. "If we pass it around three or four times waiting to get a shot, we ain't getting a shot. If we pass it around three or four times, we're probably going to turn it over. But if we go in there and be aggressive, we're probably going to make shots, get rebounds, probably going to get fouled."
Although we could debate home court bias, ultimately it was Seattle U's aggression in drawing fouls that tipped the scales in the game. And while getting to the line that often alone is a sign of the type of aggression that defined their run, it certainly helped that they made 75% of those free throws as well.
But for all the attention to their much, much improved offensive performance, Burrell pointed out their focus in walking off the court with a win.
"Tonight we put together stops, that was key," said Burrell. "We put together stops and then our offense came."
Broussard will never be the most athletic, dynamic, or imposing player on the court. But Broussard has a way of making his presence felt that makes him more valuable to the team this year than he might normally get credit for.
Although it might have been even more subtle than the impact of the Redhawks free throw rate, a major shift in the game occurred on the boards - OSU won the offensive rebounding battle in the second half, but Seattle U shut that down during their run with increased intensity on the defensive end.
"With Cervante and Aaron Broussard, both of those guys responded and they played aggressive," said Dollar. "Obviously, the win signifies that and it's exciting. But I told them win, lose or draw, we compete. We didn't do that Sunday."
After OSU got seven offensive boards in the first nine minutes of the second half, they only had one offensive rebound during the extended 24-5 run. Broussard's five defensive rebounds during that run were no small part of that and he finished with a game-high 12 rebounds to go with nine points and four steals. His four assists and three turnovers made him arguably the most efficient ball handler on the court for the Redhawks.
But that defensive rebounding was without doubt his biggest contribution with the 6-foot-5 forward grabbing over 20.62% of the defensive rebounds available to him while in the game.
"My instructions were the same as they were in the earlier games: don't sit back and hope that they miss - go be aggressive, get a stop," said Dollar.
Broussard might just embody Redhawks basketball more than anyone else on the team with his gritty play and hustle: it's not pretty, but he gets the job done.
In contrast, Cunningham might have been the most impressive player on the court throughout the game - one media member noted that Cunningham reminded him of Seattle native and former NBA player Doug Christie. You can take or leave that comparison, but after scoring eight of the Beavers' first 10 points, he continued to make his mark on the game on both ends of the court.
In addition to finishing with a team-high 19 points, he finished with a game-high 5 steals. Like Burrell, he also made a mark at the free throw line finishing with a team-high eight attempts. However, one of the Redhawks biggest accomplishments during their run was essentially shutting down Cunningham entirely - after making the layup that put the Beavers up 12, he didn't score again.
After struggling so badly through their first few games, the win was a sign of progress on multiple fronts for Seattle U. They aren't near where they want to be, but they also showed that they can do the little things required to gut out a win when necessary, even against an opponent that very well could have beaten them. Burrell's continued aggression going to the basket, Broussard's shooting, and the team's ability to get to the free throw line were all key factors to their run.
While part of that could certainly be flipped and attributed to OSU's coaching decisions or player lapses, Seattle U looked like a much better basketball team last night independent of the opponent.
"Leading up to this week was - in a strange way - one of the best weeks for me just being focused on just continuing to move this thing in the right direction: not getting sidetracked, don't lose focus, just focus on getting better," said Dollar. "I just really felt like our guys minds were right. We're getting better, we're improving on our defense, we're improving on our game plan."
Again, it's hard to blame Oregon State coach Craig Robinson for playing zone during the majority of last night's 83-80 win against Seattle University.
The Redhawks had just come off a game against Cal Poly in which a 2-3 zone smothered them and appeared to leave them without answers. They hadn't shot well from three point range or showed the ability to move the ball efficiently without turnovers.
But Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar has spoken repeatedly about improvement and as Travis Margoni of Beyond the Beat describes, Seattle University found a way to perfectly dismantle OSU's zone.
Hardwood Notebook: Defense is a Problem as Beavers Dropped by Seattle Again | November
The Beavers' problem is defense. Coach Craig Robinson's 1-3-1 pressure zone allowed 29 three-point attempts in an exhibition game against Western Oregon on Nov. 9 (WOU only hit 6) and the University of Texas Arlington was 7-16 from downtown against the Beavers Nov. 14. OSU won both games easily after giving up points early.
Against Seattle, the Beavers immediately allowed two threes to freshman gunner Sterling Carter, who finished the game 5-8 from downtown with 20 points. To Robinson's credit, the Beavers moved away from using the 1-3-1 exclusively and moved to a 2-3 half court zone. The result? The Beavers were out-rebounded in this game, 45-40, and on several occasions four defenders were moving toward the Seattle shooter, leaving only one man to attempt to grab the defensive rebound. Simply stated, the Beavers alternated between press 1-3-1 and a sit-back 2-3 zone and got blitzed all night by the Redhawks.
This of course begs the question Margoni brings up later in his post: "Why not move to man-to-man defense?"
At their best moments defensively - particularly in the second half - OSU's best moments were the ones when they used their length and athleticism to bother the Redhawks. They had more size and the depth to keep the pressure up against the guards.
Nevertheless, in terms of the scouting report and what the film must have shown, the strategy of forcing Seattle U to shoot long jumpers was not bad - the Redhawks are just a steadily improving team and finally found some semblance of rhythm when given a few open shots.
With the University of Washington center Matthew Bryan-Amaning looking on at KeyArena, among the most noticeable things about Oregon State's loss to Seattle University tonight is that they failed to establish a consistent post game against a smaller team.
Unfortunately, the Beavers were unable to establish that in tonight's 83-80 loss, as described by Andy over at Building the Dam.
Seattle Shocks Oregon St. Again - Building The Dam
Against Seattle, any team needs to make it a game in the paint, taking advantage of the Redhawks' lack of length. When the Beavers did, they were able to dictate terms. However, they couldn't or didn't do it consistently.
Beyond whatever questions might exist about the zone, why they weren't able to establish a post game against a team that is definitely vulnerable in the paint is a question OSU must answer looking ahead to Pac-10 play.
The rap on Seattle University is simply that they have not been able to shoot efficiently.
So no matter what you think of OSU's decision to play zone generally, you can't blame them for throwing it at the Redhawks tonight in their 83-80 loss in KeyArena.
And when their patented 1-3-1 didn't work in the first half, it made perfect sense to switch to the 2-3 in the second half after it worked so well for Cal Poly on Sunday in KeyArena.
So as exciting as it was to be in KeyArena to watch the Redhawks' frenzied rally from down double digits in the second half to beat Oregon State, the even more exciting development was that they figured out a way to beat the zone defense. Right now, it doesn't really matter if it's sustainable - they found a way to win their first game.
And they managed to do something that seemed unthinkable just a few days ago - they managed to find shooting from multiple places on the roster.
Budding freshman star Sterling Carter continued his outstanding play with 30 points including 5-for-8 shooting from the 3-point line, forward Chad Rasmussen came off the bench to get a four point play to tie the game at 66 late in the second half, and junior guard Cervante Burrell hit big long jumpers throughout to help stretch the zone and keep the Redhawks in the game throughout the second half and had a team-high 22 points.
But it wasn't all rosy - when OSU switched to the 2-3 zone in the second half with their athletic and long defenders, Seattle University found themselves in a position similar to that which they found themselves against Cal Poly - unable to continue driving to the rim, they settled for long jumpers and their shooting percentages plummeted. But Seattle's defense held strong and OSU went cold while the Redhawks took advantage of second-chance opportunities, fast breaks, and free throws to pull the game close enough for Rasmussen to tie it with about 5:30 left in the second half.
From there the crowd got going, shots started falling for Seattle U and OSU struggled to establish the consistent defense that they had established in the first half.
For Oregon State, Jared Cunningham was able to get high percentage opportunities throughout on drives to the basket to finish with a team-high 19 points. Calvin Haynes finished with 18 points for OSU. With the loss, OSU falls to 1-1 while Seattle U is at 1-3.
Entering tonight’s game between Seattle U and Oregon State, it seemed like a safe bet that throwing a zone at Seattle – a sub-30% free throw shooting team – and preventing dribble penetration would be sufficient to come away with a win.
But Sterling Carter continued his hot shooting and defied the scouting report with a team-high 16 points on 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
When Carter wasn’t firing deep balls, Seattle showed excellent ball movement at times which allowed them to force the OSU zone to move and enable guard Cervante Burrell to find gaps in the defense that led to 10 points and three assists. On a number of occasions, Seattle guards were able to hit gaps and dump the ball off to posts or cutters. Creating easier scoring opportunities – and shooting considerably less 3-pointers than they did against Cal Poly on Sunday- resulted in a much healthier field goal percentage of 47.1 percent.
Oregon State had three players in double-figures with Calvin Haynes the most efficient shooting 4-for-5 while Jared Cunningham had three steals.
In his preview of tonight's game between Oregon State and Seattle University at KeyArena, Connor from SBN's Oregon State blog Building the Dam suggests that the Beavers showed the makings of something new in their last game against UT-Arlington.
Game 2 Open Thread: Seattle University - Building The Dam
The Beavers have started the same five guys in both of their games this season, and I would expect more of that tonight. Expect Cunningham, Haynes, and Wallace to get the start in the backcourt, along with Lathen Wallace and Omari Johnson down low.
The Beavers also showed off something that Beaver Nation hasn't seen in a while: a transition game.
"It is new and it is different," coach Craig Robinson said after the win. "I'm very happy with how we handled all but the first five or six minutes of the game. It's good that we can go through that and come out with a good win."
Building the Dam provides a little more insight in their recap from that UT-Arlington game.
Game 1 Recap - Oregon State 71, UT-Arlington 56 - Building The Dam
UT-Arlington did lead the Beavers again at 33-30, but the Beavers closed out the 1st Half with a 7-2 run. Perhaps the key stat of the game though was points off turnovers, where the Beavers led 30-14.
Coming into the 2nd Half, the outcome was still very much in doubt. That would all change though when the Beavers opened the 2nd Half with a 6-0 run to go up by eight. UT-Arlington cut the lead to four many times early on in the final half, but the Beavers went on a 10-3 run to take a 57-46 lead. There was no question about the outcome at that point, and the Beavers went on to win 71-56.
Obviously, Seattle U has shown that they like to run but - as they've learned from Maryland and San Francisco - if their opponents have the athletes and size to do it better, they could be in for a long evening.
Each week at SB Nation the Pac-10 blogs do a Pac-10 Basketball Pick 'Em in which they pick all of the Pac-10 games of the week.
Pac-10 Basketball Pick'Em: Week 1 Open Thread (Updated With Other Blog's Picks) - Building The Dam
Beginning today and running through the end of the season, the Pac-10 SB Nation Blogs will have a Basketball Pick'Em contest ran by Patrick Evans of Arizona Desert Swarm. The plan is to have a open thread in the FanPost section every week to root on Building the Dam's picks, and root against everyone else's.
Pretty cool idea, right?
Well with Oregon State playing Seattle University this week, the conference's bloggers weighed in on that game as well. And all but one blog chose Oregon State to win: SBN's Stanford site, Rule of Tree.
Given that they're currently 10-0 through this week, perhaps they know something the rest don't can Seattle U will help them remain undefeated tonight.
Then again, BuildingTheDam's ConnorOSU wasn't particularly confident about OSU winning this game in his pre-season preview either, noting it as one of their tougher non-conference games and picking the Redhawks to win 67-66.
2010-2011 BTD College Basketball Preview-Oregon State - Building The Dam
Their Non-Conference Schedule sets up very nicely, with only three tough games: at Seattle U, at Montana, and at Colorado. Even if the Beavers lose those games, they would enter conference play with eight wins.
That's certainly due respect after last yea's 51-point blowout.
There is little doubt that Seattle University's 51 point win at Oregon State University last season with star forward Charles Garcia in foul trouble was the defining victory of the year.
For the team, it proved that they weren't totally reliant on Charles Garcia, who only played 15 minutes in the game. For Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar, it reinforced the feeling that Seattle U had snagged a potential coaching star from cross-town at Montlake.
However, with OSU coming to KeyArena today, Seattle University suddenly finds itself struggling just to find a way to win and at a loss for answers. Whereas looking at last year's result in isolation might lead one to wonder if this is the game that helps Seattle U get back on track.
But it's a new season and as of Sunday night, Dollar hadn't even had the time to think ahead to Oregon State given their grueling travel schedule to open the season before coming up against a Pac-10 opponent tonight.
"I ain't even watched 'em or looked at 'em or anything," commented Dollar after their 76-60 loss to Cal Poly on Sunday. "I've just been plugging away at Cal Poly."
And even beyond the specific challenges Cal Poly presented, Seattle U has bigger problems on their hands.
At 0-3, Seattle U has neither been able to thrive with the uptempo attack that became their staple last season nor found a way to score in the half-court. The result is games like the one against Cal Poly on Sunday night at KeyArena - they can scrap enough to get close, but can't sustain production enough to pull off a win yet.
The biggest culprit is simple: Seattle U has been badly outshot by opponents, shooting 35.4 percent to opponents' 49.5 percent. Worst of all against teams that try to slow the tempo by zoning up, the Redhawks are shooting only 28.1 percent from the 3-point line and, really, freshman Sterling Carter is largely responsible for that having made 10 of the team's 18 3-point attempts this year although transfer Mark McLaughlin has also shown comfort shooting from deep.
But it doesn't stand to get any better with Oregon State in town.
Oregon State is known for playing a 1-3-1 defense that gives opponents plenty of three pointers while clogging the middle. As Kevin Pelton of College Basketball prospectus describes, while other programs have struggled to implement the 1-3-1 well, Oregon State has made it work. From the 2010-11 College Basketball Prospectus:
In year two under Robinson, the Beavers' defense made enormous progress, improving from 136th in the nation on a per-possession basis to 72nd. In conference play, Oregon State's was the second best D in the league, behind only USC.
The biggest difference was the Beavers' ability to cut out the long-ball from opposing offenses. By nature, the 1-3-1 is going to produce a lot of three-point attempts. Opponents made them at an average 34 percent clip in 2008-09. Last season, that dropped to 31 percent, which translated into a difference of 1.9 points per game in Oregon State's favor.
Pelton goes on to note that although the Beavers lost Seth Tarver who was crucial to forcing turnovers out of the 1-3-1 they were already cultivating replacements. And SBN's Oregon State site Building the Dam has already identified that replacement in 6-foot-7 Rhys Murphy who sat out last season due to injury.
In other words, this seems like exactly the matchup the Redhawks don't need as they're still learning how to win. Of course, you never know when a team might just get hot but given the evidence currently available to us the circumstances are not favorable.
It's probably safe to say that people who follow Seattle basketball closely are rooting for Seattle U to build on last season and succeed in their transition to Division I. It's hard to read too much into the significance of this game relative to last year's result because both teams have made changes. But in the interest of moving forward as a young team, the Redhawks need to get a win sometime and the unfortunate reality is that this matchup doesn't look quite as favorable as last season.
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