After 3 games in 50 hours against high quality opponents, I think we finally have a good idea what to expect from EMac and our young guards Perkins and Melson. In a word; inconsistency. At various times any one looked like the best player on the floor, others they were overwhelmed and confused turnover machines. Perkins jammed probably the best half of basketball any Zag has had this season between two games where he was a foul-ridden non-factor. EMac was arguably the player of the game against UConn (15 pts, no TOs, 2 threes) after sitting almost the entire 2nd half against A&M. I thought he might not start against UConn. Melson was a star in today’s first half, an 0-fer in the second. One area where both Perkins and EMac have been consistent is terrible free throw shooting. Both are shooting .455% (same as Shem) from the line, Melson is shooting 83%.
While they may waiver offensively, all three look great on the defensive end, clogging the passing lanes and rebounding. UW shot terribly all game, UConn was 1 for 12 from three and while A&M shot 50% from beyond the arc, take away their center’s shots (4 for 4) and that figure is 30%. Not once in any of the three games did I think the opponent’s back court had the physical or athletic advantage. Like we saw in the second half yesterday in the the first half today, the talent is there and when these guys are on this year's team can perform offensively like last year's. Consistency will hopefully come as the season progresses, fouls will decrease as players adjust to the new rules and quick whistles, but without a doubt, watching this new cadre of guards will be at various times very exciting.and very frustrating. Oh yeah, PRATICE SHOOTING FREE THROWS!
The big 3 played as expected. UW, like pretty much all WCC teams, will have no answer to their size and skill. Wiltjer lead the team in scoring all three games, he seemed frustrated by packed defenses in the key and was susceptible to getting the ball stripped by double-teaming guards. What I’m surprisingly not seeing from Wiltjer is him taking over in crunch-time, calling for the ball and taking the tough shot. Wiltjer didn’t get a shot off in the last 12+ minutes of the UConn game. He’s got to find a way to get the ball and Few must find a way of getting him the ball.
Karno looked good on Wednesday, less good on Thursday, not so good today. He may still be playing himself back into shape after the early season tonsillitis and pneumonia. After playing 30 minutes yesterday due to Sabonis foul trouble, he was understandably gassed today after 3 tough games in 2 days. As sluggish as the big guy looked, he still had enough in the tank to block UConn’s game tying three-point attempt. The big guy will be just fine and I guarantee you UCLA and Arizona agree with one today's game chat participants. Please don't start Karnowski.
Sabonis will hear whistles in his nightmares. After dominating UW, fouls made him a complete non-factor against A&M and hampered his play in today’s second half. Angry and frustrated, you can understand how a 19 year-old who spent the summer banging against European pros is exasperated by touch fouls. My biggest concern, he gets frustrated by the college game and its cheap fouls and decides it’s time to play with the big boys in the no-call NBA. Both he and Perkins must learn to adjust their play to how the refs are calling the game. Both are too important to spend the majority of the game on the bench.
Why the he** can’t GU close out a game in the last few minutes when it has the lead? Every time they try to slow things down to milk the clock the offense just completely stagnates. Sure the opponent gets desperate and steps up intensity, but you can see guys passing up shots they took earlier because there are still 15 seconds on the shot clock. Short of Few telling the team to never protect the ball and milk the clock, just try running every opponent out of the gym, I don’t have an answer. As mentioned above, I’m hoping Wiltjer will step-up and say “don’t worry boys, I got this” and take the tough shots. Bless Melson for having the fortitude to try time after time as the shot clock ran down, but unfortunately he’s just not there yet.
Finally, all hail King Dranginis. Kyle was the most consistent GU player for the whole tournament and thanks directly to his play, the team comes home 2-1 instead of 1-2. The “glue guy” label is somewhat demeaning and diminishes his importance to the team. He’s simply playing great basketball and doing it all while playing Pangos-type minutes. Here’s the question: Did Few scrap the Big 3 simply because it was so ineffective or does playing Kyle Dranginis the majority of the game just make the overall team better?