Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Santa Clara Post Game: The Learning Curve

What the Zebras Give, They Take Away
The first half ended with Villanova going to the line for three of their last five possessions. Down 28-32 when Jordan Akwenuke fouled Mouphtaou Yarou on yet another low post entry pass to send Yarou to the line. Villanova's center converted 2-2, as did Dominic Cheek on the Wildcats' next possession. The score tied at 32, the teams exchanged two empty trips apiece as the clock slipped below 0:30 Bronco guard Brandon Clark fouled Cheek on a three point attempt. The junior wing stepped to the line and sank all three attempts. Back the other way with three ticks left freshman Darrun Hilliard fouled Santa Clara point guard Evan Roquemore in the midst of a desparation three. To the line with 0:0.2 on the clock, Roquemore managed to get the Broncos two more points before the half, and Villanova retired to the locker room with a one point, 35-34 lead.

Not able to pull away in the second half, the Wildcats nevertheless had the ball and a five point lead, 64-59, with 0:57 left. Villanova was not only unable to convert their next two possessions, but they compounded the problem by putting Roquemore on the line for Santa Clara's corresponding two possessions. The second trip to the foul line was especially frustrating because Villanova's defense had denied the Broncos a clean look for a tieing three point attempt. With 10 seconds left on the clock Santa Clara Coach Kerry Keating had called time when the Bronco's first three point play had broken down. Thinking they had a foul to give, the Villanova staff instructed Hilliard to foul with seven ticks left. The scoreboard may have said five fouls (even the refereeing crew told the Villanova bench the wrong foul count), but the scorer's book said six, and Hilliard's foul-to-give put Roquemore back on the line where he dropped both and cut the lead to one, 65-64. Hilliard could not find an open player at mid-court, and forgetting he could run the baseline, dumped the inbound to JayVaughn Pinkston who was the outlet. The forward gathered the ball, but was fouled instantly by guard Raymond Cowells, thus putting the freshman, who had converted three of four free throw attempts to that point, on the line with the game hanging. Pinkston missed the front end, and stepped between Yannik Atanga and Roquemore to intercept the pass. He made contact with Roquemore with 0:04 on the clock and put Roquemore back on the line shooting one-and-one. Roquemore converted twice to claim the win for Santa Clara.

The Villanova blogosphere and messageboards have dissolved into a tasty ragou of factions and differing opinions. The bloggers over at VUHoops.com offered a critical recap that provided readers with an opportunity to comment. Those readers generated 206 comments, which spanned the spectrum from absolute disgust to wait and see. The blogger wisely abstained from grading the performances, though the title, "Sloppy Cats Bucked by Broncos" implies an opinion of sorts. The Nova Blog chose to accentuate the positive in their recap, "Things Aren't As Bad...". The University site posted the AP wire story and the official boxscore. The breakdown by halves

OpponentSanta Clara 
 Offense Defense

Half Time Adjustments
The pace was slow for Villanova, but consistent with Santa Clara's offensive style of play. The Broncos are a perimeter oriented team (POT), that uses motion to find open three point scoring opportunities, which may take time to develop. Stymied by the Bronco's zone defense early in the first half, Villanova found the adjustment after 5-7 minutes, and looked for Yarou to flash to the key for a pass. When he caught it, the center could then reverse the ball or turn and shoot. Shooting was extremely effective as Yarou converted 4-7, most from that spot, and went to the free throw line several times as well. Santa Clara bigs collected seven personals in the first half. Though that play was available in the second half, Yarou's hit only 3-6, with Markus Kennedy only able to convert 1-6 in a similar situation.

Notes & Observations
1. A 28.6% conversion rate for three point attempts in the first half, and a 38.9% two point conversion rate in the second half worked to keep Villanova's eFG% below 50% for both halves. Recognizing what the defense will give earlier might have made a difference going into the half-time. Taking advantage of a loose zone early in the second half helped to build a modest lead through the first few minutes. Santa Clara recognized Wayns' tendency to drive the lane with late game possessions and defensed the play well, despite Villanova setting the second screen. Who was available to take a pass at that point?

2. Maalik Wayns took over 30% of the possessions and 24% of the available shots when he was on the floor. Those numbers allow the other members on the floor a larger role than setting screens and grabbing rebounds, but dishing only three dimes to four turnovers continues to eat into his efficiency. Wayns' eFG% was a modest 50%, accounting for a 10 point contribution to the offense.

3. Yarou emerged as a legitimate primary scoring option in this game. The Santa Clara front court contingent was outclassed when matched with Yarou. The junior went 7-13 from the field and 5-7 from the line to post an eFG% of 53.8% with a 1.16 PPWS, the best on the team among those who logged 50% or more playing time and 20% or more Shot%. Yarou also corralled 10.7% of the available offensive rebounds, a strong number for low post players.

4. A possible hint of minute distribution and player rotation to come, the staff used 10 players again, but only seven saw more than 10 minutes of PT. Bell and Yarou drew >30 minutes, while Wayns, limited by foul trouble in the first half, drew 29.

5. The turnover rate among the freshmen (and Wayns...) was high, with Ty Johnson losing 49% of his possessions, followed by Pinkston (37%), (Wayns...29%) and Hilliard (26%). Kennedy lost only 13% of his possessions, a strong number considering he plays in the low post. Given the inbounds play that put Pinkston on the line with 6 seconds to go, the staff intends to use the freshmen extensively (do they have a choice?) and in critical, end game situations.

Perimeter Oriented Teams...
Santa Clara offers a typical profile for a team that looks to generate it's offense from the outside in. The Broncos show some obvious clues by their point distribution (50.8% from three point conversions), but the more subtle clues are present even if they did not convert as efficiently as they did. Note the offensive rebounding rate (10.7%) and free throw rate (FTA/FGA -- free throws to field goal attemtps -- 22.0%), both of which hint strongly that the Broncos avoid contact while scoring their points. The pace, possessions per game, also hint at a POT, the Broncos rely on a variety of screens and ball reversals to set up their scorers.

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