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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The road ends here ...

Hard full-court defense and relentless rebounding… What more can a coach ask for? Actually, a lot of talented teams, at the college level, that can play good collective defense and control the glass properly are often still playing in April. Now I’m not saying that any good defensive team with considerable rebounding margins are always in Final Fours, no. What I am saying is that when you got NBA-talented guys, playing great defense and going hard for every possible rebound… You might win a lot of basketball games.

As a hoopjunkie, when you think about great rebounding teams, you think Wake Forest, Michigan State, Kansas, UConn, Georgia Tech … But when two of these teams meet in the Championship, you expect World War II in the paint, every time a shot is taken. Coach, if you remember the Georgia Tech V. UConn game on April 5th 2004, you got what you expected: UConn won the war 50 to 43.

If your name is Jim Calhoun, you were very proud of your squad on that night. Actually, as a rebounding coach, you were proud of Emeka Okafor (2004 NBA 2nd overall draft pick), grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds and scoring 24 points for the Huskies. With Josh Boone (2006 NBA 23rd overall draft pick) dunking every possible put-back on the offensive end, Charlie Villanueva (2005 NBA 7th overall draft pick) cleaning the painted area and 13 rebounds off the bench, not surprising UConn benefited of extra possessions on the offensive end. Even though Connecticut is a top-rated shot-blocking program, that wasn’t a factor on that night. As much as the Huskies had a gifted front-court, as much the back-court was deadly: Taliek Brown, a clever senior guard, was setting up his teammate Ben Gordon (2004 NBA 3rd overall draft pick), mostly on half-court sets. In fact, the Huskies used a lot of their box series and flex actions to break the Yellow Jackets’ defense down.

From a Georgia Tech stand point, Coach Hewitt can’t be upset with his team performance; actually, he can be disappointed about the referees’ performance, missing lots of calls! With all due respect to Georgia Tech’s program, I do not think Hewitt’s teams are top-executing teams. However, I was shocked by the way the Yellow Jackets completed their half-court sets, and seemed like they understood the Princeton concepts. Is it because a guy named Jarett Jack (2005 NBA 22nd overall draft pick) played the point? Maybe. Anyways, it was amazing to watch Georgia Tech going up against the big and tall Huskies. We can’t ignore the fact that both teams grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. Even Though Calhoun is known for his full-court pressure, GTech’s back-court was too much for that type of game. Only problem for them is that UConn’s back-court was just as quick and talented. Was it fun to watch Georgia Tech putting full-court pressure on Ben Gordon (maybe the last time of his entire life he got pressured full !) ? Yes, I said it earlier; the only thing is that the Huskies were one of the most comfortable fast-paced teams in the country that year. Indeed, Hewitt’ squad got scored trying to pressure UConn, even if they got rewarded with some steals late in the ball game. UConn committed 16 turnovers in the game.

A great comeback was made by GTech in the second half, outscoring the Huskies with a 24-11 run with minutes remaining to the game. Final score was 82-73, giving Connecticut men’s basketball program its second Title, and in the same year, women’s basketball program its fifth Title. Notice that this only happened once in history that both teams win the same year.
Hoopjunkies offer you a complete scout-pro report including 30 championship plays. Here are some free crunch-time plays from both teams :
2004 Championship Split post set :
GTech V Fl.State crunch-time play [2] :

GTech V Fl.State crunch-time play [1] :
Clemson V GTech crunch-time play :
UConn V Syracuse crunch-time play :

Coach Jeffrey Morrow

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