BY Bob Sherwin 12:47PM 11/18/2010

Huskies showing lust for the bomb

Many good shooters run risk of settling for 3s

Washington small forward Justin Holiday. (Drew McKenzie / Sportspress Northwest)

By most measures, 19 three-point attempts in a college basketball game is an ample number. Then consider that’s just what the Washington Huskies put up in the first half Tuesday against Eastern Washington.

A little excessive?

“I know coach (Lorenzo) Romar didn’t like that,” Eastern Coach Kirk Earlywine said. “They settled for 3s.”

Actually, no. Otherwise, he would have mentioned it.

“We shot 5-of-19 from three and he didn’t even bring that up at halftime,” Husky guard Venoy Overton said. “Keep shooting; you’re getting good looks. You took only two bad shots in the first half. He just gives guys a lot of confidence.”

Just keep shooting – from anywhere. That’s the message. And they are. They finished with 33 three-point attempts (making 13) in the 98-72 victory. That’s one attempt short of the school record set at Arizona on Jan. 27, 2005.

In two games,the Huskies have 63 three-point attempts. At that pace over their 30-game regular season, they project for 945 three-point attempts. The school record is 670 in 2005 over 35 games.

If the Huskies play another half dozen games in the Pac-10 Tournament and NCAA Tournament, they could approach the NCAA record of 1,383 three-point attempts set by VMI in 2007.

How many is too many?

“I don’t think we’re ever going to have a conversation about shooting 3s. It’s not going to happen,” forward Justin Holiday said. “A good shot is a good shot.”

As long as they have good shooters. So far – a small sample – they do, Holiday, Overton, Isaiah Thomas, Scott Suggs, C.J. Wilcox, Abdul Gaddy, Darnell Gant and fearless, shameless freshman Terrence Ross. Never has a Husky team had so many long-range threats.

“We have a lot of people able to shoot. But we don’t want that to be our main identity,” Overton said. “We want to be a defensive team and rebounding team.”

That’s what Romar wants for this team as well. But to say that this team’s identity – at least from the average fan’s perspective – gunner city would be misplaced.

This is going to be a season-long hoist-fest.

This team will have issues with team rebounding. There will be opponents in which the Huskies are going to need more bulk inside. There’s some early concern over free-throw shooting, particularly from Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Aziz N’Diaye. But this team will score, in varied and multiple ways, much of it dramatically from outside the arc.

Eastern epitomized how teams will try to deal with the Huskies offense. Team speed is too difficult to match, so most teams won’t try. Foes will use zone defenses to slow them down. Eastern stayed in a 2-3 zone throughout and didn’t allow much penetration. That didn’t matter when the Huskies made 13 of 33 three-pointers over the top.

“That was great, great practice for us to get reps against the zone,” Romar said after the game. “I look at the stats and we had 28 assists and only 10 turnovers and shoot almost 49 percent (48.7). I think we did a pretty good job against that zone. We were pretty patient, the guys found the open areas.”

For some teams, a zone can be a problem. Zones can disrupt the offensive flow, get teams out of rhythm and make the shooters work harder.

Yet when the Huskies see a zone, “the lights go on,” said Thomas. “It means we get more open. We’re ready for any type of defense. We know teams are going to zone us, slow us up, but we prepare every day for that.”

At one point in the second half, it struck a peculiar chord when Darnell Gant pulled down a rebound along the baseline about 10 feet from the rim. Instead of a quick head fake around his defender for a higher percentage attempt toward the hoop, he immediately drew back to the left corner and put up a three-point attempt.

It’s outward thinking, believing that the farther away the shot, the more comfortable the range.

Even with all those shooters, there will be games when most of them will miss.  Whatever the cause, tough zones, expanded zones, matchup zones, quicker, longer-reaching defenders, cold arenas or hostile crowds, it’s going to happen. There will be times when settling from the perimeter won’t work. Live by the sword, etc.

Players will need to be more aggressive in breaking down the zone with penetration and kick backs, skip passes and drives, flashing to the rim, dogged inside positioning or simply taking the dribble through the maze of legs for a layup.

This is why the Maui Invitational looms large. Teams they expect to play, Virginia, Oklahoma or Kentucky, are big, well-coached and skilled. No more Eastern or McNeese State. They are the same kind of teams that the Huskies inevitably will face in the NCAA Tournament.

They’ll use a variety of defenses to slow down the Huskies and force them to make good decisions on shot selections. The season may well hinge the ability of Thomas, Gaddy and Overton and their ability to force the action.


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