Before you could get your SEC Network stream to update, Mizzou was already down 6-0, on their way to a 13-2 deficit in the opening moments of their game against Georgia. Predictably, Mizzou went on to lose to the Bulldogs by 18 points as they struggled to stop Georgia from sinking many, many, many open three pointers.
In the opening seconds, Georgia drilled 3-pointers by J.J. Frazier and Kenny Gaines on a set play the Tigers had practiced against for three days, Anderson said.
"We didn’t do what we were supposed to do and we’re down 6-0," he said. "They get a rebound and we’re down 8-0, then down 10-0. That’s hard against a good team, especially on the road."
The opening possessions set a bit of a tone, so I went back and watched them again. I remember thinking at the time the plays looked similar, opposite the ball, a player on the block will run off a double screen and find himself wide open for a three. After watching each play, it was clear Wes Clark was the victim both times, but each play occurred in a different way. Let's watch the first play develop.
In this first set, you can see Terrence Phillips call to Clark for the switch. Clark switches late and gets caught a bit, the result is Clark trying to run in or around the two screens and J.J. Frazier ends up WIDE open.
Next time, same five on defense, but this time Clark is defending Kenny Gaines. Frazier is steering the action, and Clark and K.J. Walton are responsible for getting this defended properly.
Welp, that didn't work out either. This time Clark didn't call out the switch like Phillips and instead tried to track Gaines through the screens, and failed.
The question I have (and usually have), what are the coaches trying to accomplish? If, in fact, they went over this play for a few days at practice, it means the scout was good, because the scout was the Tigers needed to be ready to defend this play. This play was responsible for putting the Tigers in an early hole, and we know this team isn't great at digging out of the hole. So they spent practice time (a good thing) working on defending a play they knew Georgia ran and how to defend it. The fact the practice time was ineffective (a bad thing) in getting the tea properly prepared to defend the play is a concern. Because the players did two different things it allows me to arrive at one of two conclusions:
- The communication from the staff to the players wasn't what it needed to be in order to defend the play accurately
- Wes Clark forgot the scouting report when time came to make the play
It's entirely possible they talked about switching the screens, Phillips remembered, did what he was supposed to and Clark just reacted late on the first play, which caused the opening for Frazier. Then, Clark forgot to communicate the switch to Walton on the second play, resulting in Gaines being open. If that's the case, the coaches need to spend some time with Wes in the film room going over these two plays back to back and talk about how this got messed up so it doesn't happen again.
The other option is the worse one, the players weren't given specific instructions on how to defend the play. That would mean there wasn't clear communication during practice on what the staff wanted to accomplish while defending this play. What is the overall goal of your defense? And how does defending this play reflect the defense's goal? If you play a kind of switching defense, then you switch because it's part of your defense. If you get through screens and don't switch, that is a part of your defense.
The likelihood is the defense was communicated, it was just not handled by Clark very well in game. I know a lot of people like to think Kim Anderson is incompetent, but incompetent coaches don't win championships at any level. The scout was there, this isn't a complicated play, the players didn't execute. It does still fall on the coach and his staff to make sure the players are executing, but I can't imagine a scenario where they went over this play in practice, and didn't talk about how to defend it.
The one area where I have concern is I'm not sure what the Missouri defense is trying to accomplish on a play-by-play basis. They sometimes lay back and clog driving lanes, they sometimes front the post, other times they play behind or three-quarters deny. And this goes back to what I mentioned above. Does Missouri switch screen?
The answer is yes, and no. They do both. Personally, I'm not a fan of this philosophy. I believe you either do one or the other. Kentucky switches everything, but they have athletes at every position who can defend the other team pretty well. Arizona switches screens as well, a lot of pack-line defenses switch because they're trying to protect the integrity of the driving lanes. I personally hate switching, I feel you set your match-ups at the start of the game and make those stick. If Clark is defending Gaines, and he comes out of the game and you want to have somebody else guard Gaines other than who is coming in for Clark, you communicate it in practice the day before. Set your match-ups on defense to give you the best advantage on the defensive end of the floor. Defense has the opportunity to determine the match-ups, Offense has the responsibility of taking advantage of the match-ups.
I think one of the more frustrating things at this stage, is that I don't know enough of what Kim Anderson is trying to accomplish. I want to find a personality of the team, and it's hard to figure out. They're still searching for an identity.