There is a game today (3pm vs Rice in Denton) and there is a risk that all the good feelings we have today will be washed away by a loss or a bad performance, or an injury. That’s the nature of the game. (Following sports is really silly when you think about it. )
A big question coming into this series — and the rest of the season — was Javion Hamlet’s ability to get buckets and make plays the way he did last season, when he was voted CUSA POY. Yesterday before the game we wrote this:
Hamlet has been a little off, even if his offensive rating is creeping back up to the 100 mark. He is worse than he was last year — 129.6 in conference play last year and 100.5 this — but he is not bad. A lot of projections for NT this season are based on Hamlet being the killer he was before. Right now, he is getting to the line late, and getting buckets and taking over when NT needs carrying but he is missing his 2-pointers. The floater is not there. The spacing — probably the most important aspect — is not quite there.
We went on to note the absence of Umoja Gibson, who transferred to OU. NT as a team did not shoot particularly well against Rice in the 79-74 win on Friday — just .333 from three on 7/21 shooting but there was no hesitation to shoot. NT had been getting in trouble when a guy caught a pass and started thinking too much instead of just playing basketball.
Here is a clip of Zach demonstrating exactly what I mean. He finds the happy medium between being patient and also being aggressive. After the action that gets him the post up, he takes a second to make sure he is not being doubled. Once he sees Rice’s Fiedler has no help, he attacks.
Here we see a great sequence in which things are not perfect, and shots are missed. It highlights how the process underlying the performance is the most important part of building a good team. The results of the process will inevitably lead to good things. James Reese attacks a close out and pulls up for a midrange jumper — I don’t love this, as I would prefer our best three-point shooters shoot threes but it is a good shot. Zach Simmons is in a good spot to compete for the offensive rebound, and after the scramble and reset we see good ball-movement and Javion Hamlet attacking the closeout.
Zach gets a post up and there is a slight hesitation and Hamlet and Reese have to discuss the next option. The play ends with a Hamlet three from a kickout assist from Simmons, but a good team will take advantage of this. Actions off the ball 1 occupy the defense and make it easier to get shots. The best part here is that Hamlet shot it immediately.
Finally we have Hamlet with a floater. Again, it is great that he attacks with purpose and scores with the floater. As we mentioned on Friday, however, it is not always on Hamlet. There is great movement on this play. Every pass — thrown or caught — triggers an action around the court. Hamlet passes and cuts. He doesn’t even need to sprint — he sort of jogs to his spots. Simmons catches it and McBride cuts through, bringing his defender with him. As Hamlet catches and attacks the closeout the help defender — McBride’s guy who rightly stops to help, but is caught deep in the paint already and is not a rim-defender — has no chance against a Javion floater. That is good offense.
Eventually, NT got into a free throw shooting contest. That is something that Hamlet will usually win with his 92% shooting at the line. It is a great tool. The broadcast mentioned that he had been pressing earlier in the season (a quote from McCasland) and he is letting the game come to him more now. I can buy that. Without Gibson to help carry the offense it makes sense that Hamlet thought “I better carry the load.”
His 149 offensive rating was the best he has put up this season against non-Houston Baptist teams. Getting 30-points is great, but the way he went about it was better. He can get loads of points if he is attacking the way he is. And if the rest of the squad is being aggressive and playing with purpose, the wins will stack up as well.
NT takes on Rice at home at 3pm at home on ESPN+
When you hear people shout to “move”, or “do something” this is usually what they mean. Considered, purposeful movement is better than just random movement. ↩