Coming Attractions: Dread Dre
Hello, College Basketball World, my name is De'Andre Hunter, and I can score every way possible. And, I'm a pretty damn dope defender, too. I will shut your ass down, and I will light you up. Thank you and good night.
Much like Jay Huff showed off why we've been anticipating his debut eagerly for over two years against Austin Peay, Hunter gave his official release trailer Sunday afternoon (or morning here in Seattle, nice to have Hoo basketball with a cup of coffee in the morning) against Monmouth. The only thing he didn't do was dunk, which he handled spectacularly against Austin Peay.
The Hoos were languishing in Letdown Limbo when Hunter entered the game with Monmouth leading 15-8. The defensive intensity was below Hoo standards and the offense consisted of Kyle Guy driving into the lane and doing Kyle Guy things. Even Guy's jumper was off. Hunter immediately prescribed a dose of ritalin with a jumper from the elbow. 15-10. He dropped back with the rest of the team and D'ed up. Grabbed the rebound. Ran a curl off a Diakite screen into the right side of the lane for a jumper. 15-12. Grabbed the rebound. Ran a curl off a Diakite screen into the right side of the lane for a jumper. 15-14. Posted up his smaller defender, caught a high-low pass from Wilkins, and spun for a jumper from the middle of the lane - and a foul. Missed the free throw, but he had given the Hoos the lead. 15-16. After Diakite rebounded his own airball and laid it in for a three-point UVA lead, Hunter went down to the other end and alertly rotated down to Zay's man when Zay trapped the post, boxing the bigger man out so Zay could grab the rebound. Dre finished his personal run with a slash down the lane for a finger roll. It was 20-15 Hoos and the rout was on. Dre would add 5 more points in the first half for the second-highest one-half total of the season (behind Guy's magnificent second half at VCU), and 6 more in the second for a career-high 21.
What made the run by Hunter so impressive was that he made an impact on both ends. As a redshirt freshman he already looks like a plus defender and a well-rounded offensive player. As he gets more confident, he should become even more dangerous. The coming ten days will give him a chance to prove he can do it against Power-5 competition.
What followed was a clinic in PacklineTM defense and halfcourt offense as the Hoos turned Hunter's 10-point mini-splosion into a 31-6 steamroll over the rest of the half. Wilkins orchestrated the defensive effort and Hall conducted the symphonic offense, playing a variety of roles. For the last four minutes of the half, the Hoos played a 4-small lineup with Hunter, Hall, Guy and Jerome, and only had by my view one bad possession. First Diakite was the lone big, then Wilkins came back in.
With Hunter at the 4, the offense was not the classic Sides set. Perhaps a variation and perhaps something different. But at times it looked like a "1-4 high set", with all five players at or above the free throw line. Hall and Hunter each appeared to at times flow into and then out of a Blocker role, and at times the lane area was empty. Hall posted up a few times. The floor was spread, and the baseline was frequently probed. Probably our four-man motion, according to the Sabre's Kris Wright.
Dominance had been established by halftime with the 39-21 score, but a liberal use of the bench and the usual slight drop in intensity by the dominant team led to this tweet with just under three minutes remaining and the Hoos holding a 16-point lead:
Game is not over.— Seattle Hoo (@SeattleHoo) November 19, 2017
Within a minute of said tweet, the Hoos locked it down and it WAS over, but with the Green Team in and an opponent that was getting into the lane on every possession, a 16-point lead could definitely vanish in three minutes. Having to bring your regulars back in when they have been chilling on the bench enjoying the spectator role is not your desired way to finish a game. But the Green Team got it together and closed this one out.
While Hunter was the main story of this game (and what he can mean to the Hoos will be explored in a separate article), it was also an encouraging outing by Mamadi Diakite. Encouraging - but maddening. Mamadi can make in the same possession a highly intelligent play and a boneheaded blunder. You think he is making progress, and then he does something that makes you mutter to yourself, "Does he know what basketball is?" But even while making you contort your face into the image of Harvey Dent (post-accident), he has always made a big impact on games. Last year, his per-100 possession SPI was right behind Zay's and his per-100 Glue Index was 2.5 ticks above everyone else.
But Mamadi's contributions were heavily weighted on the defensive end - by like 2.5:1. Mamadi is making more of an impact on offense this year, and in this game his contribution was equally felt on both ends. Of his 16 SPI, 8 were on offense, and 8 on defense. That's Devon Hall balance right there. That SPI includes his 4-5 from the floor and 2-2 from the line.
So, encouraging. But then, yeah, he fouled out. Maddening.
Next up for the Hoos is a Thanksgiving jaunt to Brooklyn. A little turkey, a tilt with Vanderbilt, a battle with the Seton Hall/Rhode Island winner, then some Black Friday shopping, and back home to prepare for Wisconsin. Happy Turkey Day, Hoos!
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