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  1. #61


    Some quotes out of the STrib story:

    “They got after us a little bit,” coach Lindsay Whalen said. “Any time you have that many turnovers, it’s going to be tough. Give them credit, they played hard and worked hard. We came in and competed, but they were just better than us tonight.”

    The Gophers were down by double digits most of the way after committing seven first-quarter turnovers. Unlike their last road game, when Michigan’s half-court pressure led to giveaways, most of Minnesota’s turnovers against the Spartans came in half-court sets.

    “Michigan State did a good job of taking us out of our stuff,” Pitts said. “We kind of struggled a little bit, and we didn’t adjust that well. They kind of got us in a little hole and we struggled coming back.”


    Pitts, last season Big Ten Freshman of the Year, has been trying to rediscover her shooting touch. In the two previous losses, she scored a combined eight points despite playing virtually the entire way.

    In the past four games, she shot 26 percent from the field and 4-for-29 from beyond the arc. Her three-point stroke was still off Wednesday, as she went 1-for-8. But she made all five of her two-pointers and finished with 15 points and three assists.

    “I feel like I’ve got to get in a good rhythm early in order to get going in the game,” she said. “I think I did that really well tonight.”


    “I love playing at Breslin,” [Pits] said. “I feel like I play really well here. I have good memories from back in high school. I love being in the state of Michigan and playing in front of my family. I was fortunate to do that tonight.”

    Senior guard Kenisha Bell was her usual solid self with 20 points and eight rebounds but the defense sagged against the Spartans (12-3, 2-2).

    “She [Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant] runs some great stuff,” Whalen said. “They have some really talented players. They had a good game plan. They spread us out and it ended up being a long night for us.”

  2. #62


    Quote Originally Posted by Shades View Post
    By “she is now the 2”, did she mean Pitts is the SG or the #2 option? Do they upload this show on YouTube? It’s strange that they broadcast it at the same time as the game.
    I understood that she meant that Pitts was the number 2 scoring option so teams are focusing on her a lot more than last year (#3 option).

  3. #63


    Let's look at the positive side of the Michigan State game. Well, it has no positive effects on our NCAA record, but I claim that there were only about two general issues that the team had that ultimately led us to defeat. Before you call me crazy, let me make my case gradually, starting out with a couple specific positives and one specific negative, then later getting to the bigger general negative issues.

    Positive: Kenisha Bell created 9 free-throw attempts for herself, and hit on 8 out of those 9. In fact, the whole team hit 17 out of 19 free throws for 89.5%. So basically, that's Bell shooting free throws at a Pitts/Lamke rate. That's a great improvement in an area in which we had been severely lagging in earlier games. Granted, most of those 19 free throws were taken by our best free-throw shooters, and the only "average" free-throw shooter at the MSU game was Brunson at 3 for 4. In addition to her and Bell, we had Pitts, Lamke and Garrido Perez shooting 2 for 2. By the way, we only gave the Spartans 12 free-throw attempts, of which they made 9. So that's plus 8 points for the Gophers in the free-throw column. That free-throw margin could have come in handy, if it had been a close struggle down to the wire in the 4th quarter (which it wasn't).

    Positive: Great (or at least pretty decent) rebounding games were had by Bell (8), Pitts (7), Kaposi (6) and Lamke (4). If this had been a game in which Bell had 10 assists (which it was not, because how can you have 10 assists when you throw the ball away so many times), then Bell would have been pushing the boundary on a triple-double. As it was, she had a near double-double in an otherwise discouraging team effort.

    Related Negative and Partial Positive: T. Bello was held to a mere 3 rebounds in 30 minutes. I didn't have video, but obviously it was part of their game plan to beat-up Taiye pretty badly in the paint, probably lots of double-teams to block her out of the rebound. So far we're undefeated when Taiye gets 10+ rebounds. Other teams are going to try to limit her to 5 or fewer rebounds - and that might be a winning strategy for those other teams (especially if other factors go against us). But the final rebounding stat was 36 rebounds for each team. So credit the rest of the team for getting some of those rebounds that Taiye was blocked out of. Besides the rebounding stars (above), the remaining rebounders were: T. Bello (3), Brunson (2), Garrido Perez (2 in 5 minutes), K. Bello (2 in 3 minutes), and Team (2).

    Positive: Destiny Pitts hit 5 out of 5 two-pointer field goal attempts. She says she likes Breslin Center (where she won two state titles), and the Breslin hoops were kind to her two-point attempts in this game. That includes one quite incredible turnaround fadeaway jumper that wowed me (and in fact, caused me to remark to myself that sometimes I see shades of Maya-More-like brilliance in her).

    We mentioned one specific negative factor, namely that MSU managed to hold Taiye in check, both in rebounding and points, when she is generally irrepressible. That by itself was not enough for a defeat though, especially since the rest of the team partially made up for the rebounds that MSU prevented her from getting. Now let's look at the two general issues that were actually the primary causal factors for the defeat. These are:
    (a) The big elephant in the room, namely our excessive turnovers (again!). More on that in a bit.
    (b) [And this is a much more minor factor, but I mention it for completeness, with apologies to Destiny, since she's the one I have to pick on as today's example of this] Destiny Pitts needs to focus more on shooting twos, in general; and she should self-throttle the number of three-pointers she takes, as follows. We've seen thus far this year that (as far as three-point shooting goes) depending on game, she is either great or mediocre (with seemingly no pattern). She has lost her three-point-shooting mojo in most of her games (shooting about 14% in Big-Ten games thus far, for instance), whereas in three games she had hyper-mojo on her three-point attempts, shooting 71%. Well one thing, of course, is that she needs to do whatever it takes to get that shot back (the hyper-mojo one, that is). I'm not sure what it would take, whether it's meditation or taking 200 practice shots per day - but I'm sure she's working on it, so I won't worry further about that. Until such time, though, we should consider Jasmine Brunson to be our go-to three-point shooter (and to a lesser extent, Mercedes Staples, and of course, Hubbard when she gets back). Also, when we get Hubbard back, we might have as many as 3 good three-point shooters on the court at a time, so that will take some of the three-point defensive pressure off from Pitts, which will help her get her shot back too.

    Now the way that (b) is a problem for game outcome, is that at start of game we don't know if 14% Destiny or 71% Destiny is going to show up. For the short term, anyway, we can assume it's one extreme or another. So Pitts needs to self-regulate. If it's 71% Pitts in a given game, it will be highly unlikely that she goes four three-pointer shots without making one. If it's 14% Pitts in a given game, she could go as bad as the 1 out of 8 from three in the MSU game. The problem is that's eight possessions for only 3 points. She scored the three on the fourth attempt. Ideally, what would have happened would be that she realizes this is not a good 3-shooting night, and focuses on twos for the rest of the game. Especially so in this game, since she was shooting 100% on two-pointers. That's not to say she shouldn't shoot a three if she's wide open (go ahead and shoot that, it's a higher probability shot). But in the MSU game, if she had stopped shooting threes after the fourth attempt (the first make), that would eliminate an additional four worthless attempts. [And I know this is complicated, since a shooter tends to think that since they finally made one, they're going to make all of these shots going forward. We'll table that debate for now.]

    These worthless attempts are functionally equivalent to a turnover. If we had done any other play (other than our favorite play, the turnover) on those four possessions, we would have benefited to the tune of our average points per possession, about one point each, or four points total. So if in a poor three-point shooting mode, the self-restraint of skipping those shots nets us a +4 points overall, whereas each one of those three-point attempts has a 14% chance of netting us 3 points (under the assumption that since it took so many shots to score, we must be in a 14% Pitts game), or expected value of 0.42 points. So there are some games in which self-restraint is better than self-confidence. This type of thing happens to all shooters, by the way. Last year Hubbard had a game in which she shot about 1-for-9 from three. On the other extreme, if she's feelin it, and two of the first four three-point attempts go in, then maybe she's having a 71% day, and it should be bombs away. And you don't need a hard and fast rule, and maybe you always reset your expectations at half-time. And there's room for emotion, as in "I'm really feelin like I got this one." But the overall general point is that 1-for-8 three-point shooting is tantamount to a sub-par 1-for-4 shooting plus four turnovers. Plus, she was shooting 100% from two. So, and this is hindsight of course, but probably Destiny herself wishes she had taken two dribbles and popped the two, on those last four 3-point attempts. Thus, in the following discussion, I'm going to show what the impact would have been if we had refrained from the four Pitts three-point attempts that I call wasted. I'll treat them "as if" they were turnovers. Note that the other 3-point shooters in the MSU game had not yet taken enough to prove that they were cold, so I'll ignore those.

    Now for the bigger (a) factor in which we had 19 turnovers, to MSU's 8 turnovers. And we all read the stats on how many points MSU scored off our turnovers. I look at it more as 11 excess turnovers on top of the normative 8 turnovers achieved by MSU. That's a good achievement by MSU, so credit them. Last year we had an average of about 12 turnovers per game; but we had a game or two in which we achieved the quite low stat of 6 turnovers. So cutting down on turnovers can be done, in fact we did it a time or two last year. And 8 is pretty good for MSU. But 6 or 8 turnovers per game is something we could achieve, with practice. One should look at this 6-turnover goal as follows: that allows us only 3 turnovers per half. That's one for each of the co-point-guards, and only one for the entire rest of the team. The point guards are going to get turnovers, it's part of their job description. The rest of the team should strive to be turnover-perfect.

    19 turnovers is 7 over last year's average. And that's just going to lose the game for you way too often. It's just a truism. More turnovers, less shots - meaning that you have to hit an unrealistic shot percentage to make up for that. If you play a cupcake team that has as many or more turnovers as you, then you're saved by the cupcake. Play a Big-Ten team, not so much.

    Let's look at the first three quarters by shining the turnover light at it. The Gophers had 5 of their 19 turnovers in the 4th quarter, to MSU's 4 out of their 8 turnovers (actually implying they had an incredibly low 4 turnovers in the first 3 quarters). That makes our turnover margin for the first 3 quarters equal to +10. Now we add two (of the four) wasted possessions from ill-advised Pitts 3-point attempts, which we consider pseudo-equivalent to two more turnovers. That means +12 turnover-equivalents versus MSU through three quarters. If you had a one-point average per productive possession, then that's like starting out the game in a 12-point hole. It's worse than that, actually, since MSU scored an average of well over one point on the actual turnovers. Call it an 18-point hole, approximately.

    Oh wait, didn't we lose by 18 points? Wow, maybe we might have been tied after three quarters, if only we didn't turn the ball over so much and waste too many shots on unproductive three-point attempts! Let's look at those first three quarters in more detail.

    We're going to look at it from the "what-if" perspective of, what if we did not have that bad turnover margin relative to MSU - what might the outcome have been in that case. With a (hypothesized "what-if") zero turnover margin, and balanced rebounding, the game outcome approximately depends entirely on shooting percentages and free throws. So let's take a look. If we had not shot those 2 (of the 4) wasted three-point attempts, then our shooting percentage through three quarters would have been 59.5%. Wow, that's pretty good, actually. In comparison, MSU's shooting percentage through three quarters was 50% - also pretty good, but what's going on here? Percentage-wise, we out-shot the Spartans by almost 10% through the third! On top of that we had about a +6 points in free-throw margin. So, if we had only "not commited" all those turnovers, we would actually have been ahead at the end of the third quarter - and perhaps ahead by as much as 10 points! Michigan State would have been playing catch-up to us, rather than us being more than 10 points behind and playing catch-up to them. Confucius says, "The view is a Whole lot better from on top of the Hole, than from down at the bottom." In fact, we had an uphill battle the entire game, when we could have had a downhill battle, if only we protected the ball better.

    Now, what happened after that (in reality), is that MSU had an 11-point unanswered run early in the fourth quarter. So (in this hybrid of an alternative reality of avoided turnovers through three quarters plus reality in the fourth quarter) it might be that they would have caught up with us, and probably it would be a Big-Ten Battle for the last five minutes, with the outcome unpredictable. But the point is, we had a chance to win that game. We played well enough to have a 50/50 chance of winning that game, minus the turnovers, that is. Or maybe we would have just lost it in the fourth quarter due to depth and stamina issues, but the point is, we could have given it the Gopher college try in the fourth quarter. We should have. But we didn't. We threw the game away, mostly on turnovers (and to a much lesser degree on too many cold-shooting three-pointers).

    For the fun of it, let's add the real fourth quarter back in to our three-quarter what-if scenario above. If we had not shot those 4 wasted three-point attempts (and not had that bad turnover margin), then our shooting percentage through all four quarters would have been 49.0%. A more normal shooting percentage (perhaps slightly on the high side of B1G statistics). It got bopped down from our (turnover-margin-free) three-quarter 59.5%, due to our rather horrible play in the fourth quarter. In comparison, MSU's shooting percentage through all four quarters was 48.6% - for all intents and purposes the same shooting percentage as the Gophers, under these idealized conditions of a hypothetical turnover-equal game. On top of that we had a +8 points in free-throw margin. So, even after adding in our (even worse) fourth quarter, We might still have been ahead at the end of the game (e.g., they have to intentionally foul us). It's impossible to call who would have won the game under that hypothetical scenario - it's only an approximation. Could have been a Spartan win. Could have been a Gopher win. Might have gone to overtime.

    I know this was an involved theoretical discussion, but it pretty much proves that the real problem here is turnovers (plus maybe a slight need to focus more on shooting two-pointers when three-pointers are running cold). We don't have a shooting problem. Although it would be wonderful to have her healthy and would immediately put a dent in our depth problem, having Hubbard OKed to play is not going to make her the heroine that saves the day after riding in on her white horse. We want Hubbard to help us spread out the opponent's defense and thus make all of our shooters better. But we essentially (in principle) "tied" Michigan State yesterday, even without Hubbard, and even with no depth and with a somewhat tired team in the fourth quarter (and even with an off day for Taiye) - in all aspects of the game except the turnover scenario (augmented with wasted three-point shots).

    I rest my case. This more or less proves that the worst problem that this team has, is committing way too many turnovers. Part of that may come from a really great defensive effort from MSU, or may have come a great Michigan press, or maybe we just shot ourselves in the foot against Illinois, or maybe a few turnovers came from bad calls by the officials. But in any case, (besides focusing on specific game-plan issues for the upcoming Iowa game) the major thing that the coaches must drill on in the upcoming days and weeks, is "how not to throw the ball away" and "how not to let the opponent take the ball right out of your hands" and "how to handle the ball without traveling or other ball-control issues" and "how not to telegraph your passes" and "how to anticipate what ball-stealing moves the opponent might be thinking about doing to you."

    Although that's a lot to work on (especially while preparing for another tough opponent, Iowa), on the positive side, we see that our Lady Gophers are, in general, perhaps a much better team than we disillusionedly might have thought after last night's Spartan game. The future is actually looking pretty bright, if we can only fix that one big problem of turnovers. This problem has actually plagued us since the beginning of the season, but was disguised by the cupcake teams we played. Now that we're in the Big-Ten games, our "really great" defense is starting to look pretty average. That advantage is almost lost now. And, admittedly, there's a lot of headroom for growth in the offense department. But most importantly, we're going to be in the basement of the Big Ten if we cannot fix our horrible turnover problem.

    I don't have any great suggestions for that. I think we have a great coaching staff, and they will work on it. And I truly believe that (as per other issues already worked-on) the team will buy into working hard to improve themselves on this critical issue.

    One thing I will say, is that sometimes some of our players seem just to not be 100% aware of what is or might be happening to them, defensively speaking. I mean, when on offense, once every second or two, they should always be asking themselves, "what are they going to try next in order to steal my ball?" Or, "what if my team-mate throws me a high pass? how am I going to move or jump to catch it?" The exception might be when they are executing a very specific play like a fast break, in which all of your attention is needed for doing the play right, and for other issues you must rely on your instincts. But in less intense moments, they should be giving at least a fraction of their attention toward how to outsmart the defense from taking your ball (and maybe even turning the aversion of such an attempt into an offensive play).

    Here's one example. If you're trapped in the backcourt (say, on a crushing Michigan press) and can't get rid of the ball in a timely manner and can't call a timeout, rather than let yourself get tied up for a jump ball, just (if possible) wing the ball downcourt right at your basket (trying to hit the backboard). The idea is not so much to make an incredible shot, but rather hope that Lamke or Bello can get the rebound and put-back a layup. Better than a 50/50 chance of losing the possession, right? OK, well maybe that's a weird example, cuz you could debate all day what's a better choice.

    But what I'm trying to say is that we need out-of-the-box thinking, both to prevent turnovers, and to maybe convert potential would-be turnovers into baskets. And more than that, just awareness of what's going on around you on the court. I once saw even the great Rachel Banham have a defender run right up to her and steal the ball right out of her hands on an in-bounds play, and it was only due to her lack of attention to the job at hand. Steals and self-inflicted turnovers can happen to anyone. So don't get too mad at yourself when it does happen. But later on, think seriously about what you could have done to prevent that, and try to increase your awareness in the future. Practice (of not turning it over) makes perfect.
    Last edited by CutDownTheNet; 01-10-2019 at 06:40 PM.

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