Planes to catch, an inbound play to scrutinize from several perspectives.
Read on for my day-after Butler post.
—Several things obviously went wrong on Gonzaga’s inbound play with 3.5 seconds left and the Zags leading by one point.
David Stockton and Kelly Olynyk weren’t on the same page. Stockton lobbed the pass too high for Olynyk, who, operating with an 8-inch size advantage on the 6-4 Roosevelt Jones, was trying to post up the shorter player. Jones used his 227 pounds to lean/push on Olynyk and displaced the 7-footer toward mid court. Jones gathered the pass about 10 feet behind the half-court line, took five dribbles and canned a tough 12-footer before the buzzer to win it for Butler.
GU had burned its last timeout on the previous play, when Olynyk was fouled and hit two free throws to put the Zags up 63-62. Without a timeout, coach Mark Few shouted instructions to his players (the inbound play originated just in front of GU’s bench).
As my game story mentioned, Jones heard the instructions and guarded accordingly. He told me he played behind Olynyk to wait for the lob but watching the replay he was actually on Olynyk’s side (toward GU’s basket). Still, he reacted swiftly to grab the ball and had his momentum going toward Butler’s basket, which was critical — not unlike Saint Mary’s Dellavedova hitting the game-winner against BYU — to covering more ground and getting close enough for a decent shot.
Stockton’s take: “Kelly was going to seal and I was just going to throw it up to him. We’ve done it a million times, he always gets it. The guy (Jones) pushed him pretty good, but that stuff happens.”
Olynyk’s take: “He wastrying to throw it to me, it was just a little miscommunication. I went to the ball (toward Stockton) and he tried to throw it over the top.”
Coach Mark Few took 100 percent blame – actually twice, in the post-game press conference and in a conversation outside the locker room afterward.
“We didn’t have a timeout and we went into our pressure out-of-bounds set,” he said. “We just didn’t execute it. We kind of threw it a little early, Kelly was getting ready to seal and we had Elias sealing. We obviously wanted the ball going back toward (Gonzaga’s) basket and we just didn’t execute it.
“It’s on me, totally 100 percent on me. I could have either saved a timeout or we need to practice that stuff more.”
Later, Few said roughly the same thing. “We were just sealing with our bigs, spread our guards because they were in full denial. We wanted to throw it to a big, Kelly didn’t quite get set before (Stockton) threw the ball up. In retrospect, again we need to practice this. It’s 100 percent on me. We need to throw the ball toward our basket.”
Asked how many times GU had practiced this type of situation, Few said, “We’ve been over it once or twice, but you just have to be 100 percent on that. Kelly got tangled up (with Jones), so I have to watch it again.”
Gonzaga often uses Stockton as its inbound passer. He’s considered one of the team’s best passers, if not the best. Also, it’s a no-brainer to try to get the ball to Olynyk, an 81-percent foul shooter, or Pangos, who has hit numerous key FTs in his career.
—Judging by some rumblings on twitter, there seems to be some dispute whether the shot left Jones’ hands before time expired. Watching it live, I had little doubt the basket was good. Few said the same thing. I’ve seen still-frame pictures that show the ball at the end of Jones’ fingertips with the red light lit up around the glass backboard, but the ultimate decider is the game clock, which indicated the shot was released. Officials didn’t take long reviewing the video to confirm that the basket counted.
CBS’ Seth Davis saw it the same way, tweeting: “For those of you sending around the pic of the light going off at Butler, remember that what matters is the clock. The shot was good.”
—Not sure I’ve been in a better environment than Hinkle Fieldhouse: Extremely loud, packed to the rafters (yes, there are rafters in that old-school building), basketball-wise fans. Simply a wonderful setting and a classic game to go with it.
Now, the wireless situation was miserable (I had spurts of being connected until the 10-minute mark of the second half), but the arena was an absolute gem.
“It was great, the environment, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Stockton said. “Historical venue, great crowd. Just a lot people in there and a huge stage.”
Said Sam Dower: “It was probably the craziest environment we’ve played in this season. A ton of fans, usually at one of our away games we have some fans, but this one was pretty much all Butler fans. And they came out and played with more energy than us.”
—The lead changed hands six times in the last 1:25 as both teams came up with clutch baskets or free throws. Elias Harris drove for a layup, then followed with a 13-foot bank shot (he used to take that shot all the time as a freshman/sophomore). Olynyk buried 2 FTs with 4.6 seconds left to give GU its last lead.
“I was really proud,” Few said. “We really delivered down the stretch. Time and time again we either executed and made a shot or got fouls and we got some stops down the stretch.”
—Gonzaga’s backcourt and the ‘3’ position had a quiet night in the scoring column. Only six Zags scored, and 54 of GU’s 64 points came from Dower (20), Harris (20) and Olynyk (14).
Pangos made one 3 and scored five points to go with six assists. Gary Bell went scoreless and only had one FG attempt in 33 minutes. Mike Hart (0 points), Guy Landry Edi (1 point), Kyle Dranginis (0 points), Drew Barham (0 points) and Stockton (3 points, 3 assists) rounded out the guard/wing production.
“It was both (an off night for the guards and the flow of the game),” Pangos said. “I tried to read what they gave us. They were coming with two guys on ball screens, the best play is to pass back to the screener so that’s what tried to do. And they were denying quite a bit, I felt that and Gary did, too. That’s just the flow of the game.”
Added Few: “They were trapping on ball screens. That’s why Elias, Sam and Kelly were open. They were bottling (the guards) up. The play was to pop it to our bigs.”
Olynyk, who made 5 of 12 FGs, said GU left a number of points on the court by missing close-range shots.
“I think they did what they wanted to do defensively,” he said. “We got the ball where we wanted it but we didn’t make some shots. It felt like shots (were rimming out) and it felt like we were getting hit a bit. We didn’t convert as many as we could have.”
Olynyk had some swelling from a bruise just above his left eye.
STATS OF NOTE
—GU had a season-low 7 turnovers.
—Dower hadn’t scored in double figures since Pacific (18 pts.) on Dec. 1.
—Butler (50%) is just the third team to shot 50 percent or better from the floor against GU. Baylor made 52 percent, Illinois 50.
—Butler was just 12 of 23 at the FT line. The Bulldogs came in averaging 69.6%.
—GU shot 47.1 percent from the floor.
—The Zags lost the boards, 28-26, for the fourth time in five games.
ESPN’s Dick Vitale in a tweet: “Last night’s Gonzaga-Butler Classic is 1 of the top 5 games I was part of in 34 yrs @ ESPN.”
Pangos: “We all thought we had it, not that we relaxed and not to blame anyone or anything. They just ended up with the ball and hit a crazy shot. Everyone is kind of in disbelief.”
Olynyk, on defending Jones on the last play: “I think I was pretty close to him. He got the ball after Stocks threw it in, dribbled down guard. He got to the elbow. I tried to contest without fouling and it went in.”
Butlercoach Brad Stevens, on Jones’ deciding shot: “It was an amazing play. He has a wonderful touch, he always has. It’s something we’ve seen since watching him in high school. He just has an unbelievable floater.”
Dower, on defending against Butler’s patient offense: “They take so much time off the shot clock and that’s tiring when you’re playing defense. They run it down to 8 seconds. And they were getting some offensive rebounds and hitting 3s and they made a bunch of hustle plays. They definitely outhustled us.”