Well the Cowboys took care of business at home again and continued the annual ritual of getting Brooks Thompson's team seasoned for conference play. Watching the game a couple of things really stood out:
- UTSA was 11 for 20 from three, and at one point were 9 of 12.
- The offense showed a new wrinkle, and as a result, some new talent became the focus.
I don't know if the Gonzaga game was an eye-opener, or if this is something that Coach Ford has been building towards all season, but the scoring distribution moved away from the smaller guards (Keiton Page and Ray Penn combined for 5 points on 2-6 shooting) and towards the slashers (Jean-Paul Olukemi, Markel Brown, and Reger Dowell). Olukemi lead the Cowboys with 16, Brown had 11, and Dowell had 12... we will have to wait and see if that Dowell performance was a fluke, but in the presser after the game Coach Ford seemed to think that Dowell is capable of playing like that on most nights. Marshall Moses, Matt Pilgrim, and Darrell Williams combined for 35 which is about par for the course (3 above their season average) as they got their looks down low.
So what changed about the offense to shift the scoring balance like this?
In short, an emphasis on slashing and cutting. The Cowboys widened the half-court by bringing four, or often times all five, guys out past the three point line. This opened up the middle of the floor for drives, backdoor cuts, and give and go options. It was pretty much a Princeton style offense, but without the over-reliance on three point shooting. This provided benefits in some unexpected ways as it got the taller wing and post players into position to find cutters and make passes that before would not have been attempted (or even seen) by the shorter Page or Penn. 9 of the Cowboys 14 assists came from wing or post players. The main beneficiaries of this style change were obviously the wing players as all the open space was perfect for slashing, and the cutting lanes were wide open and actually being seen by the cutter and passer. All this inside movement lead to a 60% shooting night, and 46 points in the paint.
Now don't get me wrong, it isn't like the entire offense looked completely different, and Penn's foul problems were also part of the reason the scoring was unbalanced, but there was an added wrinkle of bringing everyone outside and creating more space. For the most part the Pokes did the same things they have been doing, there was just more space in the middle to operate.
Besides that, the defense was solid (except for leaving the outside shooters open, and the Roadrunners shooting lights out), rebounding was very impressive, and the transition game was superb. Every defensive rebound was pushed, often turning into a layup on the other end.
It was a needed good performance by the Cowboys to get a little confidence heading into the K-State game. Now let's see if we can do it against better talent.