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Spicy Nuggets: Shaka Smart has a point & The time-out argument
Shaka Smart and Marquette players had words for UConn. Also, should the Huskies have taken a time-out before their last shot?
After a tightly-contested win over UConn, Marquette head coach Shaka Smart said he felt (understandably) emotional, in part due to the feeling that his team was overlooked going into the contest.
“It felt like a lot of people were giving UConn the game coming in, [and] comments made about who owns the Garden,” Smart said. “We said, ‘wait a minute, we won this league. So we're not taking a back seat to anybody.’”
Smart said he intended to say that with respect. And while that’s usually a dead giveaway for having the opposite sentiment, he also has a point.
UConn hasn’t been to the Big East Tournament championship game in three opportunities, despite having two top-20-ish teams in the previous two years and a top-10-ish team this year. It hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2016. This isn’t a monster (yet).
As painful as it may be to acknowledge, the “UConn in March” that fans know and love is the story of a different era. These Huskies have a chance this year to start reversing some lazy narratives about the coaching staff’s ability to win “when it counts.” But as far as UConn’s standing in the Big East, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The program’s last regular season title was in 2006.
Should UConn have called time out?
After a frenzied final few minutes, with UConn closing the gap repeatedly only to see Marquette respond with some clutch late 3-pointers, the Huskies still had a chance to tie or win at the end.
With 10 seconds left, Adama Sanogo grabbed a rebound off a Kolek three-point attempt. He sent the ball up the floor to Tristen Newton, who hovered across the perimeter before sending a short pass to Jordan Hawkins, who tried to get off a tightly-contested three but couldn’t get enough strength behind it.
Many people rushed to say that UConn should have called a time-out right there, or maybe with around five seconds left after crossing half-court.
Checking in on Twitter, opinions varied:
There is no “right” answer here. The right answer is the one that works out, kind of like going for it on fourth down in football. In this case, either option could have worked out; the one they chose did not.
Because the Huskies typically excel in transition, they may have felt like they had a good chance of finding an open look after pushing the ball up following the rebound. Late-clock execution has long been a struggle for this team, so a more fluid attack maybe is more natural for them.
The argument for calling the time-out is to take some time to draw up a better play there. But it also gives the defense time to regroup and then defend an inbound play. Marquette had been defending really well overall, including on inbounds.
It does seem like Newton had Adama Sanogo, who had 19 points on the night, open down low.
My take is if you’re mad about this decision, or want to pin the loss on coaching, you’re looking for something to criticize. UConn lost by two against the No. 6 team in the country on a night when its top scorer had five points and the Huskies were coming in having won six straight and nine of ten.
College basketball is about talent. UConn has it and continues improving on that front. The team has been good over these last three years overall despite its lack of postseason success, but this postseason isn’t over. Criticizing the coaching staff for this one decision as though it is indicative of them being unfit for the job is very far off.