The big story for me coming out of the Canisius game (which SU won, 82-60) is Boeheim’s decision to start Rick Jackson at the 4 in the second half. I’m not sure what sparked the move — Kristof wasn’t playing any worse than normal, and in fact was pretty active on the boards and avoided his usual foul trouble — but for whatever reason Jimmy’s patience with our flawed team rebounding reached its tipping point. He decided to go back to the early season experiment with Rick and Arinze playing side-by-side, and man did it work. I mean, like gangbusters.
The first 5-8 minutes of the second half were the Jackson-Onuaku show, and a frustratingly close game turned into a wipeout immediately. For the first half dozen possessions (on offense and defense) nearly every single rebound or basket was by either Rick or Arinze — and if someone else on the team shot, one of them got the offensive rebound. They were blocking shots, they were triggering breaks with outlet passes, they were freeing each other up. It was a sight to behold, and it energized the heck out of the rest of guys. Paul Harris seemed to snag a few extra week side rebounds what with all of the Griffins’ interior attention focused on the two big men.
The concern playing them side-by-side early in the year was that it would clog up the offense, or that they’d get in each others’ way, or that it would eliminate our depth in the event of foul trouble or exhaustion. Also, someone was going to have to guard a potentially quicker power forward. The last two issues may yet be a problem, but the first two were no problem at all this night. Rick Jackson’s skyrocketing confidence level helps explain how much better the experiment worked tonight as compared to the beginning of the year. He can set up on one block, Arinze on other on the other, and the defense doesn’t know what the shit to do. For one night at least it functioned smoothly and they didn’t get in the way of penetration drives by Flynn and Devo; and for one night Jackson was nimble enough on his feet to follow a smaller PF around the perimeter. That may not always be the case, but Ricky looks quicker in space than Arinze does, so he may be able to manage. And the benefits on offense speak for themselves: Hasheem Thabeet can only guard one of them at a time.
Also the potential rebounding advantages are huge. If Paul Harris becomes the third concern for our opponents on the glass, he’ll have the opportunity to go wild and we’ll immediately turn a weakness into a strength. Also, this lineup can only increase our propensity to get opposing big men in foul trouble (which we saw again today).
Arinze and Rick are a defensive load when they’re in there together, and collectively they mitigate each other’s weaknesses. When one goes for a wild block attempt and takes himself out of position for a rebound, the other is there to grab the miss instead of allowing a wide open put back like we’ve been seeing. If one is caught napping, the other might already be in the lane ready to step in front of a cutter. And with both of them taking up so much attention from opposing big men, Paul Harris will be freer to roam and do what he does best in the gaps.
I’m loving the potential here. I feel bad for Kristof, but I hope Jimmy keeps experimenting with this. Memphis is a hell of a test tube, but why not? Lets come at them with all our guns blazing, while we’ve still got them.