“Get-back” and defend
Southern Mississippi puts a premium on shutting down the other team’s transition offense by using what it calls a “get-back defense.”
Here’s how it works: When a shot goes up, the Golden Eagles’ two guards don’t try to crash the boards for a rebound. Instead, one of the guards sprints back to the opposite rim and the other guard goes to halfcourt and picks up the ballhandler.
Despite the disadvantage on the boards, Southern Mississippi has still outrebounded opponents this season — 36.7 to 32.1.
“It’s to try and stop those fast-break points, to stop teams from getting those easy transition points,” Southern Mississippi associate head coach Steve Barnes said. “The hardest part is teaching them to not just worry about what they’re doing, but to understand what’s going on with all of the guys around them.”
With most basketball players — not just guards — taught that they need to battle for rebounds, there is a lot of un-training the Golden Eagles do when their guards step on campus.
Several guards had a difficult time explaining the transition defense Wednesday.
“That’s probably because they don’t quite know what they’re doing all of the time,” Barnes said, laughing. “But it’s an on-going process. That’s what (coaches) are here for.”
Don’t expect the Golden Eagles’ tactics to change K-State’s approach, though.
“We’ll still push the ball, you can still get 2-on-1 or 3-on-2 matchups,” K-State guard Martavious Irving said. “And if we don’t push it, we’ll hear it from Frank. You don’t want that.”
Dealing with the big man
Southern Miss players all seem to be concerned about how they will handle Jordan Henriquez.
“The biggest thing in this game is going to be the shot-blocker they have inside,” guard Neil Watson said. “He is good.”
Henriquez, a 7-foot junior, is the leading shot-blocker in K-State history. He enters the NCAA Tournament on a roll defensively, with a four-block average over his past eight games.
Southern Miss has faced a handful of quality shot-blockers, including Robert Goff of Marshall. But he is 6-foot-9. Compared to most big men in Conference USA, Henriquez is a different challenge.
“We don’t see a lot of tall guys,” forward Darnell Dodson said. “We will have to out-work them and keep them off their spots and make sure we help each other.”
The Golden Eagles will try to draw Henriquez away from the basket in man-to-man sets, and free up the lane for open shots. But if that doesn’t work, most of their attempts will be contested.
“We see some shot blockers in our conference, but not with the length and athleticism that he has,” Watson said. “It will be an adjustment.”
Looking to run
If Southern Mississippi has its way, today’s game will be played at a fast pace. Watson says the Golden Eagles spend a lot of time on conditioning drills, and are at their best when they run. If either team approaches 80 points, Watson likes his team’s chances.
The Wildcats hope to play at a slower pace. They want to keep the score in the 60s or low 70s.
Poor man’s Missouri?
If Martin had to compare Southern Miss to a Big 12 team, it’s Missouri. The Tigers use four-guard sets and rely on the three-pointer. The Wildcats defeated Missouri twice in the regular season, so that comparison seems to play in their favor. K-State outplayed Missouri by attacking the glass and scoring inside.
— Kellis Robinett, Tony Adame