Men’s basketball battles offensive woes

When distilled down to its core, basketball can be a very simple game. One team is on offense, possessing the ball with the simple goal of getting it into the hoop. The other team’s task is to prevent that from happening.

Typically, teams that excel at both scoring and limiting their opponent’s scoring are the ones making headlines throughout the regular season and into the NCAA Tournament.

The University of San Diego men’s basketball team has its fair share of issues in both aspects of the game. With the Toreros’ offense averaging an uninspiring 68 points per game and connecting on just 42 percent of its shots, the scoreboard at the Jenny Craig Pavilion has all too often shown USD clawing its way back from enormous deficits.

On Saturday, Feb. 4 in a game against the no. 18-ranked St. Mary’s College Gaels—a game which the Toreros would eventually lose 71-27—the team trailed 32-9 at halftime and later found themselves trailing 52-12. USD managed to make just nine field goals for the entire game, finding the net on a hard to fathom 19.6 percent of their total shot attempts.

Inept offensive performances are nothing new for the 2016-17 installment of USD men’s basketball. The Toreros have failed to score 70 points in any of their last six games, a stretch which includes the 27-point dud against St. Mary’s, as well as two separate outings in which the team was held to 43 points.

The last time the Toreros cracked 70 points was at home against the Brigham Young Cougars on Jan. 14.

The BYU game was unusual not only because of the 88 point explosion from the boys in blue leading to a surprising upset, but also because a large majority of USD students had not returned from winter break, leaving the small percentage who were interested in the game forced to watch on television or via online stream.

Former Heisman-winning Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was in the house for the 88-75 triumph over the Cougars, adding another element of mystery to a night that looks more and more bizarre as time passes.

According to kenpom.com, a one-stop online shop for advanced college basketball statistics, the Toreros offense ranks no. 256 out of 351 Division-I teams in adjusted offensive efficiency.

This metric is calculated by measuring how many points a team scores for every 100 possessions. USD currently sports an offensive efficiency of 101.0.

For the sake of comparison, the offensive juggernaut UCLA Bruins have the nation’s most efficient offense at 125.4. Placing at 256th puts the Toreros behind conference foes from the University of Portland and just one slot ahead of the Army Black Knights.

As with any downtrodden team, there are, of course, a handful of bright spots. Senior forward Brett Bailey is averaging a team-high 17 points per game and hitting 40.3 percent of his three point shot attempts.

Bailey has made monumental improvements offensively since last season, when he averaged just 6.9 points per game and shot an atrocious 18.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Sophomore guard Olin Carter III makes a pass against the St. Mary’s defense on Feb. 4. Photo courtesy of USD Athletics

Sophomore guard Olin Carter III has been another ray of hope in an otherwise dark offense. Carter is second on the team with a 15.9 per game scoring clip while leading the team in total three pointers made.

With the impending graduations of seniors Bailey and forward Cameron Neubauer, expect Carter to take on an even bigger role in head coach Lamont Smith’s offense next season.

While offense seems to be the team’s biggest concern, a product of lukewarm three point shooting, overall stagnation, and a glaring lack of an inside presence, the team’s defense has also been far from stellar.

In addition to scoring a paltry 101 points for every 100 possessions, the Toreros also allow 108.5 points for every 100 possessions by opponents. This equates to the 226th most efficient defense in the nation.

It should come as no surprise that a team with the country’s 256th best offense and 226th best defense is near the bottom of the West Coast Conference standings. An 11-13 overall record paired with a 4-8 record in conference games is fitting for a team with an anemic offense that can often struggle to stop the bleeding defensively.

Freshman forward Juwan Gray had two points vs. St. Mary’s. Photo courtesy of USD Athletics

Moving forward, the Toreros will hope that towering freshmen Frank Ryder and Jose Martinez can round into reliable low post scoring threats that can also protect the rim. With both behemoths standing at 6’10”, one is left to wonder if Smith will play them together as the starting big man combination next season.

If so, Martinez’s soft shooting touch from outside could be a nice complement to Ryder’s more bruising, physical style of play.

Fellow freshman Juwan Gray will also likely see his playing time spike next season and could be the final piece of the probable starting five with Carter, Ryder, Martinez, and sophomore guard Tyler Williams.

No matter what sort of lineups Smith puts together for the rest of this season and into the next one, he would answer the prayers of many Torero fans if he found a way to improve his team’s underachieving offense.

Written by Matthew Roberson, Sports Editor 

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