The PTL Lifestyle, Finals Edition

Falbo's/Culver's 100, Coach's Corner/Two Rivers Bank 99

In a dramatic culmination of the PTL tournament, incoming freshman Aaron White sank a desperation scoop shot as time expired to send the Falbo's/Culver's team to the win and the title.  White was the hero throughout, scoring 27 points on 8-16 shooting and giving the Matt Gatens/Melsahn Basabe team just enough offense to overcome some red-hot shooting from the short-manned Coach's Corner/Two Rivers Bank team .  It was an entertaining, competitive game with a partisan edge on the court and in the stands, as the Iowa triumvirate (introduced somewhat grandiosely before the game as the "Miami Heat") team took on the largely UNI Coach's Corner/Two River's Bank team.  For video of the dramatic finish, see the recap at Hawkeye Drive.

On the face of things, the Falbo's team should have run away with the game: they had three of the better players in the league in Gatens, Basabe and White, while the opposing Coach's Corner team was playing without its top top draft picks in Anthony Hubbard and Anthony James, not to mention its starting center in Christopher Olivier.  But the underdogs played like the more experienced, composed side, and rode strong inside play by ex-City High player Malcolm Moore (19 points on 9-14 shooting) and excellent three-point shooting by Chip Rank and Sam Elgin to the brink of victory.   Rank, in particular, couldn't seem to miss, converting 5-9 threes and 9-15  overall for 23 points.  Gatens and Basabe had fairly quiet games, scoring 16 and 17 points, respectively.  Gatens was marked by Iowa's Jordan Stoermer, and Stoermer did a more than solid job keeping him in check, holding him to just eight shots from the field (Stoermer's offensive game is maybe not dazzling, but his defense is good -- he could help on that end this year, assuming he decides to come back).  Another key for the Falbo's team was the play of Andre Murphy, the 5'9" (maybe) ex-Iowa walk-on.  Murphy was everywhere on the court, getting his hands on loose balls and repeatedly stripping the ball from the opposing centers when they made the mistake of putting the ball on the court.  He must have had eight steals and caused eight more deflections.  UNI center Austin Pehl also played well for Falbo's, taking advantage of the lack of size for the Coach's Corner team and sinking several short hooks (he went 5-7 for 15 points).

 

But White was the star of the game, which was encouraging to see from an Iowa perspective.  With Gatens under wraps and Basabe unable to get much going, White was the main offensive creator, and handled himself very well indeed.  He showed a nice handle, going to the basket with his left and right and finishing with an area array of flips and touch shots that mostly went in.  He added a three and several rebounds and, oh yeah, made the game winner.  It was a chaotic finish to the game.  White got fouled late and made two free throws to cut the lead to one, and then, following an empty trip, Falbo's set up for one last shot.  William and Mary's Keith Steffeck had a clean look at three, but it missed and the ball got batted out past half-court.  A scramble ensued as the seconds ticked down, and Steffeck saved the ball to Murphy, who tossed it ahead to White, who just had time to scoop the ball in the direction of the basket.  The ball rattled around a bit and Basabe had to quickly withdraw his hand to avoid an offensive goal-tend (and I think he got his hand away in time, but I'm sure UNI fans will disagree), but it went in, and White was the hero.

So that's a wrap for the PTL.  Here are a few last deep thoughts on the team as we head into the long hiatus until the season starts.

  • White can contribute on offense, given the right match-up.  He's a pretty deft ball-handler and has a knack for making odd angle lob and flip shots.  If he can develop a reliable three-pointer, he'll be very tough to guard -- tall enough to shoot over most threes and quick enough to blow by most fours. His defense looked pretty iffy in this game (too much gambling, especially off of Rank) but that could be the PTL talking.
  • Gatens still has trouble beating guys off the dribble.  It's the PTL, so take it with a grain of salt, but Gatens play throughout the league was consistent with his play last year in this respect.  He has trouble getting by guys on his first step, and seems to do better when he can catch and shoot or work in the post.  He rarely forces things or turns the ball over, and his contributions in other areas are very solid, but the end result is that he doesn't score very much.  His shooting was much improved in the PTL (efficiency-wise) from the regular season, though.
  • Basabe is still figuring things out on offense.  He's been working on a jumper all summer, and while it looks better than last year, it's still a work in progress.  He also still gets flustered when double teams come, and has trouble seeing the open man quickly.  If he can get the ball within five or six feet, he's automatic, and if he gets the ball moving on the pick and roll, he's an explosive finisher.  Unfortunately, his team only ran the pick and roll a few times in this game.  He seems like an ideal finisher on the P&R, so here's hoping Cartwright and him practice that a few thousand times between now and November.
  • Basabe is still a better help defender than a one-on-one defender, and one play yesterday showed why.  UTEP's Malcolm Moore got the ball on the block against Basabe, and even though Basabe was in perfect position, a simple Shaq-style bull move by Moore knocked Basabe off his spot and allowed Moore to score an easy lay-up.  Moore is approximately the same size as Basabe -- 6'7", 220 lbs -- so it's not like it was Jared Sullinger bullying him down there, it's just Basabe's body type.  What I took away from that play is that either a) Basabe needs to avoid positions like that, where a big dude is backing him down in the post, or b) Basabe can't be the only big man left on the court, unless we play zone.  He has the length to deny the ball from getting to the post, and zone seems like a better match for his strengths than playing straight-up man defense. 
  • UNI is probably going to be pretty good this year.  The thing that jumped out in this game and in the PTL in general was how much three-point shooting can overcome deficiencies in other areas (Falbo's went 6-21 from three, Coach's Corner 12-22).  Rank led the league in three-point shooting, making 51% of his threes, Marc Sonnen was close behind at 47%, and Anthony James was also shooting the ball very well until he went down with an injury mid-way through the PTL schedule.  UNI is a smaller team overall than the Hawks, but their shooting and speed should be much better than ours.
  • It should be interesting to see how Fran puts together all these disparate pieces into a team.  The big things I take away are that Iowa still has a dearth of three-point shooting and speed off the dribble, so figuring out how to generate offense will require some creativity.  Basabe will score some inside, but teams will be expecting him from the start this year and throw double-teams at him.  There will be a lot of pressure on Marble, May and Gatens to generate shots when Basabe isn't open and Cartwright doesn't have the ball.  The defense could be better, depending on how much Olaseni plays and whether Devyn Marble continues his strong play on D from last year.  
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