Stopping Morrison easier said than done
As unlikely as it is, the Indiana Hoosiers are hoping Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison will miss some shots Saturday.
SALT LAKE CITY -- We've heard the game plan before. We've listened to the same hopes and aspirations from countless basketball teams this season. It's pretty darn simple:
"We just have to hope," said Indiana coach Mike Davis, "that he misses some shots."
It's pretty darn unlikely.
The No. 6 seed Hoosiers on Thursday escaped an attacking San Diego State side -- "The most athletic team we played all season," said Davis on Thursday -- and for the 87-83 victory in a first-round Oakland Regional game at the Huntsman Center they receive a date on Saturday with No. 3 Gonzaga and the trash-talking, always-scoring, exceedingly eccentric junior forward Adam Morrison and his nearly 29-points a game scoring average.
"There is nothing we can really do," said Davis. "He is the leading scorer in the nation. We don't have anyone who can really guard him. No one has figured out how to do that all season. We just have to focus on ourselves more than him. What we're trying to do is get the ball inside and push it up court."
It worked against the Aztecs, who struggled from the outset trying to contain the likes of junior guard Earl Calloway off the dribble. Calloway made eight shots and most of them were within two feet. But what SDSU didn't have inside -- a post player with the needed bulk to at least bother Indiana beast Marco Killingsworth -- the Zags do in senior J.P. Batista.
That means Indiana guards Calloway, Marshall Strickland, Robert Vaden and A.J. Ratliff must be able to match Gonzaga's offensive output and not tire defensively, which means they must be able to not only make shots when Killingsworth pitches out of double teams at one end, but also not allow a bigger and more versatile Morrison to dominate at the other.
"San Diego State had a lot of weapons," said Strickland. "They were a really good offensive team. Morrison and some of the other Gonzaga players are a lot like that on the perimeter, so having played that game [Thursday] should be a good carry-over for us.
"I don't think we can get too caught up in stopping [Morrison]. He's a great player and he's going to get his points. We want to try to make other guys make plays also."
The Hoosiers found themselves in a similar setting on Nov. 30 against Duke, when the plan to control J.J. Redick resulted in the Blue Devils star scoring 29 and his team winning 75-67.
"We threw a lot of guys at J.J. and I'm sure we will do the same thing with Adam," said Vaden, whose three-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining lifted Indiana past SDSU. "But we're not going to get too focused on how many points he's going to score. We have a game to play."
It could be the final one for Davis wearing Hoosier colors. It's a tossup here this week which issue has earned more questions from the media -- the tuft of hair on Morrison's lip or the impending departure of Indiana's coach.
Whatever the answer is Davis certainly isn't acting or talking like a man who intends never to again stroll a sideline.
"Hopefully, this is not the last time I will [coach]," he said. "Sometimes, when I ride the team bus, I sit around and think how lucky I was to be the coach at Indiana. This is a big-time program. But I haven't had thoughts of emotion that this is my last game and feeling sad about it. You never know until the day arrives. Right now, I'm excited about being part of this. I feel like we're in that moment where we can do something special."
Of course, it would help if the Mustache Man missed a few shots.
Ed Graney of The San Diego Union-Tribune is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.