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College Notes / Alan Drooz

Loyola, Sooner 136-103 Shoot-Out Just Might Be Cage Style of '90s

December 23, 1988|Alan Drooz

Before and after Oklahoma's 136-103 victory over Loyola Marymount last weekend, both teams' coaches were constantly asked if their fast-paced attacks and constant full-court press would be the style of the 1990s in college basketball.

And the answer was: maybe.

Recent rules changes--the introduction of the 3-point shot and 45-second shot clock--make the college game more like the pros and help force the pace--to a degree. And television, which is showing more games with the advent of cable, likes lots of scoring.

But the all-out running game is still a risky venture, and a lot of coaches don't like to deviate from the norm.

Oklahoma Coach Billy Tubbs said the 40-minute full-court press "is the most difficult defense to play. You put yourself at risk that if (opponents) can get through the pressure, they're going to get some easy baskets. To me it's worth the risk because we're gonna come out on the best side most of the time. We're gonna make something happen, good or bad. Anybody can stay in (a zone defense) and wave their hands and never get more than 17 feet from the basket. That'll slow things down, but it's not tough defense to play."

Loyola's Paul Westhead takes a similar approach and noted why many coaches don't: "It's great if you can pull it off. If you can't you expose yourself. A lot of coaches would not allow themselves to get exposed."

But Westhead and Tubbs remain convinced their style of play is the way to go. Tubbs said that the impression of his team as a great collection of athletes is enhanced by outrunning opponents. He said the high-speed game "looks more athletic at that pace. Talent-wise we're behind a few people, always have been. You don't see everybody in America recruiting our athletes."

But you see many of them heavily sought by the National Basketball Assn. after Tubbs gets through with them. Center Stacey King and guard Mookie Blaylock figure to be first-round draft choices next spring. Tubbs has been an advocate of the quick pace since he grew up following Adolph Rupp's dominating Kentucky teams in the 1950s.

"People think this (style) is a thing that is just now happening," Tubbs said. "But it you think about it, back in the '50s it was an up-and-down game. Hundred-point games were not uncommon. There were guys like Frank Selvy scoring 100 points in games. UCLA had a lot of high-scoring games (in the 1960s). The thing that took basketball back to the control game was the Knight era."

Indiana Coach Bob Knight has won three NCAA titles with a defense-oriented, ball-control scheme.

Knight may have the titles, but Tubbs has the nation's best coaching record in the last eight seasons at Oklahoma--averaging nearly 28 wins--and he said teams like his, Nevada-Las Vegas and Loyola have created a new, exciting aspect of the college game. At a football-crazed school like Oklahoma, the entertainment factor is important.

Some observers hoped Loyola and Oklahoma would produce the first 300-point game in Division I history, but Tubbs said, "I don't sit around and concern myself with the number of points. We've scored 100 points on teams I didn't think was possible. You have to be able to play at any speed. We play enough good teams that there will be nights we can't get that tempo. But 100 points used to be the standard. Now, it seems like if you hit 100 with 5 or 10 minutes left, the points just come cascading. Now the standard is more like 150."

Both coaches also use the 3-point shot often; each shot 25 and made 10 Saturday. Tubbs said the 3-pointer has changed the role of the back court: "People are realizing the guard is more valuable now. They can knock the threes down. That's stringing defenses out and speeding up the game."

Tubbs pointed to a recent 117-102 victory by top-ranked Duke--considered a defense-conscious, control-type team--over Miami as an example of teams looking to score more. "That's not a lacking of defense by Duke that gave up 102, it's the pace," he said.

It was Loyola's pace and point total last season--a nation-best 110.3 per game--that caught Tubbs' attention and created interest in a televised match-up. "Paul's really to be commended for what he's done with that program," Tubbs said. "We were aware of Loyola all last year. He did something best. He led the nation. That gives validity and credibility to a program. They deserved and got some attention. You think if he had the same record (28-4) and scored 80 points a game, they'd have gotten that kind of attention, or been ranked? It's been great for basketball in general. The bottom line is--do you win?"

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