To double down or not to double down?
That was the question Penn faced last night in its attempt to shut down senior center Steve Goodrich. And like most of men's basketball's opponents this season, the Quakers could not come up with the right answer.
Not only did Goodrich lead all scorers with 19 points on 8-for-10 shooting in Princeton's 71-52 blowout of Penn, but he also finished with six assists – two more than senior point guard Mitch Henderson and twice as many as any Quaker.
Entering the game, Penn head coach Fran Dunphy knew that his team had two options when Goodrich received the ball in the low post. The Quakers could send a second man to double-team Goodrich, or they could let Penn centers George Mboya and Josh Sanger guard him one-on-one.
Dunphy tried each of the methods, and unfortunately for the Quakers, Goodrich had answers for both.
Less than three minutes into the game, Goodrich found himself isolated in the low post against Mboya. And when the double team didn't come, Goodrich broke out weapon number one – the baby hook shot.
The baby hook has become Goodrich's patented post move, the shot he takes nearly every time he is defended close to the basket. The hook is virtually impossible to block, due its high release point and the way Goodrich shields the ball with his body. And as if that weren't enough, he can shoot the hook both rightand left-handed.
Patented post moves do not come easy, however. It took Goodrich years of practice to develop the baby hook, but he is now reaping the rewards. Goodrich's first hook over Mboya was one of three he would take on the night. And to no one's surprise, he made them all.
"It's like a layup," Goodrich said. "I shoot them all the time so I expect them to go in. It's kind of second nature now."
Late in the first half, Dunphy decided that his team could not afford to give up any more easy buckets in the paint, and he sent various Quakers to double down on Goodrich. So Princeton's big man went to weapon number two – the pass.
Dunphy could only watch in anguish as Goodrich continually found open Tigers on the perimeter. Astonishingly, Goodrich assisted on six of Princeton's nine three-pointers.
"The (secondary defender) has so far to run to double team because of the way our offense works," Goodrich said. "I'm kind of watching him come like, 'Keep coming.' "
Open the window
Princeton's offensive set relies on spacing – spreading the defense out so the Tigers can open up backdoor cuts. This allows Goodrich room to roam in the paint, and when he gets the ball, he has four men waiting on the perimeter for a shot.
"The role of the center here is so great because it's four around one and we have a bunch of good shooters," Goodrich said. "There is a lot of space to make your move."
And there are a lot of options on the perimeter.
"A lot of times there are so many guys open that you're standing there wide open," senior forward James Mastaglio said, "and he throws the ball to somebody else and you just kind of say, 'Damn, I wish he had thrown it to me.' "
Having such a two-pronged attack at the center position is certainly a blessing for the Tigers. For while Dunphy was struggling to decide between defending the post with one man or two, Goodrich tackled a much easier question: which open man should he pass to?