Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SLU Is Rejecting Shots at a Much Higher Pace

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

SLU Is Rejecting Shots at a Much Higher Pace

Article excerpt

The St. Louis University basketball team has never been one to block a lot of shots, and coach Jim Crews says it's not something they really try for.

"We don't promote blocked shots," he said. "We promote positioning and then you kind of fall into things. That's how we like to play. We like to fall into things. We like to fall into steals, fall into blocks, fall into good shots. We don't like to ramrod things or gamble and get unsound with things."

This season, SLU is falling into blocks all over the place.

SLU is averaging almost five blocks a game (4.9), which is on pace to be the team's most in at least the past 13 seasons and is almost two blocked shots a game more than the team had last year (3.1). Against Dayton last Saturday, SLU blocked nine shots, one of several things that sent Dayton's normally effective offense into a panic.

SLU's defense is, according to the metric of adjusted defense, which figures points allowed per 100 possessions, the best in the nation, according to numbers compiled by Ken Pomeroy. While SLU's defense was pretty good last season when it was blocking fewer shots, its ability to add another line of defense is making this season's defense even tougher. Now, even if someone gets by SLU's defense on a drive, there's a chance the shot isn't getting to the rim.

"Just because someone gets beat doesn't mean (the play) is over by any means," center John Manning said. "It's the rest of our responsibility also."

Manning is SLU's chief shot-blocker, which is both expected and unexpected. At 6-foot-11, he's well-equipped to be slapping the ball around, but he's also not on the court all that much. He's averaging 1.5 blocks a game even though he's getting only about 12 minutes a game. Manning has 24 blocks, one less than Rob Loe, who has played almost 300 more minutes. If the NCAA figured blocked shots on a per- minute-played basis rather than a per-game basis, Manning would probably be among the national leaders.

"Those guys do a great job of finishing possessions," Dayton coach Archie Miller said. "They rally to the ball. They never give you an easy one, so to speak. Manning had a couple against us from off the ball that he had to come and get."

"It's definitely harder this year to block shots," Manning said. "You have to be really conscious of going straight up. Coach Crews always says to keep your hands behind your ears (to not draw a foul), and I've been trying to do that. I've learned it's definitely easier to block somebody else's man. Sometimes you get a little buffer and if you can get in the air, there's less body contact."

In fact, one of the keys to Manning's success blocking shots is that he's not trying to block shots.

"It sounds kind of stupid," Crews said, "but in the past, he tried to be a shot-blocker and got himself in fundamental predicaments and was probably not that effective. …

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