Did UH Lose The Villanova Game At The Rim?

It’s been nine days since the Cougars went 1/20 from beyond the arc in the Elite Eight loss to Villanova. It’s an obvious reason that UH lost the game and did not advance to its second-straight Final Four.

But another overlooked number has been bothering me since watching the game. UH was awful at the rim. Shots that have gone down all season clanked and bounced off. Clearly, a big part of that was how difficult Villanova made it at the rim. Nova planned to clamp down on UH’s points in the paint, and they executed it flawlessly.

The national KenPom and Torvik stats love UH because of offensive efficiency. A big part of that is that going into the game, the Cougars were #6 nationally in field goal percentage at the rim (68.2%). UH finds a way to finish when they get to the hole. UH was even better at the rim during the first three rounds: 34/48 (70.8%).

But against Villanova, the Cougars were just 10/22 (45.5%) up close, the worst percentage since the early days of the transition to the inside-out offense (early January). To compare, UH made about 13.5 shots a game at the rim for the season before Villanova. So 3.5 shots more than the Elite 8, and they lose by six.

UH’s best slasher and best shooter at the rim, Taze Moore, was 2/9 (22.2%) at the rim against Nova. Before that game, he was 75.3% at the rim this season. Making 75% of his nine shots would have meant 4.75 more baskets against Nova.

Nova stopped UH from scoring at the rim in transition, too. UH was over 77% for the season in transition at the hoop before Nova but were held to just 1/4 against the Wildcats. The Coogs averaged four buckets in transition per game in the first 10 seconds of a possession for the season. Three more buckets on average and lose by six.

Digging even deeper into the numbers, Villanova held UH to 4/11 shooting (36.4%) at the rim in the first 10 seconds of a possession. The passing lanes weren’t there, and Nova defenders monstered the UH bigs when they caught the ball. The Cougars had averaged over 73% at the rim in the first 10 seconds of a possession before Nova, making 7 of those shots per game. Three more makes, on average, while UH loses by six.

Against one of the most efficient teams in the country, you have to pick your poison. Villanova decided to shut the Coogs down and inside and took their chances with UH’s three-point shooting. They were fortunate it was UH’s worst three-point shooting night in history (games over 10 attempts). They also did not realize how UH would shut them down offensively. In December, Baylor held Villanova to 22.2% shooting. In the Elite Eight, UH held them to 28.8%.

In the last 328 games, going back over 9 seasons, those are the only two games they were held under 30%. An incredible defensive performance overshadowed by a historically bad offensive night.

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Jason Holmes
Jason Holmeshttp://www.hounil.com
Ryan is the publisher of GoCoogs. He is also a real estate agent and entrepreneur.
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