In addition to the unveiling of a zone look in last night’s game, one other mini-experiment that Cal put into action against Coppin State was the use of a small lineup. Brett Dawson hit on the use of the shorter squad, consisting of Knight-Lamb-Liggins-Miller-Jones, in the C-J, noting that the group played the lion’s share of the minutes in a second-half outburst in which the Cats made 20 of 27 from the floor and 5-of-8 from outside and posted 51 points. The coach let the world know what he thought about the lineup in his postgame comments:
Q. You said the smaller lineup gives you a different type of team. In what ways? What can you do with that group?
COACH CALIPARI: I really like how we would be defensively in pick-and-rolls. I kind of like if they try to play zone now we have two inside active scorers. It makes it a little bit different and harder to guard. But we’ve got to play harder. We’ve got to give more energy. You’ve got to play with some emotion and passion.
And it can’t be three guys doing it or four and then one not. Because the one that’s not, that’s the guy that’s getting scored on. And it takes the wind out of our sails.
We can press more. We can be more active. But it gives us a look. We did a different press today. I wanted to give that a look. We worked on it. I wanted to give the zone a look, I wanted to watch some tape, see what I like. We did a little box-and-one, probably didn’t notice it to try it in case we’re playing somebody and they get it going and we want to go box-and-one.
The thought of a lineup in which Terrence Jones is the low-post anchor is interesting as it relates to Friday’s game against the Cards, who aren’t skilled enough inside to exploit any size advantage they might have over Jones if he plays the five-spot. Terrence Jennings, Gorgui Dieng and Stephan Van Treese (or, as I like to call them, has been, won’t be and never was) represent the bulk of the minutes inside for Louisville, a distinction that few teams would boast if given the choice. The three have managed a grand total of two 15-point scoring games and one double-digit rebounding output between them through 35 combined games, or roughly the same amount Jones posted in his first three times in a college uniform. Needless to say, he can probably handle whichever of these goons lines up against him on both ends of the floor. As long as Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins rebound and play solid defense, the lineup could be useful for athletically overmatching a considerably less-talented Louisville team.
The small lineup also gives the Cats a different look on offense, where every player is at least a mentionable threat to shoot from outside and can also beat their man off the dribble. That combination could force the Cards out of their beloved zone and into a man-to-man that, for lack of a better way to describe it, they don’t have the men for. It also should keep Josh Harrellson out of foul trouble and fresh for when the Cats do need a big, making the six-man rotation [hopefully] less vulnerable to foul issues. And the fact that having a ballhandler at every position would make any press that Louisville attempted much easier to break isn’t a bad bonus, either.
While it won’t be as good as trotting out a Freed Enes on Friday, the small lineup might still be the key to ruining the party in Louisville and inaugurating the Yum! Center into this rivalry in a way befitting the overall class of the program it houses. Here’s to the Cats making sure the New Year is miserable for all the awful little Card fans out there.