He’s deceptively long and he has a tremendous amount of energy and he’s determined. – BYU coach Dave Rose, on Davin Guinn
Davin Guinn’s defense in BYU’s win over Portland proved an encouraging trend for a Cougar team that's battled consistency all season.
Guinn’s moments under the bright lights included a big 3-pointer, but in crunch time when the Cougars found themselves lacking, his energetic play at the top of the 1-3-1 zone defense lit a fire under his teammates.
Guinn got a pair of steals. He frustrated Portland’s offense and disrupted its flow. And it all led to an 18-1 run to the finish line for Dave Rose’s team.
Afterward, Guinn told reporters, “A while back, coaches put on our lockers a quote from Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors that talked about how defense is all heart. When we get stops, it’s all about heart and effort.”
This is where BYU can make its most improvement down the stretch. But can they get it done?
This is a team whose offense appears to come and go. Critics have called it “church ball” with scoring droughts, stretches when possessions are not valued, somebody makes a head-scratcher and the team screams for chemistry and rhythm.
But defensively there has been some improvement. We saw it against No. 1 Gonzaga and it was apparent against Portland, especially in the final six minutes.
Guinn, 6-5, who primarily has sat the bench most of the season, carving out minutes here and there is the perfect catalyst. He’s hungry and motivated. He’s battling for time and when he hits the floor, he’s pouring out everything he’s got. It was evident.
“His energy and his relentless effort” are key for Guinn, said Rose who has positioned Guinn physically closer to ball handlers atop the 1-3-1. There, his quickness and length have posed issues for opponents.
“We’ll see how they adjust to it, especially against teams that are trying to get late in the shot clock and pass and pass and pass. He’s deceptively long and he has a tremendous amount of energy and he’s determined. We’ve told him we want him to get his hands on the ball as many times as he can from that position and he’s taken that challenge. He was actually very good in both our last two ball games.”
Some say a team's defense can spark its offense to productivity. I think that’s true. Defensive stops frustrate opponents and make them press. That leads to steals, forced turnovers, poor shot selection, rebounds, transition buckets and also triggers runs.
Another trend Rose is seeing that could help on the way to Las Vegas in March is how his inside attack with Eric Mika and Yoeli Childs, plus the aggressive dribble penetration by guard TJ Haws, is chalking up fouls on defenders.
Against Portland, Ray Barreno and Philipp Hartwich fouled out. And D’Marques Tyson, Rashad Jackson, Jazz Johnson and Andre Ferguson had four personal fouls each.
In the Gonzaga game, four Zag players finished with four personals, impacting their aggression defensively. In a win over LMU, 6-7 Shamar Johnson and 6-11 Stefan Jovanovic fouled out.
Starting Thursday at Pepperdine, a place where the Cougars have struggled, the Cougars have six conference games left before the trip to The Orleans for the WCC tournament in Las Vegas.
This 17-8 overall mark, and 8-4 league record, isn’t what Rose, his players and BYU fans were expecting out of this season's squad. Expectations were too high for a team that ended up with health issues and so many newcomers.
But the inexperience card is getting deeper and deeper in the deck to play. It’s time for this team to prepare for Las Vegas by showing marked improvement and that starts on defense.
Stops produce wins. It’s part skill, a lot of coaching with design and emphasis, and it takes plenty of desire. In future recruiting efforts, Rose would do well to seek out a prospect who is a shutdown physical defender for his quiver of shooters.
Guinn is a key part of that off the bench now.
With three-quarters of the season gone, if BYU can’t find some traction down the wire in defensive improvements and stops, it doesn’t matter who is shooting the ball on the other end.