The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)
trying to do whatever he could to keep it out of his hands,” Guard Collin Gillespie said, a graduate of Archbishop Wood. “And then Justin (Moore) did an amazing job on David (Duke), but we were just guarding those guys as a team. Those two were put on them and they did an amazing job.”
Duke and Watson were the focus of the game plan and that Wright gave two sophomores the primary job of guarding them showed how much faith he has in Moore and Robinson-Earl, and they came through. Duke came into the game second in the Big East in scoring, averaging 19.4 points-per-game. He finished with 10 points on 4-for-17 shooting. He also committed six turnovers. Watson was third in the conference at 19.1 and was coming off a career-high 29 points in a win over No. 11 Creighton Wednesday night. He finished with 12 points and four turnovers.
But Moore and Robinson-Earl did not do it alone.
“We just had to do it as a team,” Wright said. “You could see, when they got in one-on-one situations in space, when Watson, Jeremiah was late getting to him, he got in one-on-one he scored or got an andone. It was just trying to
play him as a team before he got it, with two guys when he got it, but when he got it and made a quick move and went one-onone, he was effective.
“It was the same thing with Duke. When he got the ball we tried to get the team to load to him and play him as a team. When he got quick plays by himself he got us. I thought it was really good team defense.”
It was the kind of defensive effort the Wildcats have become known for under Wright. They were active, physical and communicated every step of the way.
“We got guys that can guard one through five, Jeremiah, Justin and Jermaine (Samuels),” Gillespie said. “We have great size on the perimeter and Jeremiah can guard one through five so he’s guarding bigs and he’s guarding guards. Justin can go inside and guard a big like Watson. It’s kind of interchangeable. We can play a few defenses and our team is smart enough to react to the switching of the defenses. I think we just do a good job of communicating and we know we can get a lot better on the defensive end.”
Only time will tell if this defense is good enough to make a long tournament run like those the Wildcats made in 2016 and 2018 to win national championships. Those teams, though, were different. They were chock full of NBA guys like Josh Hart and Mikal Bridges, who made a living stepping into passing lanes and turning that into quick offense.
“We are a different defense,” Wright said. “We have basic concepts. We have basic concepts offensively and defensively, but our offense and defense is tailored to the personnel that we have. I think Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is one of the best defensive players in the country. He can guard any position and it helps everybody else. Justin Moore is the same kind of guy, believe it or not. Justin Moore can actually guard in the post. Our other teams could do that, but not as well as this team, but other teams were better offensively. We’re not there offensively, yet, but we have a chance to be one of our best defensive teams.
“The season has been all over the place so it’s hard to tell. Are we the team that gave up 58 percent against Seton Hall or are we this team? We’re probably somewhere in the middle.”