Lost in the madness of Colorado State’s controversial 97-93 win Wednesday night over Boise State in Moby Arena was CSU head coach Larry Eustachy’s decision not to call a timeout when his team had possession with the shot clock turned off both at the end of regulation, and then again in overtime.
It is common in college basketball for coaches to, well, over-coach. Sometimes it is more fun to simply watch the players play.
But even for Eustachy, who had built more a reputation as a defensive-minded coach rather than an offensive mastermind with a diverse set of out-of-bounds plays, it just seemed strange.
He explained that the decision involved emulating an NBA great.
“A lot of guys love to control it,” Eustachy said. “I watch Jerry Sloan, and of course he had John Stockton and Karl Malone, but he never took a timeout at the end because it gives the defense a chance. I mean, we struggled to get it in at the end, and then they trap. So, we could turn it over trying to get it in to run the play we want to run.”
After a bucket by James Webb tied things up at 74-74 with 23 seconds remaining in regulation, the Rams inbounded the ball under their own basket without taking a timeout, and then did not call a timeout after crossing half court either.
A similar scenario played out in the first overtime, with CSU again inbounding the ball under its own basket with 23 seconds on the clock (this time with the game tied at 84-84). Once again, no timeout upon crossing half court.
“We were trying to get John (Gillon) to go 1-4 flat instead of the on-ball,” Eustachy said. “If I took a timeout to explain that, we might have turned it over trying to get it in.”
In other words, Eustachy wants to give the ball handler room to operate against his man 1-on-1. He would rather take his chance letting Gillon use his speed, handling and passing to advance the ball and get a good look, rather than clogging the ball handler’s area with a teammate to swing the ball to or to screen the on-ball defender.
Considering how much trouble CSU has had inbounding the ball, both against Boise and all season prior, it is not the worst bet.
“But when we did finally get it right and not hand it back to Antwan (Scott), but John (Gillon) had it and we went flat, we made some pretty good plays,” Eustachy said. “So, the choice has always been to just let them play. Trust in the guys.”
So, that was the head coach’s logic. In regulation, it resulted in a close look that nearly won the game for the Rams. In the first overtime, it resulted in Scott shooting a bit too early, and nearly cost them the game.
Whether not calling a timeout was a good call, either in regulation or in the first overtime, will always be up for debate.
Collegian Sports Editor Emmett McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.