A Closer Look
UConn defensive stopper Moore shuts down Penn
Posted: Sunday March 28, 1999 06:43 PM
By Dan Shanoff, CNN/SI
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Scoonie Penn is the reason Ohio State made it to the Final Four. That's hardly a stretch.
The South Regional Most Outstanding Player averaged 17.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 4.5 apg during the tournament while playing 35 minutes per game. Whether driving to the basket, shooting the 3 (38 percent), creating for his teammates off the dribble or breaking defenses in either half of the court, Penn had been unstoppable.
So what was UConn's game plan?
Sic Ricky Moore on him.
Moore, a senior, is the team's defensive stopper and has proven himself to be the finest perimeter defender in the nation. He's quick enough to keep up with point guards, like Penn, and strong enough to lock down shooting guards, like Penn's teammate Michael Redd. UConn coach Jim Calhoun made the decision to guard Penn with Moore after watching Penn dismantle St. John's in the South Regional finals.
"I knew Penn was a great offensive player and he was going to come out and attack me," Moore said. "I prepared to come out and attack him defensively. I just wanted to make all of the tough shots."
Moore might have thought he drew No. 12, but when Penn showed up wearing No. 35 after a team laundry error, Moore was unfazed, keeping Penn scoreless for the first 10 minutes.
Penn was in a state of denial. Moore took up his defense in Ohio State's backcourt, forcing Penn to pass the ball earlier than he usually does. Moore forced Penn to the weak side, away from the ball. He shuttled Penn to the baseline when the play was at the top of the key. Penn gave up the ball, and -- at least for the first 10 minutes -- never got it back.
"He didn't let me breathe," Penn said. "He did a great job."
Moore broke it down: "I was taking away the drive first," he said. "The second option was shooting jump shots. He did a couple times. So I just think I got a lot of help from my teammates. Although I was screaming and yelling at them, they did a terrific job of helping me out."
Penn played the entire game, symbolic of his effort for the surprise that had been the Buckeyes' 1999 season, but his stat line showed the frustrations Moore and the Huskies caused: 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
"He made Scoonie work for the entire 40 minutes," OSU coach Jim O'Brien said.
The best small-man defender in the tournament met the best small-man scorer in the tournament, and the defense put the offense to rest.
"Just like a good shooter understands how to fade, cut and get over, he understands how to hold the screens, how to use catch-ups," Calhoun said. "He really truly understands how to play defense.
"He cut the head of the dragon off."
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.