At the beginning of the TV show “30 Rock,” Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, is the head writer of the fictional “The Girlie Show.” At that point, the show’s main feature is the eccentric Jenna Maroney and didn’t meet the expectations of company executive Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin.
Donaghy, in his infinite wisdom, realized that “The Girlie Show” was not enough by itself. It needed something more to compliment the main feature. It needed Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan. It needed a grand force that made it more than a one-(wo)man show run by Lemon.
Much like in “30 Rock,” the Massachusetts men’s basketball team is chronically at risk of becoming a one-man show with its leading scorer, senior guard Anthony Gurley – UMass’ own “Gurley Show.”
Gurley, the leading scorer for the Minutemen and second-leading scorer in the Atlantic 10 with 20.4 points per game, is a force to be reckoned with on the offensive end. However, as the Minutemen’s loss against Richmond showed, even if Gurley puts up 30 points like he did in that game, there needs to be more. So, there can only be one conclusion.
The most important thing for the UMass basketball team is the impact of Tracy Morgan.
In their 84-68 loss to the Spiders, the Minutemen showcased what can happen if they can’t produce much outside of their leading scorer. On the afternoon, Gurley scored 30 points, but on 9-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-12 from 3-point range.
It’s something that ties in with the play of Kobe Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant, one of the greatest players in NBA history, is a renowned scorer who, at times, is known to go into a mode where he keeps the ball and jacks up shots. Despite his immense talent, this play is not the best scenario for his offense.
It’s the same deal with the Minutemen.
When it comes to UMass and the Gurley Show, the key statistic is shots taken by Gurley, with 15 attempts being a vital threshold.
When Gurley takes at least 15 shots in a game, the Minutemen are 4-6. In games that he takes at least 18, they are 1-4. That one win, which was against Rider, is a bit of an aberration, as it included Gurley and Freddie Riley combining for 59 points in a desperate comeback.
Meanwhile, when Gurley takes under 15 shots, the Minutemen are 8-2. In one of those losses, which was against Xavier, UMass got clobbered 79-50, slightly diminishing the value of Gurley’s shot total.
Going even further, the Minutemen are at their best when Gurley isn’t even leading the offensive output. Gurley has been the leading scorer for each of the Minutemen’s games this season, save two, both of which were wins. Guard Javorn Farrell led with 25 points in a win against Quinnipiac while Riley put up18 against Charlotte. They’re also 2-0 when a teammate is within two points or less of Gurley’s team-high, if that counts for anything.
What should be taken from this isn’t that Gurley putting up points is a bad thing. It’s a great thing. It’s simply a question of how much offense goes through him before things start leaning too heavily on him. No. 12 is simply a part of your balanced breakfast. Offense too.
Just like Kobe, though, there are times when the Minutemen need Gurley to step up and take a shot or three. One key example was Sunday’s game against Rhode Island. With the game winding down and UMass with the lead, the offense needed to hold onto the ball to run the clock. Gurley, with the ball in his hands, did just that. But with the shot clock at two seconds and the defense swarming, Gurley stepped back at least five feet behind the 3-point line and drained the shot. This was part of a day where Gurley went 5-for-14 from the field, but 4-for-10 from distance.
Another example was in the Minutemen’s first win of the season against Rider. Down at 22 just after the half, Gurley, along with Riley, was forced to go into Kobe-mode to storm back into the game. And they did, finishing with a 10-point victory.
As a wise man once said, “With a sweet jumper comes great responsibility.” OK, fine, I said that. Regardless, only so much can be accomplished with the Gurley Show. There needs to be a Tracy Morgan.
In the best case scenario, Tracy Morgan comes in the form of “The Human Torch” Riley, who ended up going 6-for-11 from 3-point range in the Rider game. Other times, he comes in the form of the sophomore, Farrell, who has shown great skill in getting to the basket or Sampson Carter, who has a great combo of size and shooting.
Like all great forces in the world, Tracy Morgan comes to us in more than one way. Saturday Night Live taught us this. But if his success on 30 Rock has shown us anything, it’s that he’s best as a gamebreaking compliment to Liz Lemon’s original “Girlie Show.”
Without the “Girlie Show,” there is nothing. But without Tracy Morgan, what’s there just isn’t as good as it could be.
Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]