Yes, it came against an opponent that was just 9-21 last year and has eight freshmen, but tonight our Boilers won by their largest margin in over 60 years. In that time we have played some pretty awful teams. Alcorn State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff come to mind. Still, the 62 point margin of victory (and nearly tripling Northern Illinois' total output) was an impressive way to begin the season no matter who you are playing. The scary thing is that we can clearly play better.
We're going to win a lot of basketball games if we hold teams to 14 points in a half, force 28 turnovers, and hit 50% from three-point land. From the field we hit only 46% and we were outrebounded in the first half, but those are things that can be corrected. We ended up winning the overall rebounding battle 43-37, and showed a lot of hustle that was missing at time last year. Even better, that energy came at the other end of the floor where we attacked the basket more.
It's only one game against a bad team, but I think the reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
Positives From The Northern Illinois Game:
Robbie Hummel - Welcome back, young man. I think everyone enjoyed seeing Rob play again tonight. It was totally fitting that he hit the first basket of the season with a nice catch and shoot three. He showed a lot of confidence with the knee and wasn't afraid to head to the basket. He only had one rebound and one assist, but who cares when you're getting 21 points from him?
Anthony Johnson - I was really excited to see this young man play tonight. He was as good as advertised. Everyone forgets he was a 4-star recruit and one of the best players in his class from the Chicago area. He made up for lost time with 12 points and showed his ability to score in bunches. AJ only shot 3 of 9 from the field, but he attacked the basket. We didn't do that enough last year, and doing so gets us to the line and puts other teams in foul trouble.
Terone Johnson - 12 points from him is not a bad night, especially for a guy also battling a foot injury. TJ was active all over the place with five rebounds and four assists. It seems like if he has a really on night he could be a triple-double waiting to happen. Best of all, his four assists came with no turnovers.
Kelsey Barlow - Welcome back, GDB! Tonight we got the good Barlow. He was even 8 of 8 from the free throw line. If he is completely dialed in, I think Barlow is the most unstoppable player on the team. No one else has his blend of size and athleticism. We need him to continue being an offensive force and to keep hitting his free throws.
Sandi Marcius - The Chooch had a career high eight points and even a nasty thunderdunk coming down the lane. He still looked kind of raw at times, but he was a lot more polished than at any point last year. It's a good thing too. We're going to need that.
Three-point and Free Throw Shooting - You guys know I am an exacting person. I see no reason a team should shoot worse than 70% from the free throw line. Consider tonight's 20 for 26 performance from the line mission accomplished. There is a reason they are called free throws. They are free points waiting to be taken. From three point land, we were a smoking hot 14 of 28, with many of those coming in the second half.
Defense - Considering that VCU was running over, around, and through us the last time we saw this team it was welcome to force 28 turnovers, hold them to sub-25% shooting from the field, and give up only 14 points in the second half.
Negatives From The Northern Illinois Game:
Donnie Hale - I know I am not the only one disappointed that Donnie didn't play tonight. It appears he will be the player redshirted now, which is a surprise when he already spent a year at prep school. I suppose he still could play and coach painter held him out tonight because he hasn't made up his mind. I still trust that Painter knows what he is doing here.
Monday's game against High Point is another tune-up before we head down to Puerto Rico for the first true tests of the season. There is very little to complain about in a 62 point victory, so let's just leave it as that. Since some other teams like Minnesota are struggling a bit tonight, I'll take it.