I really hope High Point enjoys tonight's check, has a safe, comfortable trip home, and enjoys the rest of this season with great success. If it goes to plan, they taught us a very valuable lesson tonight to never overlook anyone, because if Ryne Smith doesn't save our ass we lose at home by 15 and become the early laughingstock of the Big Ten. At least it was a win. That's about all you can take from it.
There is no doubt this was an awful, awful game in so many respects that nearly turned into a disaster. It followed the recipe for these types of upsets: We consistently led, but could never seem to pull away because of our own mistakes. We let them hang around so that by the midway point of the second half they had a ton of confidence. The longer they were in it, the more confidence they gained. You could even see it as the game wore on.
By the time Robbie Hummel missed those last two free throws I knew they were going to take at least one three-point attempt while down two. No one thought they would even be within 20 points of us tonight, so if given a chance to actually win the game with a three you take it in every circumstance. Fortunately, we covered Shay Shine (who killed us in the second half) and Nick Barbour missed a look that was way too good from long range.
So yes, it was awful, but we still accomplished the primary objective and earned the win. Likely in two months everyone will forget about this one and remember it as a win only, because that's all that matters in the standings.
Positives From The High Point Game:
Ryne Smith - Not only do we lose without Ryne tonight, we get our asses handed to us. Thank goodness for his hot hand because there is little doubt he bailed us out for the entire second half. In fact, in the last five minutes it seemed like he and Rob were the only ones aware that we were allowed to shoot, let alone do anything like moving on offense. Ryno is a great weapon to have when everything is in sync, but there will be games where his shot simply won't fall. Thank God tonight wasn't one of those nights.
Robbie Hummel - Ryne's role is to patrol the perimeter and wait for open looks. Robbie was the only player we had on the floor for the final 10 minutes that attacked the basket at all. Everyone else turned the motion offense into the "pass the ball around the zone and hope Rob and Ryne can shoot over the zone" offense. Even then, Rob had to take difficult shots over double teams. Thank goodness he is Robbie Hummel, and therefore awesome.
Anthony Johnson - AJ at least attacked the basket a few times, but got too shy in the final minutes. It's almost like he felt he had to defer to his seniors as opposed to taking over because he was a freshman. He'll get it, as his offense adds a dimension we need because he is willing to attack the basket and get to the line.
Negatives From The High Point Game:
Free Throw Shooting - I suddenly realize why I, along with other season ticket holders, are being charged an extra $100 per seat as a "Legacy Fee" for our seats. We still need to raise money in order to paint free throw lines in the new practice facility. That's the only logical reason for shooting a horrid 6 of 19 from the free throw line. It was so awful that Rob, a near 90% shooter, MISSED FOUR IN A ROW!
Playing Against A Zone Defense - It is also good to know that we now have a tape of how not to play against a zone defense. It certainly isn't having Sandi Marcius, Jacob Lawson, or Travis Carroll camp out in the lane (and possibly drawing a three second call) while we pass the ball around before jacking up another three-pointer. You beat a zone by attacking it. I know this. I grew up with a coach whose 2-3 zone is legendary. I have seen so many 2-3 zone games I can tell within three possession if a team is going to beat it or struggle against it. Once we started settling for threes I knew we were in the proverbial deep shit if they didn't fall.
Lethargy - Early on we had a lot of energy. Carroll made some good hustle plays and fought for a few big rebounds. AJ was attacking, Lewis Jackson was controlling the pace, and Lawson was swatting shots with impunity. Then, in the second half, it just stopped. There was no energy. Did part of it come from fear of fouls? Did we get tired? Does D.J. Byrd (who turned an ankle before the game) make that much of a difference? Even the rebounding fell off, as we had 21 boards in the first half and nine in the second. Thank God Barlow got a huge board when we were only up three with under a minute left.
The Puerto Rico trip begins on Thursday and unless we fix things we will lose to a dangerous Iona team. The offense got way too stagnant in the second half and we couldn't rely on free throw shooting at all. The only way the shooting from the line gets better is if we keep attacking the basket and getting chances. AJ, GDB, and LewJack are our best threat to get to the rim. They need to do it more.
We still have a lot of talent, so maybe this was an off night. We'll know more in Puerto Rico when we could have three straight games against NCAA Tournament teams. Iona is one of the favorites to win the MAAC and you know they are going to see games against the likes of Purdue, Temple, and Wichita State or Alabama as a chance to build a possible at large profile. Temple is an NCAA worthy team. Western Michigan is very good from the MAC. Maryland is always tough, and both Wichita State and Alabama are likely NCAA Tournament teams. There will be no gimmies down there.