That's the sound of yet another free throw caroming off the rim. We were spoiled last year with JaJuan Johnson being a steady presence at the line. Before that, Robbie Hummel was almost automatic. E'Twaun Moore was always a good free throw shooter too. This year, however...
I really don't understand why we are struggling so much from the line, especially at home. We cannot ask for a better setting to shoot free throws in, yet this is the second game where it has been atrocious. It is coming from everyone too. Only Lewis Jackson was really hitting tonight. Jacob Lawson is lucky to be a 50% shooter. Travis Carroll is 0-for-his-career. Kelsey Barlow is streaky at best. Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson have been terrible when they should be so much better. It is just bad right now from everyone. I can understand one or two guys struggling, but the entire team? We need to work with some new quality golf clubs and golf drivers to regain our confidence.
Fortunately, we still were able to do enough and make this a win and avoid what looked like a disaster at the half. It is probably a good thing that the BTN feed crapped out midway through the first half. Judging by Gametracker we were spared just about the worst half of basketball we have played in the last six years. There are not going to be too many games at Mackey where we score only 21 points in a half and still win.
That is the important thing though. Despite all the ugliness, we opened the second half with a 10-0 run and made sure we didn't hang an ugly loss on our record. Sure, we still have a lot we need to work on and only three games to work on it, but it is apparent, after 10 games, that this is going to be a wildly inconsistent team. So far we've managed to win games against Western Carolina and High Point with about a D- effort.
What we need to work on is making those first thirty minutes of the Xavier game our regular play as opposed to an excellent 30 minute stretch. Through the first half tonight we saw probably our best 30 minutes to start the Xavier game and our worst 30 minutes to finish the Xavier game and start the Western Carolina game.
When you think about it, this is still a fairly young team. We've relied on the Robbie-JJ-Smooge troika for so long that it is only now that we're needing Ryno and LewJack to be scorers. Tonight was only the 10th collegiate game for AJ and Lawson. Carroll and TJ are still sophomores. D.J. Byrd has been conspicuously absent, but is battling injury. GDB is, well, he's GDB. He rebounded very well tonight, but every play is a toss-up with him. Marcius hasn't even been playing basketball that long. We've had 10 games to adjust to new roles, so there are bound to be stretches, like tonight, when we look awful. We're still finding ways to win, even if it is against competition we should not be struggling against.
As long as we don't slip in these next three games we will enter conference play at 11-2 with wins over NCAA-caliber teams in Iona and Temple and a nice win over a good Miami team. Both of our losses, while frustrating, are not awful by any means. There is still a lot of basketball to be played. We'll grow out of this stuff and succeed because we have to.