This was exactly what we needed.
It was far from pretty, but you can expect that when you face a strong defensive team like St. Peter's. Their defense was good, especially on everyone but JaJuan Johnson and E`Twaun Moore, but ours was much better. We didn't get a lot out of everyone else, but we will be very successful as long as guys like Lewis Jackson, D.J. Byrd, and Terone Johnson keep up with these contributions. We're to the point of the season where I don't care about looking pretty. I just want to keep winning. That is all that matters.
Sure, there were still some concerns. Ryne Smith is not hitting open shots. Smooge is on a strange streak of turnovers (an ugly seven tonight). We still haven't had a great shooting game, but we didn't need any of those things tonight. We took advantage of the huge positives we had in our favor to dominate a weaker team. It was just business. It is not like there is a committee judging how pretty our wins are anymore. We're alive now and, after tonight, only 32 teams will have a chance at being this year's National Champion. We're one of those 32 teams.
Positives From The St. Peter's Game:
JaJuan Johnson - it looked like JJ was going to go back to settling for silly jumpers again, but instead he used his size advantage to thoroughly dominate for 16 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks. It is not like he really looked great in doing so, either. More importantly, we got him a much needed break at the end when we were up big.
Rebounding - We needed to dominate the glass and did. Even Patrick Bade grabbed three rebounds in garbage time and Sandi Marcius grabbed a board. Travis Carroll had some nice effort plays and gave us some good minutes. These guys still have a lot of room to improve, but I am fine with them playing as long as they go out and repeat these rebound-per-minute numbers.
Defense - The 43 points given up is the fewest of any team in this year's NCAA Tournament. Yes, they are a bad offensive team, but we throttled them to less than 30% shooting and Jeron Belin was the only one that did anything. They came in with four players averaging in double figures. Defense cannot be overrated in this tournament. North Carolina might be going home right now if LIU could have played a modicum of defense. Notre Dame will find out about defense in its next game. Other teams are in the same boats. I don't care if we score only 65 points as long as we keep holding teams in the 50's. Remember, all that matters is winning.
Lewis Jackson - We got good LewJack again tonight. They kept berating about needing a third scorer, well, LewJack was it. He only had four dimes though, and we had nine as a team.
Terone Johnson - We needed big minutes from him without Kelsey Barlow and we got them. The young man is going to grow up a lot in this tournament. He knocked down two big threes and even had three very nice assists. If he can give us solid defense I think he will be a more consistent upgrade over Barlow.
Negatives From The St. Peter's Game:
Turnovers - We have got to take care of the basketball because 17 turnovers will equal a loss in the next round. We got by with it tonight because we were so much better overall, but we're not going to get another matchup like that. 17 turnovers is at least 10 too many. A lot of them were of the unforced, ugly variety too.
Shooting - We're still not shooting the basketball as well as we have in the past, but it seems to be coming around a little. We're over 40% now, but Ryno needs to hit some open looks and we must attack the basket more. Things seem to be trending in the right direction so far.
Streaking - For the record, we have now won at least one game in 13 straight NCAA appearances, the longest active streak.
It is hard to plan ahead because VCU and Georgtown play such different styles. Georgetown plays a Princeton offense that gave us trouble against Richmond, but we were fine against Northwestern. VCU will press us and try to make us run. If we can fix our turnover issues I think we would have an easier time because I like it when we run. I think we can be a great transition team, we just don't do it enough. The Rams would have less of an answer for JJ too. Since this would be their third game in six days we may have an advantage in the fatigue factor.
The Hoyas kind of scare me, especially if Chris Wright is more effective at the point. They don't have a lot of size, but they are still a good team that is even better with Wright. CasualHoya.com has already contacted me for some Q&A that I will post tomorrow if we end up facing Georgetown.
For now, let's just rest and enjoy that we are still alive. One step to Houston is complete, and we have three to go.