I am concerned that Kelsey Barlow is going to be the cause of my first basketball-related stroke. Taking advantage of the fact I was home alone today to watch the game, I was the screaming, raving fool that I usually am when it comes to basketball. Barlow probably had my neighbors wondering if something untoward was going on in my apartment. His half court heave (that ended up being absolutely huge in the end) had me running around the place woohooing like Homer Simpson. His boneheaded and sometimes lazy plays in the second half had me searching for new curse words. Today was the ultimate GDB day, where he had some great plays, and some really dumb mistakes.
Because of that, I am going to have a stroke. It is only a matter of time.
We should still be encouraged, however, because Iona played nearly the same style that VCU did eight months ago that torched us with in the second round of the NCAAs. Scott Machado was excellent at forcing the tempo and keeping us off balance in transition. I was more than happy to see him foul out in the final minutes. Michael Glover was a difficult player on the low block in that he was simply quicker than Travis Carroll. Finally, Lamont Jones was the athletic guard that diced us up as he hit threes and created his own shot.
We survived though. While we got cut up in March, but we found a way to at least keep pace and not fall too far behind today. We had some missed opportunities, specifically a two-minute stretch where we led 74-69 and had three possessions to push it out further, but could not do so. We also had Barlow miss two huge free throws with 2:48 left that almost ended up being gigantic. Still, we found a way to win. In the process, I think we learned a few things that will greatly benefit us in the long run if we apply them.
Positives From The Iona Game:
Robbie Hummel - Some of us wondered if he would be the go-to guy in the clutch. We have our answer today with his absolutely huge game-winning three. Rob simply put us on his back for stretches today, whether he was driving to the hole to start the second half or burying that dagger of a triple to win it. Just imagine how good he'll be when he starts hitting free throws again.
Lewis Jackson - We're a different team with LewJack in, especially against smaller teams like Iona. When he picked up his fourth foul with over eight minutes left the offense was way too stagnant without him. LewJack's speed and ability to get the basket are huge in games like this. More importantly, he kept the defense honest by hitting a big three and even went 4 for 5 from the line.
Jacob Lawson - I am going to say this right now: Jacob Lawson is our best post player and absolutely needs to be in at the end of games. His athleticism is more than Carroll and Sandi Marcius. He is a better rebounder, a better shot-blocker, and offensively he has a better chance of picking up a garbage basket or two off of an offensive rebound. I made that last point during the Open Thread, and sure enough, he got an offensive rebound and putback with 1:59 left that gave us a four-point lead. Sometimes it is not how much you score, but when you score that matters. That basket was probably the biggest basket of the game other than Rob's game-winner.
Ryne Smith - I almost feel like we need to run him off screens like the Pacers used to do with Reggie Miller. His one two-point shot was a miss almost because he was too close. Once again, he hit some shots to kill runs and save our hide. Just please hit your damn free throws next time!
Anthony Johnson - I think AJ needs to be part of our crunch time lineup now because of his scoring ability. Ryno, AJ, Rob, Lawson, and LewJack seems to be our best offensive lineup.
Good GDB - Thankfully, good GDB outweighed bad GDB today. 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and two steals are a great game for him. I can do without missing clutch free throws, two dumb turnovers, a few lazy defensive moments, and poor selection. The half-court shot was certainly beautiful, and technically was part of a 12-0 runt hat spanned halftime.
D.J. Byrd - He didn't do a lot, but the way he played up the elbow to the face was Oscar-worthy and got us a critical flagrant foul when the game was starting to get away from us a little.
Negatives From The Iona Game:
Defense - Needless to say, giving up 90 points in a game and repeatedly getting shredded on coast-to-coast drives is not what we want to do. It could have been worse in the first half if seven turnovers had not given us 13 points. Taaj Ridley and Jermel Jenkins joined Ridley, Jones, and Glover in double figures, mostly because of their passing ability and quick play. We continue to get burned on backdoor cuts and dribble penetration, but I trust coach Painter to fix this. It helps that we don't play a lot of running teams like Iona.
Free Throws - I understand Ryno missing the last free throw on purpose. It made them use their last timeout on the rebound rather than throwing the ball to midcourt, using the timeout, and setting up a better play for the final shot. The other 10 misses though... I think I will light myself on fire if Robbie misses five free throws in a row at some other point this season. Lawson needs to knock his down too, especially since he may be shooting a lot because of his offensive rebounding ability.
Carroll and Marcius (offense only) - Defensively they did pretty well. Carroll was setting screens, had six rebounds, and two steals. Offensively these guys are too timid and need to finish around the basket better. Marcius had one chance and made a good move on his man, but didn't finish. Carroll had a few ill-advised shots and missed another chance at a dunk. We're never going to run the offense through them, but they have to take advantage of their chances.
LewJack's fouls - Judging by how much we struggled when he wasn't in there, we have to keep him out of foul trouble. Barlow does not run the offense as well as him. In fact, I think I would rather have Terone Johnson as backup point now. Barlow is a much better rebounder and needs to be a forward.
Now we get a Temple team that had a much easier time today, but they are still solid. From what I can see in looking at the stats they don't shoot the ball as well as Iona, but the Gaels may have had a really hot day today. Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore lead them in scoring, but they were taken to overtime by an Ivy League team (Pennsylvania) and beat a MAC team. They are getting votes in the polls like us, but we might be their first major test.
Fatigue could be an issue. They played mostly a six man rotation against Penn and today against Western Michigan was more of the same with Moore scoring 15 points. All five starters were in double figures, but they got only four points off the bench. We need to increase our defensive pressure and wear them down because they aren't quite as deep as Iona.
Defensively they are pretty tough though. They limited Western Michigan to sub-35% shooting and Penn to 46%. Iona is probably a better team than them, but not by much.
Finally, by staying in the winner's bracket we get to expand on our NCAA resume. Playing Temple once is better than a second game against Western Michigan since we play them next week. The final against Alabama or Wichita State will be another solid opponent. Let's get the job done tomorrow.