Just got back from the first real game of the season! I was curious how the fans and how the team would come out of the gates. I wasn't really sure if the team had any thoughts about the Harrison Barnes decision, or if they are pretty isolated from that.
Either way, they came out pretty flat, and the fans were pretty flat to begin with as well. The team was only up 18-12 with about 9 minutes to go in the first half. We were playing that mid-major style ball and it wasn't working out too well.
What's mid-major style ball? It's the style in which we go down the court slowly, all hoover around the perimeter, and just jack up some threes, with no good chance in getting an offensive rebound.
As the first half went on, we were able to get out in transition and go on a 23-10 run over the last 8 minutes of the first half. Getting into the break with a 44-24 lead really put this game out of reach for the Bengals.
I thought LaRon Dendy did a great job off the bench tonight, and he's my MVP of the game. I love the way that he plays. He's able to move up and down the court, and also play off the dribble. He had two big dunks off of fast breaks in the first half as well. One of which where Lucca no-look tip passed it to Dendy coming down the middle for the big jam in which Hilton actually got rocking! Dendy finished with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block, 2 steals, on 8 of 12 shooting in only 15 minutes!
I also liked what I saw from Scott Christopherson. He has the ability to knock down the open three, but also to pump fake it, and drive. Some of the other guys like to stay outside and can't do much when defended. I like that extra dimension that Christopherson brings.
With each passing event, both of these guys are making the case to get more and more playing time. They are going to be effective players for us, as they have multiple dimensions to their game.
Regarding the team as a whole, I would say that these are the areas in which I think the team needs to improve on:
- Taking care of the ball. 17 turnovers is a little high in my opinon, especially when a good portion of them are simply careless passes. As the team gels, I'm hoping this goes down.
- Penetration in the paint. Right now we've got some guys that seem more comfortable playing outside. Unlike past years, we actually have some guys play off the dribble. Still, it was difficult at times for Brackins, Dendy, and others to establish position in the post in our half court offense.
- Handling the press. Our guards got owned a little when Idaho State busted out the half-court trap. This isn't that new, as we were generally owned against the press last year. When Idaho State executed it, we had to call a timeout. Hell, we almost had a 10 second violation as we had trouble advancing the ball. I'm actually surprised Idaho State didn't continue doing this, but perhaps they do not have the depth to run that kind of defense throughout the game.
Half court offense. At times there isn't a lot of movement without the ball. You still see a lot of standing around, and guys playing 1-on-1 style of basketball. This team is better in transition that in the half court sets.
- Starting the halves flat. In the 1st half, we only scored 12 points the first 8 minutes of the game. In the 2nd half, we only scored 8 points in the first 4 minutes. I liked the way we closed out the first half, and I think it's important to close out the periods strong. I'd also like to see us get off to a quicker start.
Some of the above comments may seem like nit-picking. I mean we did win by 20 points. At the same time, the quality of our opponents is going to step up big time. It's early, and the team has a lot of room for improvement. It's still hard to get a good read on how our team stacks up. I can't wait until we have a game against a big-time opponent.
Up next for these guys is Chicago State on Sunday night at Hilton at 7pm. Looking forward to it!