It was an ugly, bizzare game, but a good win against a pretty good team at home. Arkansas may be the most talented and experienced team in the West, but Pelphrey did not get the most out of his guys tonight.
I owe Demetrius Jemison an apology. I have stated several times that I think he should not be starting, and have expressed a desire to see his playing time cut to 10 minutes per game with the remainder going to Knox and Hillman, but I was wrong. Tonight, he proved why he is a starter. He was outworking the hog's bigger forwards for rebounds on both ends, and he was making his midrange jumper. He also did a good job of helping out on defense. If he can bring this game every night, we will have one of the best front courts in the nation.
Rico has found his way back into the starting lineup at PG. While he made some freshman mistakes, and I believe he had 3 turnovers, overall I thought he played a pretty good game. He made some key baskets and clutch free throws, and did a fairly good job of managing the game. I liked the fact that he was aggressive on both ends, even if he did make a few mistakes. He was the best option at PG tonight, as Torrance did not play well at all.
While we looked lathargic and sloppy at times on offense, the defensive effort was incredible. Perimeter defense has been a concern, and Arkansas has some shooters, but we played a very good man to man defense tonight and shut them down. Hendrix more than handled his own against Steven Hill inside. This was the best we have looked on defense all season, we switched on screens, and hedged appropriately to prevent them from getting open 3's. Jemison and Hendrix did a great job of clogging the lane and stopping their athletes from penetrating. Hillmam, Rico, and Hendrix all had outstanding defensive games, and forced some turnovers at crucial points in the game.
The energy on defense is refreshing to see considering the current record this season. Jemison said in the post game show that they are still working on accomplishing the team goal for the season, making the big dance. While that may sound far fetched at this point, since we would have to win the SEC tournament which we haven't done in 10 years, it's still good to know that they are giving it their all. With a down SEC if we can get on a roll, who knows....
Just when I thought I saw everything with regards to our substitution pattern, on two occasions in the first half we subbed all 5 guys. You see that a lot in YMCA games where everybody has to play. I've also seen Tubby Smith do that as a motivational technique. However, the team was actually playing pretty good when we did it. In fact, we had the lead. I thought maybe we were going to start pressing and planned on using everybody available, but that was not the case. I think that contributed to our inability to get into rhythm on offense, but it also may have prevented Arkansas from finding their groove. While I did not necessarily agree with the move, I like the fact that we are thinking outside the box and experimenting some. Along those same lines, we also played a tight man to man most of the game and threw in an occasional press. This beats the heck out of staying back in a zone at key moments in the game.
When Arkansas made a run in the second half, erasing out 7 point lead, we immediately picked up the intensity and stretched the lead back to 5. Despite the fact that our free throw shooting sucked most of the game, we made the shots when needed with the game on the line.
With the win, we improve to 15-13. One more win will assure us of a winning regular season record, and thus make us eligible for an at large bid in a post season tournament. In that respect, we may be better off if we lose out and try to win the SEC tournament, as I really don't want to play in the NIT.
Whoever is in charge of the electronics at Coleman Coliseum should be fired. Between the 5 man substitutions and the PA announcer calling out "15" "10" "5" because the shot clock was not functioning, I thought I was watching a game at the local YMCA. I was really hoping someone would take the shot clock under 5 during this time to see how the situation would be handled. Would Tony Giles count it down and then immitate a buzzer sound? That would have been high comedy. Anyway, it was a pain in the butt not being able to see the shot clock from my seat in the second half since they brought in temporary clocks and set them up in the corners. At least the stat board worked tonight.
The atmosphere was about as dead as Coleman has ever been. I would estimate the crowd at somewhere around 4,000...although remarkably all the regulars in my row and immediate area were present. Even when we had some dunks and good hustle plays on defense, the crowd did not get very excited at all until the final minute or so of the game.
Up next, we travel to Oxford to take on Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss rebels Saturday. Tip off is set for 1pm from the Tad Pad, and will be televised on Raycom sports. After a great non conference start, Ole Miss has fallen apart and played themselves right out of the NCAA tournament. Hopefully we can continue their downward spiral.