We started off sluggish, and trailed the first 8 minutes of the game. Ronnie Arrow had a good defensive gameplan for us, playing a lot of zone and switching to a soft man to try to limit our ability to penetrate. Thankfully, Charvez Davis came in and starting making some perimeter shots to open things up. Davis, Hillman, and Mitchell all had good games, and Chris Hines was solid in the post.
We continue to have way too many turnovers, especially in the first half of games. This will kill us against good teams on the road. Hankerson struggled again on offense, with 2 turnovers and no assists or points. His defense has improved. Obviously Coach Grant sees practice everyday and I do not, but based upon what I am seeing in the games my starting lineup right now would be: 1. Releford 2. Davis 3. Hillman 4. Mitchell 5. Hines.
We gave up a disturbing number of baskets in the first half because we got beat in transition. We finished the half strong and were able to take a 10 point lead into the half. In the second half, things started clicking and we forced a number of turnovers with the 2-2-1 press which led to some easy layups and dunks. Tony Mitchell had one incredible dunk on alley oop pass from Ben Eblen that appeared to be heading to the top of the backboard, but somehow Mitchell got up, caught the ball, and slammed it home. There was one sloppy spell in the 2nd half where we allowed them to cut the 20 point lead down to 13, but for the most part we were in control of the game.
JaMychal Green was still nowhere to be found. We are very thin in the post right now. We switched to a zone everytime Engstrom came into the game, presumably because it's easier for him to guard the general area under the basket than risk being isolated on someone one on one. He did make 2 free throws, which is better than most everybody else from the line. Jason Carter made a couple of nice plays while he was in there, but these guys just aren't ready to be significant contributors in big games at this point. It was good to see Jason Carter back after his injury in the last game. Unfortunately, I will be surprised if Andrew Steele plays again this year. He is on crutches and not moving very good.
The crowd was surprisingly decent for a Wednesday night game, probably close to 6,000 or so. There was a strong student turnout, likely due to a promotion featuring an Ipad giveaway. The women beat Alabama State 80-31, and there was a nice presentation for the back to back defending National Champion UA wheelchair team. Up next, our first true road game, and it will be a tough one as we go to West Lafayette, IN on Saturday to take on the 18th ranked Purdue Boilermakers. Tip off is 3:30 Eastern, 2:30 Central and will be televised on ESPN2.