We hit the century mark for the first time since 2005. We went with a starting lineup of Releford, Retin, Levi, Cooper, and Taylor. Nick Jacobs started the game on the exercise bike, where he would return later in the game. We got off to a bit of a slow start, as Stillman was seemingly getting 3 shots at the basket every possession. We opened up in a zone, and the Tigers game plan was clearly to get a 3 point shot up before they turned the ball over. It wasn't a bad plan, they were severely outsized, and their only chance was to get hot from downtown. We did not rebound very well out of the zone, and Stillman shot well enough to keep the game respectable for most of the first half. It seemed like every time we were on the verge of blowing it open, they would drain another 3. Stillman's #4 must be related to Hollywood Robinson, that dude was looking to pull up as soon as he crossed half court. He jacked 15 3's and ended up with 17 points.
Our pressure defense created some turnovers and easy baskets which helped us pull away to a 52-36 lead at halftime, and put the game away fairly quickly in the second half. Carl Engstrom had a great game against the smaller squad, scoring 11 points in 15 minutes and playing solid defense as well. Levi Randolph played great, scoring 17 points and most encouraging is his 3 point shot looks greatly improved. He actually had good rotation on its shots, which is something we did not see much of last year. Maybe he will emerge as that second perimeter scoring option we so desperately need.
Maybe I am nitpicking now, but the circumstances surrounding Jimmie Taylor's 3rd foul in the first half bothered me. Jimmie was called for an illegal screen for his 2nd foul with around 4 minutes to go in the first half. The coaching staff was a little slow at first to realize it was his second, but I could hear Coach Brannen tell Coach Grant "that's 2" to which Grant replied, "get Nick." Nick Jacobs was still on the bike at the time, so by the time the staff could get his attention and he could get all the way to the scorer's table, it was too late to check into the game. Jimmie then picked up his third foul on that possession. Obviously, it didn't hurt us in this particular game, but that's the type of stuff that you can't have happen in close games. When they realized Nick wasn't on the bench, somebody should have thought to send Carl in for a possession instead.
Speaking of fouls, they called 8 fouls in the first 5 minutes of the second half. I won't rehash it, but a strong argument can be made that the "new rules" are making the game even more unwatchable than the 43-38 slug fests we were seeing last year.
Perhaps the strangest aspect of this game, was the fact that there were 3 throw-in violations. In the last 5 years of officiating high school basketball, I've only seen 2 that I can remember, and both were at the junior high level. For Stillman to commit 2 in one game, and then for us to have one of our own, is unfathomable.
It was great to see guys like Dakota Slaughter and Isiah Wilson get some playing time in the second half. Wilson got to the line and made the free throw to put us in triple digits, much to the delight of the dozens of fans still there.
It was one of the smallest crowds I've ever seen for a game. I would guess there was about 2,000 there at most. Stillman did not bring many fans across town, but they did bring their cheerleaders, mascot, and a pep band. I enjoyed their band, and wish they would have been allowed to play more.
Up next, the Georgia State Panthers tonight at 7 p.m. As we've said many times on here, they are good, and this is arguably the biggest game of the season. I know that sounds ridiculous at first, they are a Sun Belt team (but a damned good one) and it's November, but the winner gets to play Duke and one other at least decent game on a neutral floor in New York. Regardless of the outcomes of those games, that is huge for strength of schedule and RPI purposes. The loser will be relegated to playing losers from the other regions Monday and Tuesday of next week, which conversely could be an RPI killer. Come out to Coleman and give these guys a boost so we can spend thanksgiving in New York.