If you haven't watched Coach Avery's pregame press conference linked in MSmilie's preview below; I highly encourage you to do so. It's not the typical "coach speak" PC we normally get. He expresses a lot of the same concerns we have voiced here following the Vegas trip. I was curious to see how the team would respond in this game after being somewhat "called out" publicly by their coach. For the most part, I think the effort was improved.
To be brutally honest, Charleston Southern is a bad basketball team. It's hard to make many judgments based on this game, and this win certainly won't move the RPI needle for us, at least not in a favorable direction. That being said, the team did exactly what they needed to do, take control of the game early and win in convincing fashion, and there are some positive takeaways before we embark on a very challenging two game road trip.
The defense was much better. We shut them out for the first five minutes of the game and held them to 15 points in the first half. It helps that we were playing a team that can't shoot, can't make free throws, and has no post presence, but still.
The starting 5 was actually Dazon, Corban, Key, King, and Jimmie. I was a little surprised King got the start over Riley, but I heard Riley has been a bit under the weather lately so perhaps that played a role. Nevertheless, I like this lineup.
Key seems to be handling the starting role just fine, leading all scorers with 14 points. Dazon had a solid overall game with 9 points, 4 assists, and just one turnover, but could have scored more if he finished some easy chances near the basket. AJ had a great game with 11 points, and Davis was impressive coming in off the bench, albeit with the game already well in hand, going 2 for 3 from 3 point range and scoring 10 points.
Coach Avery actually let the guys play together for at least 2 or 3 minutes at a time in the first half, so hopefully the substitution rotations are getting more settled. I think abandoning the Chinese fire drill off the bench contributed greatly to holding them to only 15 points in the first half. Davis and Bola did not get into the game until long after the outcome was determined. Hale had 5 turnovers in 17 minutes, but did make a couple of 3s in the second half. I thought Hall played well in the post, particularly on the glass. While we only made 15 of 25 free throws, Jimmie and Donta were a combined 4 for 4. I would not expect that on a regular basis.
Lawson Schaffer made a long, pull up 3 in the final minutes to put a cap on it and bring the crowd to it's feet.
At least, to the extent there was a "crowd" there. I would guess no more than 4,000 turned out for this one. The student turnout was particularly disappointing with this being the last game before winter break. In fairness, the team was coming off a disappointing performance in the holiday tournament, the 6pm start is difficult for many of us from Birmingham as well as students with early evening classes, and Tuscaloosa was under a tornado watch for the duration of the game.
Up next, we travel to Austin, TX for an 8:30 p.m. tipoff Friday night against Shaka Smart's Longhorns. Texas is a talented team, but they've lost 3 straight in ugly fashion, including a home loss to UT-Arlington, and are in danger of playing themselves out of NCAA bubble contention early in the season. I'm looking forward to attending the game with MSmilie, those of you who cannot make it to Austin can watch on ESPNU.