Yes, we had to go to overtime to beat a division II team. There are certainly some things from this game that concern me, but I caution against being too upset about the close outcome of these exhibition types of games. There have been teams in recent memory that have lost exhibition games to Division II teams and went on to have good NCAA tournament runs. Remember, just 2 years ago we needed 2 overtimes to beat UAH and we eventually went on to make the tournament that season. These games are an opportunity for a program defining win for the visitors, and are little more than a meaningless scrimmage for the home team. That being said, I don't believe the West Georgia team is on the same level as that UAH bunch from 2 years ago.
The starting lineup was Releford, Retin, Coop, Jacobs, and Carl. This was also the lineup we used to start the 2nd half, and also during crunch time at the end of the game. Releford had a great game, but frankly, he didn't have much help. Whenever he came out of the game, the offense went stagnant. We really need someone else to step up and be a legit scoring option, this is where I am afraid we are missing Trevor Lacey. Retin showed some promise toward the end of last season, but he did not play very well in this game. He played well on defense and made his free throws, but he had trouble with pressure and made some bad decisions with the basketball. He did have one great play where he blocked a dunk attempt on a 3 on 1 break, he was rightfully called for the foul, but it was still an impressive play. Algie Key simply does not look ready right now. His quickness and speed is evident, and he even showed an impressive vertical when snagging a rebound, but his shot is AWFUL and he telegraphs his passes. I am hopeful that Shannon Hale can develop into an outside shooting threat, even at his size playing the 3 and 4, he has a very good looking shot. He seemed to play well when he first came into the game, but then got lost defensively a couple of times and was indecisive on offense. I would like to see us run some pick and pop plays to get him some looks from the elbow area. I do see a lot of potential in both Hale and Jimmie Taylor.
Speaking of Jimmie Taylor, there is no doubt in my mind he should be starting over Carl right now. His instincts, athleticism, and basketball IQ are already much ahead of Carl, who is having to re-learn some things after his injury. While he only scored one basket, he had 7 blocked shots in 20 minutes of play, and it's not like he was completely lost on offense either, we just didn't make much of an effort to get him the ball. I would like to see him improve his rebounding, I think sometimes he goes after the block too far away from the basket instead of just trying to affect the shot and block out.
Which brings me to my other big concern: we were bigger than them at every position on the floor, but was badly out-rebounded. At one point, according to the ribbon board, they had 27 offensive rebounds to our 7, but the official box score shows the final count as 22-6. The problem, is that despite losing the weight and getting a little quicker in the post, Nick Jacobs still can't jump. Carl might be the least physical 7 footer I have ever seen, half of the time rather than going up with 2 hands to try to catch the ball on a rebound, he just tries to swat it in the general direction of a teammate. As mentioned above, Jimmie Taylor is a human windmill, the blocks are fun to watch but when he misses, he's not in position to get the rebound. One of our bigs really needs to make rebounding a priority.
We pressed for a bit in the first half and again later in the game, but we seemed more interested in changing defensive sets at regular intervals. We opened up in a halfcourt man to man that we ran most of the game, but we switched to a 2-3 zone later in the second half and also ran some 1-3-1 halfcourt trap in the second half. As I said, we used a lot of different lineups, and I think the coaching staff was wanting to experiment with some different things. I doubt we will see Dakota Slaughter play 10 minutes Friday. Levi did not dress out, getting him back will obviously help.
We were down 8 with under 6 minutes to play, but the starters were able to bring us back and take 1 point lead with 30 seconds left in the game. We had a foul to give, but chose not to use it, and UWG made a wide open 3 in the corner to give them a 2 point lead with 7 seconds remaining. We opted not to call a timeout, and Releford took it coast to coast and drew a foul with 2 seconds remaining, and knocked down the clutch free throws to send the game into overtime. We built a 5 point lead in overtime, and was able to hold on thanks to Releford and Retin making their free throws.
Congrats to the team for stepping it up and finding a way to win. Also, I give UWG a lot of credit, they were out-sized and over matched, but they kept their cool even after shooting a number of air balls early in the game, and were not intimidated. They played with great chemistry and I was very impressed with their ball movement on offense and they were very scrappy on defense.
It was a very small, quiet crowd, probably less than 1,000, with about 50 or so UWG fans, including their cheerleaders, in attendance. As I was leaving my car a student asked me, "is there a basketball game tonight?" I won't rehash the subject again, but am merely citing this as further evidence to my numerous previous posts regarding the marketing of this program.
Up next, we travel to Dallas to take on the Oklahoma Sooners at 4 pm. CST this Friday. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest, so you'll likely need the sports package to get it. I'm not going to be able to make it to Dallas, but hope to find it on TV.