Friday, November 25, 2005

Hoops - Call it a learning experience

Well, I don't know what else you can call it. The Jackets get run out of AMC in a 73-51 loss to Illinois-Chicago. The Jackets end a 22-game winning streak at home against non-conference opponents. The Jackets were 141-8 against non-conference opponents at home going back a number of years.

The Jackets came out slow, and never sped up. Both teams traded blows through the half and the Jackets trailed by 4 at the break. The 2nd half saw UIC grow their lead, and there was really only one stretch of life where the Jackets cut the lead to 4. Then UIC went on a 28-10 run to end the ball-game, running away with it. It was just a frustrating, life-less game for Jacket fans.

Not good. Not too good at all. Was it just me, or did it seem like players were running everywhere trying to catch-up for missed assignments? UIC was very good at dribble penetration. Also, for a team that wanted to slow down the pace (UIC), they actually found their transition offense very comfortable, scoring many buckets on the break. The Jackets got in foul trouble because of guys coming late to defend. Both Ra'Sean Dickey and Jeremis Smith got into early foul trouble and the team got tentative underneath. UIC shoots 42% on the night, including 38% from 3pt range. Tonight's loss was as much mental as anything. Missed shots and frustration on the offensive side of the ball got to them on the defensive side. Just a life-less night on defense.

UIC had a plan to come in and take over the boards. They succeeded. The Jackets get outrebounded 51-34 and were completely dominated on the offensive glass, as UIC grabs 17 of them. Rebounding is about desire, and it wasn't there tonight for GT. For the Jackets to win some games against tougher teams, we'll have to step up work on the glass. Coach Hewitt talks about talent and depth in down-low, but it sure didn't show tonight. Desire and some basic technique. That's all that's needed.

Yikes. The Jackets shoot 12-40 in the 2nd half and 22-66 overall. That's 33%. That's not good. Was it just "one of those nights"? Not totally in my book. UIC forced some quick shots and tough shots. We did miss a bunch of shots close-in, but I don't know what you do about that. The offensive flow just wasn't there. The Jackets turned the ball over 20 times. UIC threw a variety of defenses at the jackets, including a zone, what looked like a box-and-one once Zam got hot and of course man-to-man. The zone baffled the Jackets the worst,. We were outscored 52-20 when UIC ran a zone-D. Too often we just lobbed the ball around out top until someone took a bomb. They finally started working it into Jeremis Smith at the foul line. He made some good decisions and led the team with 5 assists. But other than than it was not a good night on the offensive end.

Individually, Lewis Clinch, D'Andre Bell and Jeremis Smith combine for 3-26 from the floor. Ouch. Only Buck and Ra'Sean Dickey score in double figures.

Zam Fredrick led the team with 17 points on 7-14 shooting (2-6 3pt). He had 4 boards, 2 steals, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. He was the "Player of the Game" on the post-game radio show. Clearly he had the best offensive night of anyone. But here's the thing - he didn't really run the team. He didn't get his teammates involved. He had a typical Stephon Marbury night - he played the point, took most of the shots, led the team in scoring, and the team lost the game. To take this team to the next level, Zam is going to have to build that assist total and look to help others score first.

Lasly, we hit 4-13 from the free throw line. That ain't gonna win many ballgames. Jeremis Smith goes 0-6. When it rains it pours.

Theodis Tarver gets a gold star. He had one of the best nights we've seen from him in awhile. He finished with 6 points (2-3), 2-2 FT, 5 boards (1 off), 5 blocks, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 to's, 23 minutes. He played very good defense. He was quick off his feet with his blocks, including one block of a 3pt shot where he jumped WAY out to swat it away. Offensively, his 2 makes looked very solid. It would be great to see Theodis come along this year. We sure need his senior leadership.

"UIC really grinded us out and really attacked the boards, and beat us off the dribble"............. Coach Hewitt took the blame for the loss, saying they didn't spend as much time preparing for their opponent because they were working on Jacket weaknesses they saw in the last game. He was disappointed that the team let missed shots impact their defense and rebounding.

It was nice to see Bobby Cremins calling the game for FSN. The halftime bit on "Point Guard U" was cool with nice flashbacks to our great PG's. Mark Price came down to the press table and did some nice in-game commentary as well.

Hey, learn and move on. This is life with frosh and sophomores. Get used to it. As bad as we lost tonight, there's every possibility we beat top 20 Michigan State. It is just so unpredictable. Hopefully this group can truly take something away from the game tonight. They are certainly capable of a lot better than tonight........... and don't forget, UIC is the team that almost beat our "experienced" Jackets last season. Remember that 1-point squeeker? They are a well-coached ballclub and will probably make the big dance again.

One last thing this club is searching for is a leader. Someone will need to step up and take that leadership position. It is not clear who that is right now.

At Michigan State, ACC/Big 10 Challenge..... Wednesday November 30, 7:00 pm.