Friday, November 19, 2004

Jacket Defense Dominating in Opener

It's not how you start. It's how you finish. That is something Coach Hewitt said last year and tonight the hoops team decided to start AND finish strong. In between things were a little shaky but the Jackets got out of the gate and then closed the door on Alabama State, beating them at AMC 74-37.

The Jackets opened the game on 13-0 run, stretched the lead to 18, but then floundered a bit until the last half of the second half. Alabama St. actually got within 10 points in the 2nd half, but then the Jackets turned up the heat and ended the game on a 23-0 run. Wow.

Remember, this is just the first game. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. So we cannot take too much from just this game against clearly out-matched competition.

DEFENSE: There is no doubt the defense was the difference tonight, as the Jackets held the Hornets to 25% shooting (13-51). The tough D forced 21 turnovers, which led to 26 Jacket points (the Jacket's 12 turnovers led to zero Hornet points). The Hornets only had 6 assists the entire game. The Jackets also had 13 blocks, which surpasses their highest total last season (11). As Timmy said on the tagboard, "defense wins champsionships", and clearly this team is focused on continuing what they started last season.

REBOUNDING: Again, we don't want to take things too positively, but GT outrebounded the Hornets 51-33. That includes 19 offensive boards. Rebounding was a weakness during long stretches of last season. It was "glass-by-committee" tonight with Muhammad finishing with 10, Mario West with 9, McHenry 7, Elder 6, Tarver 6, Luke 4, Jack 4 and Bynum 1. And tonight Ra'Sean Dickey and Jeremis Smith did not play, so that is more interior strength not even in tonight's lineup. Crashing the boards more effectively would be a nice improvement in this year's team.

INDIVIDUAL RECOGNITION: Jarrett Jack led the Jackets with 20 points on 5-8 shooting (3-5 3pt). He also had 4 boards, 3 assists and 3 turnovers. We all know Jack has been working on his shot a lot over the summer and through 2 exhibition and one regular season game, it shows. If Jack really has improved his outside shot that will really add another perimeter scoring threat. We cannot take for granted the loss of Marvin Lewis and Clarence Moore from the outside............. Isma'il Muhammad ended with 9 pts (4-7), 10 boards, 1 block, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 turnovers. Quite a nice line......... Luke Schenscher had a solid outing with 8 pts (4-7), 4 boards, 3 blocks, 1 assist, 3 to's........... BJ Elder ended with 15 points but really had an off-night shooting (5-17, 2-8 3pt). However he did other things for the team, grabbing 6 boards, 3 assists and 1 steal..........Anthony McHenry was outstanding, posting a typical T-Mac stat-line - 4 points (1-4), 7 boards, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 to's. Just call him the glue-man......... Will Bynum had an off-night shooting, scoring 7 (3-9, 0-3 3pt) and had 1 board, 3 assists, 3 steals and 1 to.

PLEASANT SURPRISES: Theodis Tarver scores 4 pts (2-6), but had 6 boards (4 offensive), 6 blocks, 1 steal and 0 to's. It is nice to see him step up. I really want to see that young man develop and blossom. It would add so much to this team........ Mario West, are you kidding me?? In 13 minutes he scores 4 points (1-1), grabs 9 boards (4 off), 1 assist, 1 steal and 0 to's. Outstanding!!!!

THE FRESHMAN: Well, a bit of a disappointment. Buck Fredrick plays 8 minutes, scores 3 (1-3), although his bucket was a very nice drive and up-and-under hoop. He also had 1 assist.........Anthony Morrow plays 6 minutes and goes 0-2............ The real mystery - why didn't Ra'Sean Dickey play at all??? I'm sure we'll hear more about this. But there has been no report about an injury or suspension. So we'll just have to wait......... Jeremis Smith was held out due to a leg injury, but is expected to play on Monday night.

THINGS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT: Free throw shooting. 17-28 from the line (61%). This is one of those areas that always seems to plague the Jackets. They just have to do better. But how the heck do you get kids to improve? It's one of those mysteries............. The other area is the general offense. We ended the game 41% from the field and only 25% from 3pt range. Of course Elder and Bynum were a combined 8-26 from the field. Outside of those two, shooting was solid. Of course look how we are talking about. Bynum and Elder are streak shooters, so I'm afraid this will be a pattern throughout the year.

WHO GOT THE MINUTES: Here's how the playing time went:

Remember, Smith and Dickey didn't play tonight.

COMMENTS FROM THE COACH: I caught the post-game show. Coach Hewitt said that the defense is playing to its capability, but the offense missed a lot of easy opportunities. Free throw shooting needs work....... We will continue to see a lot of zone defense against us unless we start hitting more perimeter shots. BJ was 1-9 in the first half. Alabama St. stayed in the zone and it worked until the 2nd half when they started finding holes and getting the ball down low...... We will need to change our press. We used the "22" the whole time. It is kind of liking facing a 90 mph fastball every time. Pretty soon it doesn't look so fast anymore. So we'll have to change that up some...... There are 6 guys worthy of being a starter and Bynum will get the start on Monday in front of his hometown crowd in Chi-town...... Isma'il is showing that he can also play the 4-spot, which will help us. He is physical enough not to get pushed around underneath........ When Jeremis Smith gets back, what he will really bring is some outside shooting, but also another guy who can feed Luke from the high-post position, along with A.McHenry......... Wes Durham said that evidently they are deparate for tickets to Monday's game. They cannot find enough. Expect standing room only.

CONCLUSION: Hey, it's basketball season, we're ranked in the top 5, we have tons of experience and tons of talent and the best team chemistry in the nation. Our defense is stifling and other areas of our game appear to be improved. We just crushed our opponent by doubling their score. Life is good. GO JACKETS!!!!!