Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hoops - These Kids Almost Did it !!!!

Wow. The Jackets take on experienced national power Michigan St, and I'll be darned if they didn't almost win that thing. They fall just short on a last second 3-pt attempt by Zam Fredrick and lose 88-86. While there is plenty to improve upon, there was so much to be proud of tonight. Nice effort and way to never give up.

The Jackets went down early and trailed anywhere from 1-to-12 points most of the half. The 1st half defense was a bit erratic. While we contested a lot of shots in the paint, there was just too much dribble penetration by the Spartans on the offensive end. While we pulled it close, we were down by about 10 at the half. The 2nd half was much of the same, with Mich.St trying to put some distance, but they just couldn't do it. The Jackets showed some real gumption and hung in there, but it never appeared they would close the gap.

Then it got really weird. We were down by about 10 with only a few minutes to go. Buck Fredrick turns the ball over twice in a row with under 3 minutes, and you pretty much saw the door shutting. Both teams ran up and down for the next minute missing some shots. But then Morrow hits a 3-pointer with 1:26 remaining...... 81-74.....We foul. They hit both free throws. Morrow comes down and drains another 3-pointer with 1:00 on the clock. 83-77........We foul. They hit both free throws again. Mario West then hits a rainbow 3-pt shot with 41 seconds remaining...... 85-80.......... We foul. They hit 1/2 free throws.......... A-Mo hits another bomb with 25 seconds left........ 86-83.......... We foul. They hit both free throws.......... Ra'Sean Dickey hits a 3pt shot with 6 seconds left...... 88-86..... We foul....... They miss BOTH free throws. With 4 seconds Buck comes down launches a decent 3-pt shot that hits the back rim and game over....... Then everyone breathes............

Well, really mixed results on the defense. Overall Michigan State shot 54% from the field and 47% from long range. The Spartans had many open looks and hit them. Michigan State only turned the ball over 12 times, and honestly, most of those were just careless passes or catches. Many of those had nothing to do with Tech's D. Tech played decent transition defense, but in the halfcourt set, we just got beat off the dribble over and over. Again, there were many contested shots in the paint. Tech had 6 blocks overall, including 4 by Ra'Sean Dickey. But many of those guys should never have been in the paint.

The bottom-line is that this was not ACC caliber championship defense. There were flashes of good D and you can see the possibilities, but these guys have a ways to go. Having said all that, I didn't get a sense it was lack of effort. It seemed to be technique and positioning and help D more than anything. All workable issues.

A decent overall effort on the boards, but we let them have too many really crucial putbacks on the offensive boards. Tech outrebound the Spartans 36-31, including on the offensive glass 14-10. A pretty good effort overvall. Dickey and J-Smith were outstanding on the offensive glass with 11 offensive boards between them. These two guys were really physical in the paint and held their own.

This was probably Tech's best offensive effort of the short season. Now, Mich.St hasn't been playing outstanding D this season, but irregardless, I was more impressed tonight with ball movement, feeding the post, reversing court and the overall halfcourt game. The Jackets shoot 52% overall and 48% from long range. They create some nice open looks and hit a lot of them. The low post-game game was outstanding, as Ra'Sean Dickey was an absolute beast. He finally showed that nice balance of going to the hoop, but also passing it back out at times. Jeremis Smith was the clean-up man, and flashed some nice moves in the paint as well. The Jackets turn the ball over 16 times - not great, but not terrible either. The Jackets tally 21 assists and 36 made buckets - not too bad at all.

Individually, there were some great performances. Ra'Sean Dickey ends the night with a career high 24 points (11-16, 1-1 3pt), 8 boards (4 off), 4 blocks, 1 steal, 4 to's. Just an outstanding night. His post moves and footwork tonight were crisp and he was aggressive. His intensity was high.............. Anthony Morrow followed closely with 23 points (8-17, 7-11 3pt), 6 boards, 1 block, 3 assists, 1 to. If you do the math, he was 1-6 inside the arc and 7-11 outside. His mid-range game was not working, but man - he was dropping bombs................... Jeremis Smith chipped in a double/double with 14/10, and 7 of those boards were offensive......................

Buck Fredrick had a better night tonight. There were stretches where he really ran the team well and setup mates for good open looks. I was really happy overall with his performance. Buck finishes with 11 pts (5-12, 1-6), 5 boards, 10 assists and 6 turnovers. Yeah, that's right - 10 assists, which is great. There were some REALLY careless turnovers, including 2 crucial ones in a row in the waning minutes. But again, let's remember, Buck is basically a redshirt freshman............. Mario West had another solid night with 9 pts (4-7, 1-1), 2 boards, 1 block, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 to. He played solid and provided defensive intensity.

It was interesting to see Coach Hewitt's player rotation tonight. Remember last season the freshman saw their minutes dry up once ACC play hit. This game against a quality opponent might provide a little insight into how the minutes might get distributed once ACC play arrives. Tonight 5 players play 28 minutes or more (Morrow, Buck, Dickey, Smith, West). The Tarver / Clinch / Bell get between 13-16 minutes each. Paco Diaw and Alade Aminu did not play. This was an 8-man rotation............ It was interesting that Lewis Clinch only played 15 minutes, scored 4 pts (2-5), 2 boards, 1 assist, 1 to. I hardly noticed when he was on the floor.

Between Dickey and Smith we're going raise health insurance rates at college athletic departments. Last game Dickey's elbow opened the flow of about a gallon of blood from an opposing player. Tonight Jeremis Smith splits the Spartan's eyebrow with an elbow on a rebound. These two guys are VERY physical, but especially Smith.

It is interesting to watch the shooting stroke of our players. A-Mo gets his shot off lightening quick. D'Andre Bell's shot is very slow developing. He has nice form, but it's just a slow developing motion. Jarrett Jack has a relatively slow developing jump shot, as did Will Bynum with his odd double-hitch. Lewis Clinch seems to get the ball off pretty quick and he has nice form. Zam Fredrick doesn't have a super-quick release, but his release point is very high, almost behind his head, which makes it very tough to block.

This was a night that will create much optimism for our future. The kids showed offensive skills, flashes of defensive effort (but not complete), and they really showed a toughness down the stretch, on the road against a top 15 team. I give the team a ton of credit. They should be happy after tonight's performance. A lot to learn but the talent is there. Add tonight's experience the bank account. It will come in handy later in the season. This team looks very much like Hewitt's first team, where they started to "get it" the further in the season they went. We may not make the big dance, but that goal is very realistic. Congrats team!!!

December 4th against UVA in the ATL......... An early ACC test.