Saturday, January 14, 2006

Hoops - Jackets Drop First ACC Battle

Well, once again, NCST beats Georgia Tech, this time 87-78. We all know it's tough to win on the road. Today was no different. Even with the loss, I have to say - I like what I see. NCST is an experienced, disciplined, excellent shooting team, and the Jackets stayed in this game most of the way. What are you going to do when your opponent just starts dropping longe range bomb and bomb down the stretch. The Jacket defense was active, but the Pack just seemed to make that extra pass at the right time and they hit the shots. Give them props. It didn't help that we opened both halves of play poorly.

Well, NCST shot 54% overall and 48% from longe range. Certainly the defensive intensity is not reflected in those statistics. It's mostly a case of just making passes and hitting shots by NCST. They are just a solid passing team that finds the open guy. The Jackets were active and energetic. Yes, they missed some assignments, but you can tell this group is really "getting it" on the defensive end of the floor.

To give you an idea about the passing strength of NCST, they had 21 assists on 28 baskets. That's highly impressive. In addition they only had 9 turnovers. That's an assist/turnover ratio of 2.33 for the team. Wow. In the end though it was those long range bombs - (13/27) that just kept adding to the point total, particular down the crucial last minutes.

Yet again the Jackets outrebound their opponent, but this time only 34-30 and 10-6 on the offensive glass. A solid effort and it certainly wasn't a key reason for the loss today........ The encouraging sign is that Ra'Sean Dickey led the team with 12 boards. Throw in his 12 pts and you have his first double/double of the seaon (if memory serves me). There were still times where he seemed to be standing around, but he was certainly a LOT more active today.

The Jackets shot 52% from the floor and 42% from long range. Nothing to be ashamed of. NCST is a decent defensive team and they are fairly active. Buck Fredrick had a good game running the team and ended with 7 assists and only 2 turnovers. He shot the ball well in the first half, but went cold in the 2nd half and ended with 11 pts (4-13)......... Jeremis Smith the real monster in the paint. He ended with 20 pts (8-16) and some of those buckets were TOUGH, with a handful of foul-and-one's. There is just no doubt that Smith is a beast, goes hard all the time and is hardcore.........

Lewis Clinch had a great game. He ends with a career high 14 pts (6-10, 2-4 3pt), 3 boards. He had some nifty moves in the paint and it's obvious he's got a little finger-roll flair.

No doubt NCST had a gameplan to shutdown Anthony Morrow and they did that for a half. In the 2nd half he made his presence known, but he still ended below his average with 15 pts (5-9, 2-5 3pt).

We know the defense has really started to become more consistent, more active and more disciplined the last 4-6 games. However, one thing that is really starting to change is the emergence of many offensive weapons. The first 8 games of the season, the plan for opponents was simple - shutdown Anthony Morrow. However, with Clinch and West out, D'Andre Bell emerged to show his abilities from the outside. He has hit a number of mid-range and long-range shots in the last 6 ballgames and continues to be very active defensively............... Lewis Clinch is back and had the best game of his career today, hitting on an array of shots. Buck Fredrick is still streaky from the floor, but is starting to hit more of his shots after a terrible start to the season........... The you look down low and can always count on everything Jeremis Smith can give. In my mind there is only one missing link offensivley - consistent play from Ra'Sean Dickey in the post. He played fairly well today, but he is capable of so much more. He needs two things - consistent mental dedication and a stronger ability to read defenses in the post. His lack of focus at times is well documented. Putting that aside, when he learns how to read the defense in the low-post he will be deadly. Put one defender on him and he cannot be stopped. Double-down and he still tends to turn the ball over - a lot. He had 4 turnovers today, most of which came when he was doubled down low. He'll get it. It takes time and it takes practice. There is no denying his physical ability, his outstanding footwork and offensive skills. Put Jeremis Smith's ticker in that body and a more experienced ability to "feel" the defense and holy cow. His upside is amazing.

So the point is that Paul Hewitt does not have to trade offense for defense as much. D'Andre Bell is a great defender who has come alive as a scorer. Lewis Clinch is active defensively and a natural scorer. He just has to get 100% of his movement back from the injury. Buck may not have the stamina, but he's active defensively and runs the team better than anyone else. Jeremis Smith is a load defensively and we know what he does offensively. A-Mo runs hard defensively and is the best scorer on the team.

The pieces are coming together. They're not ready to make a title run or anything, but this team can compete and make us proud. I wasn't expecting a win today, but I liked what I saw. The Jackets will make some noise this season. There's no doubt about that.