So I'm not sure if any of the fine "official" writers or editors here at BSD attended or planned to do write-up on Friday night's exhibition game from the men's side of the hoops spectrum, but I was there, and since I'm feeling a little...inspired, I figured I'd write up something so that people who weren't there can at least get some perspective from someone who was. The bad news is, it was an exhibition against a D-III team, and we beasted one of those last season too, and we saw how that turned out. But last year, I noticed some key differences, and while I don't want to count my chickens, I saw things that encouraged me, if nothing else. Read specifics after the jump...
DISCLAIMER: ANY AND ALL ANALYSIS IS SOLELY MY OPINION, AND FURTHERMORE, ANY COMMENTS SUCH AS "IT WAS A D-III TEAM" ARE PREEMPTIVELY ACKNOWLEDGED. TAKE ANY SIGNS FROM THIS GAME WITH SEVERAL BAGS OF SALT IF YOU WISH. IT'S PROBABLY SMART.
So first off, general thoughts:
-Our defense on Ferrum was pretty spectacular. They shot 11-29 for 37.9% in the first half, and then only a paltry 5-25 in the second for an even 20% there, for a game total of 29.6%. I'm not going to bother going into specifics breaking down 3 point percentage for them since it seems excessive, but I will say we held them to one 3 in the second...on 11 tries. Our D also forced a team total of 13 steals.
-Our offense was solid. 48.4% for the game, though that percentage is bogged down by a tough night behind the arc for the Deacs, 26.3% for the game (5-19). Before anyone cringes and has flashbacks to the days a few years ago where we had literally no outside threat, I can assure you guys that at least 3 or 4 of them were halfway down before coughing back up, and there wasn't really dumb shot selection, which is the far more important thing to consider really.
-The Deacs nearly doubled the rebound total of the Panthers (50 to 28), as it should be when we're playing a team with forwards approximately the size of LD Williams, but the thing that is important to note is that they WORKED to rip the ball from the glass (more detail on this later) as they should have.
-The Deacs committed 15 turnovers. Bad news considering who we were playing, BUT bear in mind two things: first, as established, our D was stout. Turnovers are bad, but if the other team can't convert, it doesn't matter much. Actually they had 16 points off the 15 TO's, so that analysis may be flawed, but I'm pretty sure most of the TO's came in the first half considering how atrocious Ferrum's shooting was in the second half, which feeds into my other point. Second, many of the turnovers came in situations where I honestly believe that a few games down the road, they'll be spectacular plays. As I recall, fairly few of the errors were flat out losing the ball, and it was more often things like guys making passes that the recipient wasn't ready for, etc. There's something to be said for team chemistry with regards to that, which will presumably build over the season.
Now for some individual notes:
-Travis McKie picked up where he left off. 23 points (including a couple pretty threes) on 10-14 shooting, 16 rebounds, and 5 assists. I'll be pretty surprised if Travis isn't an All-ACC caliber guy this year. I'd bet all the money in my bank account on Second Team at the VERY least.
-Carson Desrosiers also posted a nice double double, 10 and 10 (4-8 shooting, 2-2 from the line) with 2 assists including a GORGEOUS interior pass to Travis, a block, and a steal for good measure.
-C.J. Harris was 5-11 shooting and picked up where he left off on free throws, going 4-4 from the line, for 14 points.
-Nikita Mescheriakov also posted double digit scoring, including a couple of surprisingly pretty threes.
-Tony Chennault had an okay night, with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a team high 4 steals. He also cheapened that somewhat by committing 6 of the Deacs' 15 TO's, but I'm not gonna hate on that too much since Tony is, for most intents and purposes, also a freshman.
-Call this prediction premature, but Anthony Fields is the truth. You wouldn't know it by looking at his stat line, with a modest 2 points, 1 steal, and 3 assists (but no turnovers, nice) but I'm telling you guys, if tonight was any indication, this kid is the real deal. He played with far and away more visible energy than anybody else out there. When he was on D, he got so low and moved so quick and stuck to his man so tight, you'd think he was playing Duke or UNC, and that's the kind of attitude this team was sorely lacking from many of our guys at vital times last year. Also in terms of speed. Anthony (who needs a nickname if you ask me, any suggestions?) seemed like he was on fast forward compared to everyone else on the court tonight. In that sense, he reminded me of one of my favorite Deacs of all time, Ishmael Smith.
-Chase Fischer had a bit of a rough go of it, 7 points on 10 shots to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and two turnovers, but this was another guy who showed more in terms of energy than his statline may suggest, and the one 3 he did hit was a thing of beauty. I think Chase was just having an off night shooting the rock (nerves, maybe?)
-Daniel Green is a slightly tough nut to crack. On the one hand, you can just tell he needs to bulk up. On the other, he DID post 4 points, 8 rebounds, and a block in 18 minutes, and he was another guy who showed tons of effort, particularly going after loose balls.
But these stats, nice as they are in general, only tell part of the story. Far more encouraging to me was the fact that the energy on that floor tonight was a COMPLETELY different quality from I think anything I felt last year...for an exhibition game,
As per an article on wakeforestsports.com, Travis said the following after the game:
"We got a little complacent after playing Guilford last year," said McKie. "We thought it was going to be the same way the following week, and obviously it wasn't what we expected. C.J. and I will not let that happen again. We are going to take Loyola very seriously as well as any other game this season. Preseason is over and regular season is about to come so we have to get going."
After watching them play tonight, I believe every word of this. I said it to myself during the game: they never felt like they were coasting, even up double digits to a D-III squad in an exhibition. If nothing else, I can say I damn sure like the looks of that.
It's gonna be a long year. No doubts there, sadly. But if tonight was any indication, if nothing else, I'm not so sure I'll find myself questioning if the team even cares. And as long as they care, they can make strides towards redemption.