Well, it wasn't necessarily pretty, but when they were on, the Deacs gave the crowd plenty to cheer about in their 67-59 win over Gardner-Webb. The Deacs were down 3 at the break (largely thanks to disparities in both opportunities and effectiveness at the free throw line) but the Deacs exploded out of the break on a 12-2 run and never trailed (or were tied) again. It was dicey at times to be sure, but there were some clutch plays down the stretch by the Deacs to seal the victory. It was a balanced effort, for both better and worse, so there's plenty to discuss about this game.
Read more after the jump...-Offensively, the Deacs continued their solid performance. 26-53 shooting (49.1%), 5-12 from 3 (41.7%, and we were a cruel rim out away from 50%) and 10-15 from the line (66.7%). Many of the makes from the line came late in key situations, which is both good news and bad news. It's good news because C.J. Harris and Chase Fischer had ice in their veins late and were instrumental in putting the game away. It's bad news only because we didn't have many chances at all and we struggled early, even botching some 1 and 1's (nothing frustrates me more).
-Defensively, the Deacs were actually really really good this game. The Runnin' Bulldogs were 21-57 (36.8%), 6-23 from 3 (26.1%), and 11-17 from the line (64.7%). The Deacs also forced 14 turnovers, with 6 steals. We did give up 11 offensive rebounds, but got 9 of our own, and the rebounding was exactly even overall. Also worth noting, Gardner-Webb's Teshan Newsome was an offensive juggernaut, scoring 24 of their 59 points. No other G-W player scored more than 6. Newsome was 10-21, and 1-6 from three, so even though he dropped 24 points, much of that success was down to sheer volume (admittedly, 47.6% is a good shooting day, but the fact that we held their hot hand to 16.7% from three is a breath of fresh air.)
-Turnovers were a huge problem for the Deacs today. Travis McKie and Carson Desrosiers had 4, C.J. Harris had 5, and Anthony Fields had 2. Keep those numbers in mind when I run down individual performances. Speaking of:
-Ty Walker was such a flat out beast today, I feel compelled to list him first. 12 points (6-10 shooting), 9 rebounds (5 offensive) and a block in 23 minutes. Ty had probably 4 beautiful putbacks in this game, and likely altered more shots than just the 1 official block. He also should've had 2 more points; at one point he whiffed a dunk. Good news for Ty, however, he successfully executed a carbon copy dunk a couple minutes later. This Ty Walker was completely different than the one we're used to seeing in the best possible way. Absolute A+ for Ty Walker today.
-Travis McKie continued to put up great numbers (aside from the previously mentioned TO's.) 15 points (7-11, 1-3 from 3, a shocking 0-3 from the line), 7 rebounds (2 offensive) an assist and a steal in 34 minutes. Travis's woes from the line impacted some major momentum moments in the first half, including what would've been an absolutely emphatic and-1 slam when the Deacs were on a roll. Still, those numbers don't lie, and Travis continues to be an absolute beast.
-C.J. Harris had 18 points (6-11, 2-3, 4-4 from the line even in high pressure situations), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 37 minutes. If it weren't for those pesky TO's, C.J. would've had a truly incredible game. Still, I love the offensive efficiency, and the free throws were undeniably huge.
-Carson Desrosiers had a woeful day offensively, no points on 0-1 shooting and the 4 turnovers, but he had 5 rebounds, an assist, and a block in 16 minutes.
-Nikita Mescheriakov had a similarly difficult day, 0-2 shooting, a rebound, and 3 assists. He managed to get 4 fouls in 13 minutes. Nikita's assists were beautiful though, so there's that if nothing else.
-Tony Chennault had an okay day; 9 points (4-11 shooting, 1-1 from the line) 3 rebounds (1 very tenacious offensive), 3 assists and 2 steals in 36 minutes. Thankfully he didn't turn the ball over, and was very active, but it'd be nice to see Tony increase his offensive efficiency. A lot of those misses were on panicked shots late in the clock, something I'm gonna talk more about later.
-Chase Fischer had 11 points (2-5 shooting, 2-4 from 3, 5-7 from the line including key makes down the stretch), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals in 30 minutes. Chase continues to really impress me with his defensive energy and his rebounding as a guard. Man, when he hit back to back threes in the first half to put the Deacs up by 7, I thought Chase was about to go off and be raining threes all night, but that wasn't to be. Still, he managed to remain active and contribute to the game in other ways.
-Daniel Green had one successful basket on one attempt in 6 minutes.
-Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for Anthony Fields was put to the test in this game. In 5 minutes, Ant went 0-1 shooting, and had 2 assists. However, he had 2 TOs that led to 5 easy Gardner-Webb points. Not good, not good.
Now here comes the part of the write-up where I rant a little bit. For all the good in this game, and yes, there was plenty, there were pieces of it that were absolutely infuriating. At one point we were up 11 in the second half. Instead of slowly but methodically going for the throat, we committed turnovers and took terrible shots, letting Gardner-Webb go on an 8-0 run and get as close as they would for the rest of the game. A note to the Deacs and our coaches.
I love you guys, I really do. You're winning. That's great. The team is so much better than last year it can hardly be articulated. But I WANT TO BE ABLE TO RELAX SOMETIMES. When you're up 11 in the second half on your own floor, you don't need to panic or go hyper speed. Be methodical, but BE MERCILESS. GO FOR THE THROAT. Learn to do that, and you can maybe really upset some people this year. My heart can't take this guys. I love you but learn to go for the kill shot.
Furthermore, STOP RUNNING DOWN THE SHOT CLOCK AND TAKING STUPID SHOTS. Now when there's not much time left in the game and/or when you have a big lead, running down the clock can be a pretty good idea. Also, running down the shot clock in an effort to find an effective set play is also a valid tactic. What ISN'T a valid tactic is passing around the perimeter and/or not going hard to finish drives until the shot clock is at 8 and then jacking up a panicked shot. Are we clear on this, fellas? We cool? Alright. Good talk.
In all seriousness though, it was a good game. Overall, a strong effort on both sides of the ball, and awesome performances from some unexpected sources (Ty Walker WHAT). There's a reason we won this game, no matter how much it was touch and go. Keep this up boys. One more win and we match last season's total. I likey.
Rollin' Ronin out. Go Deacs.
P.S.- These refs were pretty horrendous at times. Can't let that go unmentioned.