We made a ton of mistakes, played piss-poor defense, and couldn’t hit our free-throws, but it really was one of those games where the opposing team couldn’t even miss a circus lay-up and seemed to get every bounce, while SC couldn’t get a tip-in for the life of the team. Anyways, here’s the positives/negatives from the game:
- Hard to take a positive from this one, but I thought the freshmen (Mayo, Simmons, Cunningham) played pretty well. Mayo put up 30+ as I predicted (I’ll get to the negatives later), Angelo scored 17 pts and showed nice confidence penetrating to the basket, and Kasey was active and made a few big rebounds in his limited play.
- The team showed glimpses of how explosive they can be when they cut a 17 point lead down to 3 in a span of roughly 4 minutes.
- For one we were absolutely careless with the ball; we ended up with 19 turnovers and many of them came at pivotal points in the game extinguishing any momentum. I thought Mercer did an excellent job swarming Taj and OJ the moment they received a pass; they harassed Taj and stripped him of the ball at least 3 or 4 times as he tried to back down a defender and trapped OJ forcing him to make 2 or 3 boneheaded passes across court. The two combined for 13 of the 19 turnovers.
- We shot a miserable 56% from the free-throw line. It came to a point where you could hear the fans groaning after each miss.
- Our defense was almost non-existent. The concept of defensive rotation was completely lost and Mercer did a great job exploiting it by finding the open man on the perimeter. It really felt like they were getting open jumpers the entire game. The Bears finished the game shooting 59.4%!
- The first half, I felt we were trying too hard to get the ball down low to Taj. It really broke the flow of the offense and often left us with 10 seconds on the play-clock and a player jacking up a shot off a one-on-one play.
I understand that we were trying to establish Taj down in the post, but it was almost like pulling teeth trying to get the ball in his hands. Last year, we saw Taj getting the ball at the top of the key, which allowed him to pivot and face up the defender; it almost looked awkward watching Taj trying to battle for low post position. IMO, it was no coincidence that the offense finally got it going to start the 2nd half when they ran two successive plays through OJ off simple screens (he converted both).
- We saw shades of OJ imitating Kobe in the 2nd half after the offense failed to capitalize on a run that brought a 17 pt deficit down to 3 pts, as he tried to do too much on his own and forced a few shots with multiple defenders in his face. This will be the personal growing pain of OJ in learning to trust his teammates.
Deep down inside I had a bad feeling about this game, but in the end I felt that SC would be able to get over a rough start and bring it together for a victory – little did I know that Mercer would be on fire for almost the entire game! Am I now bearish on the team’s chances? Not a single bit. Let’s remember that we didn’t have Daniel Hackett (would have been HUGE to have him), Davon Jefferson, and Marcus Simmons the entire game and that our star "veteran" is a true sophomore. There will be growing pains, but I still believe, in terms of potential, the sky is the limit for this team…