The offense struggled, the defense was running on tired legs, Middle Tennessee didn’t make any mistakes. We got our asses handed to us. Does that about sum it up? If you were out and about last night, perhaps doing things you wouldn’t have during the rest of the year, let’s go into some more detail.
Against WKU a considerable amount of energy was spent making a comeback. Lots of full-court pressure, lots of scrambling, lots of adrenaline. It was damn-near successful. Tonight? UNT faced a similar hole and made a similar attempt at a revival this time led by Tony Mitchell being super aggressive. Middle isn’t WKU, though. They didn’t help our cause by getting trapped easily or making poor passes. They quickly ended our little run by playing good basketball — getting good shots and playing solid defense. The Mean Green looked tired. Chris Jones was out with a sprained foot that he hurt two nights ago. Brandon Walton is already out, and TJ Taylor isn’t playing this season.
As I said after the WKU game, going full-on pressure all night every night is risky. It also is looking like our only chance. We’ll need plenty more from everyone else if we want to be 1994 Arkansas though. Jordan Williams played all 40 minutes and had 15 points. Mark that down as two solid games from him in a row. Honestly, he’s a much better player out on the perimeter than Tony is. Athleticism aside, Jordan looks capable of creating his own shot and when he does shoot it looks much smoother. That hasn’t really translated into much on the court. Tony shoots a better percentage but has more air-balls.
I digress. The thing is that we cannot score as easily as other teams. The defense-to-offense method has shown itself to be the best method for increasing offensive efficiency. The magic will be in translating that frantic, turnover-inducing press into a similarly effective half-court defense. Right now, teams are working us. Our half-court defense sets aren’t awful but our offensive ones are. After about five minutes of gameplay we are down 7-10 points it seems. We have to make up for the terrible offense by being great on defense. If any team could reinvent itself into a monster defensive team it would be this one. There is plenty of athleticism and enough speed to counter and score on a break. This is, of course, nothing new. Benford came into the job preaching the values of being stout defensively. He hasn’t been so successful in making this happen. Last night we started in a 2-3 zone. that seemed to have some success. That is to say, they weren’t scoring on every possession. Defenses shouldn’t be judged by how many missed shots they other team has but how many contested shots and single-shot possessions they have. It is a subtle thing. Lots of basketball newbies don’t catch it. Because anyone can shoot from anywhere, and with some luck, make it from anywhere, you can’t control that. You can control good rhythm, high-percentage shots.
Early on, MTSU was getting lots of good shots, and rebounds on the ones they missed. That 2-3 wasn’t nearly aggressive enough. It reacted slowly and didn’t trap. Worst of all, it didn’t get the rebounds. Unsurprisingly, the comeback attempt gained steam with the straight man defense. We got the score to seven until our tired legs prevented anyone from hustling back in transition defense.
It is hard to be angry about this. We know what this team is already. The way to win this conference isn’t to somehow get our offensive execution down to Utah Jazz 1997 levels. No. It’s to go all-in with the athletes we have. It looks to be our only hope.
Interesting tidbit: the pregame B-roll showed Kermit Davis’ speech in front of their scouting report of our guys.
Things I could make out from the MTSU scout report on us:
- Jordan Williams – Great 3pt shooter! Good offensive rebounds, high hands! Will drive it
- Roger Franklin – Physical post! Guard left shoulder, good one-dribble rhythm 15 foot shooter.
- Tony Mitchell – Long athletic post. Skiled. Guard left shoulder. Will drive. Good spot up 3pt shooter. Pick and pop. High jumper
- Jacob Holmen – Good 15 fot shooter. Make him a driver. Will post up. Good offensive rebounds. Box out!
- PJ Hardwick – Driver first.
- Justin Patton – Driver first. Keep in front.
- Keith Colman – Physical post
- Niko (That’s all they put up there lol) – Skilled 4 man.
- Clarke Overlander – Spot up 3 pot shooter.