The Bisons had not played since a December 10 loss at D-I Northwestern State, but the rust didn’t show tonight in a 72-63 win at UMR. The Bisons (8-2) handed Missouri-Rolla (2-9) its sixth consecutive loss in a decidedly ugly fashion. The game was marred by 53 fouls, although they were spread fairly evenly between the two teams, which attempted a combined 69 free throws.
Harding’s free throw shooting decided the game, with the team making 28 of 36 attempts, while UMR made only 17 of its 33 tries at the line. Take a look at the key stats:
|18.9||Predicted net efficiency|
|18.7||Actual net efficiency|
The Bisons enjoyed a marginal edge in the turnover battle, while the Miners had an equally marginal edge on the boards, so shooting decided the game. A quick look at the box score shows that the teams fared about equally well shooting both inside and outside, so free throw shooting was actually the sole deciding factor for the game.
Here are some key player stats:
Reggie Bibb scored a career-high 16 points to lead the team, with 10 of those points coming at the free throw line. Ceso Sprewell had a solid season debut, scoring 13 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. The troubling part for me, since I didn’t hear or watch the game, is Alassane Savadogo’s poor performance over 9 minutes, while not fouling out. I’m guessing that he was hurt at some point, which might have been the factor that created some interesting substitution patterns for the rest of the game.
Brandon Sims, one of the team’s best players so far, played only 15 minutes, while Jesse Bynum and Jacob Thies played 25 and 17 minutes, respectively, and failed to match Sims’ game score of 3.9. This trend is troubling, because it’s clear that the Bisons are loaded with players at the 2-4 spots on the floor (Sims, Andrepont, Smith, Kee, Sprewell). Not including Kee (who has still been good), those are the best players on the team.
At the other positions, that leaves the rotation of Reggie Bibb and Steven Barnett at point guard, which has been adequate at times but often very poor. Then there is the center spot, which typically belongs to Savadogo, with Thies and Bynum filling in at times. Savadogo has been decent, but I think the PER formula overrates him because he often does little with his rebounds once he gets them. Thies and Bynum both have trouble putting up numbers, so if Savadogo is out with an injury, this could be another cause for trouble.
Right now, we don’t have the optimum team makeup, so we have to make do with the pieces we have and get the most out of them. It will be interesting to see how Coach Morgan handles this difficult situation. If it’s possible to get more minutes out of the more efficient 2-4 guys (for example, by going without a true center or point guard) without giving back too much on the defensive end, I would be all for a change. A little experimentation may be in order, or we’ll have to sit back and watch players like Sims continue to get just 15 minutes a game. I’m sure the coach has plenty of ideas for how to work this problem out, though.
Next up is a home game this Saturday (1/7) against Delta State, the preseason favorite (and my current pick) to win the GSC West. Hopefully all the Rhodes Rowdies out there are planning to head back to school a bit early in order to attend this crucial conference season opener.