The Bisons were one of four GSC West teams whose season came to a close on Saturday. Harding dropped the game 77-68 to a Henderson State team that finished its season winning 5 out of the last 6 games. The loss gave the Bisons their first sub-.500 season in conference play since I started following the program, but it wasn’t a lost season. Matt Hall’s injury in the first game made the Bisons play shorthanded and off-balance all year, with no real inside game until the late-season emergence of Alassane Savadogo. For the season as a whole, the 3-point shooting and inside contributions were erratic, and the defense wasn’t good enough to consistently make up for it. The effort, however, was good most of the time, and the team made the most of its difficult circumstances.
Here are the keys for the final game:
|Eff||95.0||110.4||-15.4||Actual net efficiency|
|-15.6||Predicted net efficiency|
1. Shooting: Henderson State’s “pressure” (read: “full of illegal contact”) defense kept Harding’s shots from falling, especially from outside, where the team made just 6 of 20 shots. Free throw shooting was also a problem at 66%, and half of the team’s eight misses from the line came from Cole Kee, whose 3-of-7 performance dropped him under 50% at the line for the season. The Bisons held the Reddies to a reasonable shooting performance on the other end with a 55.2 TS% allowed.
2. Rebounding: This was another edge for the Reddies, who grabbed 42.9% of the available offensive rebounds to get some key second-chance buckets. The Bisons held their own at their end of the floor, but they couldn’t do enough defensively to stop the Reddies often enough.
3. Turnovers: This was a strength for the Bisons for most of the season, but the last few games didn’t really show an edge for Harding. This game was no exception. There really weren’t any main turnover culprits for the Bisons, but the Reddies’ Antoine Vinson struggled, giving the ball up five times.
4. Overall efficiency: Solid shooting and excellent rebounding paved the way for an efficient performance by Henderson State on the offensive end, and their pressure held the Bisons below their season average (now 99.7) with a 95.0 rating. The 15.4 net efficiency made it a fairly comfortable win for the Reddies.
Individual performances to remember:
1. The Reddies had an incredibly balanced team effort, with no one player over 15 points scored or a 10.0 game score. Kelvin Brown, Dee Dee Drake, Randy George, and Dedric Spooner were the closest to the latter, but 7 Reddies had at least a 5.5 in that department.
2. Lonnie Smith’s struggles from outside never really ended, as he finished his 2005-06 season shooting under 35% from long range. He was 2-for-10 in this game, but true to his usual form, he made some layups and a handful of free throws and still managed to score 25 points. He finishes the season as the conference’s fourth most efficient player, up a point in PER from 2004-05.
3. Ceso Sprewell played just seven minutes, essentially amounting to an off night for him. His 16.5% rebound rate for the season fell short of last year’s mark, and even though he shot slightly better this year, his efficiency was slightly down.
4. Steggie Barnibb was 1-for-6 with 6 points, 5 assists, and 5 turnovers. That line was a microcosm of the season for those two. Needless to say, the point guard position will have to improve next year if the Bisons plan on contending again.
Final GSC West standings:
Christian Brothers closed out their season on a high note, clobbering SAU 84-49. As it turns out, they would still have made the tournament even if they lost the UAM game, since we lost our final game. Delta State cruised to a 78-61 win over Arkansas Tech, finishing the conference season undefeated at 16-0. They are 26-1 overall and poised to make a run at the Elite Eight and perhaps even a national title. UAM beat OBU to secure second place for themselves, and UCA drubbed Rhema in a non-conference game to end their regular season.
The GSC Tournament shapes up like this: the #4 and #5 teams from each division will face one another on Wednesday, which means Christian Brothers (#5W) will face Valdosta State (#4E), while #5E West Georgia will take on #4W Henderson State. The CBU/VSU winner will face #1W Delta State, while the UWG/HSU winner will take on #1E Montevallo. I expect both top seeds to survive those games.
The #2 and #3 teams from each division will also face off, which means that #3W UCA will face #2E Alabama-Huntsville and #3E North Alabama will play #2W UAM. The championship game will be played on Sunday (3/5) at 2:30 CST, and it will be televised live on CSS/Cox Sports, which I have no idea if we get here in Searcy. I know my mom gets CSS in Chattanooga, which is at least 2 hours away from the closest GSC school.
Here’s what you can expect around here from now on: I plan to give frequent updates through the end of the conference tournament and somewhat less frequent updates during the NCAA tournament. I also have a few ideas for off-season posts, starting with some individual awards for the season. From there, I may try to do some detailed player profiles and take a deeper look at anything else that I found interesting during the season. Hopefully I can keep up and have a new post at least once per week after the NCAAs are over. Keep checking back and I’ll try to keep things going until next season.