Saturday night’s game has me conflicted. This is my third attempt to write a review for it, simply because I really can’t describe what a frustrating game it was. Normally I like to at least get my review done on the day following a game, but this game left me with too much to say.
Let me make this clear before I start: the Bisons played incredibly hard, even though they were clearly fatigued. They didn’t shoot well, and I’m sure they know that. They picked up a couple of lazy fouls, and they picked up a lot of fouls that shouldn’t have been called at all. They should be proud that they didn’t quit against a very good, disciplined team.
It must be very hard to play on the road when you’re almost certain the deck is stacked against you. The Bisons were called for 28 fouls, more than twice the number of their opponents (13), and this is the second game in a row for such a foul disparity. Having watched them for years, and now having finally seen this year’s team in action, I know they’re not playing rougher than the other teams. I just have no idea what’s going on, and it has really flustered me. I’ve called out the GSC refs here before, so this is nothing new. Officiating at the Division-II level, at least in our conference, is far below the level it needs to be. The players and coaches invest so much of their lives into this game that to say this is not fair would be a dramatic understatement. I don’t know what to do about it personally. It’s just unfathomably frustrating.
I was fortunate before the game to get the chance to talk to Coach Morgan for a few minutes about the team. I expressed my regret for not being in Searcy to follow the team this year, and we discussed the rigors of this year’s non-conference schedule, which is one of the Bisons’ toughest in years, especially considering the number of games played and their positioning against the academic calendar.
It was a different experience, being among only a handful of Harding fans in attendance and getting the chance to really look at the team from more of an inside perspective. The crowd in Huntsville was tame, as usual, not really comparing at all to the experience at the Rhodes Field house, so I was able to really pick up on the players’ and coaches’ enthusiasm for one another. Coach Morgan didn’t have to raise his voice, since you could probably have heard a pin drop at times during the game. As an aside, the fans at UAH don’t really have any idea what they’re missing by not getting into their team, which is sad for them. They have a very good program, even if some of the players could use a swift kick in the rear for their on-court displays of poor sportsmanship (coughcough::Micah de la Rosa::coughcough).
This game was one of those times when simply looking at the stats doesn’t much of the story at all. The stats never tell the whole story, which is why I would love to see all of the games in person. There are a lot of things to learn from looking at the box score, but it doesn’t tell you everything.
The people who watched this game know that the story here was more than the Bisons’ poor shooting performance. It was about fouls and frustration. A Bisons team that began the game playing energized basketball with tremendous fluidity in the offense was beaten into submission by the folks wearing whistles around their necks. The game was not called fair, and the Bisons were too weary and the Chargers too good to let them overcome it. With their performance placed in proper context, I was incredibly impressed by the team’s poise and Coach Morgan’s ability to keep his cool when the game was falling apart. This group does a fantastic job keeping things in perspective.
Here are the keys and the individual stats:
|Eff||74.8||94.6||-19.7||Actual net efficiency|
|-18.0||Predicted net efficiency|
True to the scouting report, Trent Morgan played excellent defense, especially on Jason Smith, who is remarkably difficult to contain. Morgan appears to handle the ball quite well, and he even made a couple of threes in limited playing time. Brian Howard was a little less inspiring than I expected, but I think it was because he didn’t really see the ball much. The Bisons don’t have a habit of getting the ball inside this year, and he probably just didn’t get the chance to show what he can do. Rick Hamilton showed some good-looking range on his shot, despite missing all of his three-point attempts in this game. The easy comparison for him is to Lonnie Smith, but I think Hamilton is probably a better defender and more athletic, while Smith was slightly more dangerous as a shooter. All-around, I think Hamilton has the chance to be consistently good.
I was also impressed by some things I saw out of returning players. Jacob Thies is still a good decision maker and makes the most of his offensive chances. Patrick Andrepont looks like a player more in control of his game on the court, and Steven Barnett looks like he’s running the point with more confidence, taking advantage of his athleticism. Jesse Bynum looked pretty good spelling Thies, Howard and Hall.
Inevitably, there were some things that went wrong. Cole Kee was…well…he was Cole Kee. To his credit, he only took four shots, two of them threes. He could still use some improvement in developing his inside game. Matt Hall had another off night, and I’m guessing he could probably use a break already. His explosiveness was not evident at all, and virtually all of his shots were fadeaway jumpers out of the post. He fouled out of the game and was struggling to get anything going with the taller de la Rosa guarding him in the paint. I was still impressed with the effort that these guys showed. They just didn’t have good games.
The Bisons have a home game on Friday against Drury, another tough D-II program. Then, they’re off to Hawaii for more D-II games.