Harding drops to 0-10 all-time against Divsion-I opponents by starting the season with two losses at the Price Cutter Classic in Springfield, Missouri. I thought they might have a chance against UT-Pan Am, but that level of opposition is still too much for a Bisons squad that clearly has a lot of things left to figure out over the next few months.
Missouri State 86, Harding 67
You’ll notice that I’ve added a few rows of shot selection info to the old presentation. Below the offensive efficiency rating, I’ve listed the two less-important keys (Offensive Rebound % and Turnover Ratio, and if that’s not an oxymoronic way of describing it, I don’t know what is). Then you have each team’s true shooting percentage (which is an overall rating comprised of two-point shooting, three-point shooting, and free throw shooting). Below that are each team’s 2-point and 3-point percentages made, and then the percentage of two-point and three-point shots attempted (relative to one another, so they total 100%).
On to the game…
This wasn’t an easy game for anyone who held the ball for more than a second or two at a time. The two teams combined for 52 total turnovers, with 32 of them belonging to Harding. I guess Trent Morgan and [new senior guard] Chris Dixon had the best results handling the ball, since Morgan was credited with five assists to go with his six turnovers, while Dixon had three of each. Matt Hall, Jacob Thies and Steven Barnett combined for 16 turnovers and just three assists.
Hall led the Bisons with 24 points, with Chris Dixon scoring 14 and Steven Barnett 10. Dixon and Thies had five rebounds each to lead in that category, which turned out to be a large advantage for Harding, despite the mostly small lineup.
The Bisons gave seven players the majority of the playing time: Barnett (31), Hall (28), Dixon (27), Morgan (27), new junior guard Calvin Rayford (26), Jesse Bynum (24), and Jacob Thies (21). Thies fouled out of the came, which probably explains Bynum’s significant minutes. Freshmen Kevin Brown and Matt Garner played a total of 13 minutes, while Brian Howard and Kellen Morgan were in for a total of three.
Guards Dixon and Barnett were the most efficient scorers, totaling 24 points on just 11 total field goal attempts, while Hall was still resasonably good, getting his 24 on 18 shots. Dixon ended up leading the team in game score at 16.8.
Inside shooting was the biggest problem for Harding, which I guess was to be expected. The Bisons made just 34.5% of their attempted twos, although they made up some of that ground by shooting 11-of-20 from outside. Hall and Dixon each made 3 threes, combining to go 6-of-9.
For Missouri State, Dale Lamberth and Deven Mitchell both reached 20+ points, with half of Mitchell’s 24 coming at the free throw line. MSU made 29 of 41 free throws, while the Bisons only managed 18 attempts (making 14). That was possibly the key to the game, as State finished with an impressive 66.1 true shooting percentage.
Texas-Pan American 83, Harding 64
The Bisons dominated the boards for the second game in a row, but they still couldn’t keep their opponent from making a very high percentage of their shots. UTPA made 69% of their shots from inside three-point range and 47% beyond the arc, all while shooting more free throws than Harding attempted.
Harding couldn’t keep up the hot shooting from Friday night, but they did out-rebound a D-I team for the second straight game, pulling down a remarkable 45% of available offensive boards. That’s just the type of thing you don’t pick up from a box score by just glancing at it, since Pan Am actually had ten more rebounds (but in a lot more chances).
Matt Hall, unsurprisingly, was the leading scorer once again, this time shooting 6-of-14 from the field while dishing out five assists (with five turnovers). Trent Morgan provided some scoring assistance with 13 efficient points. Morgan had the team’s highest game score, even though it was just 9.5, and he and Chris Dixon tied for the team lead with four rebounds. Dixon had a rough game other than that – he fouled out scoreless in just 16 minutes on the floor.
HU took 26 threes in the game and made just 7, showing a huge difference between the two teams’ shooting performances. Hall, Calvin Rayford, and Matt Garner each made two threes, but they had 17 total attempts.
Four Pan Am players scored in double figures, with Brian Burrell leading the way at 20. Guard Paul Stoll made 11 of 12 free throws and scored 19.
Even though neither game was particularly close, I’m satisfied overall with the performance in the first two games of the year. It’s basically all downhill from here, so Harding should be prepared for Division-II and lower opposition from this point forward.
Next weekend, HU will be in Canyon, Texas for West Texas A&M’s tournament, the Buffalo Thanksgiving Classic. They’ll face Northeastern State in the first round on Friday. HU coach Jeff Morgan was the head coach at West Texas before taking the job at Harding.