Sometimes I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to refer to a team’s overall record at this point in the season. The Bisons are now 3-4, but there’s more to say about that record than the simple fact that HU is under .500. Harding has played two D-I schools and lost both games, while they’ve played two games against schools from lower divisions and won both. That leaves one win and two losses against same-level opposition.
This weekend started with a sloppy win over NAIA Jarvis Christian and finished with a loss to Alabama-Huntsville of the GSC East. Here’s a quick recap of both games.
Harding 96, Jarvis Christian 72
Matt Hall and Trent Morgan led the Bisons with 17 points each on Friday night against Jarvis Christian, an NAIA Division-I school. Morgan’s scoring output was a career high on 6-of-10 shooting, including four free throws and a three. Trent also fouled out of the game, committed five turnovers, pulled down five rebounds, had five assists, blocked a shot, and had four steals. Talk about filling up a box score. Hall made five twos and seven free throws while grabbing seven rebounds, but seemingly less active than usual based on those numbers. Perhaps the Bisons’ 27 turnovers kept them from getting him the ball as much as usual.
Looking at other notable individual performances, Kevin Brown’s strong game stands out to me. The freshman forward had 12 points and 8 rebounds in 17 minutes of play, which is impressive regardless of the opposition talent level, even though he did manage to foul out of the game. Calvin Rayford also turned in an uncharacteristic performance, playing 28 minutes while only taking 5 shots. Steven Barnett only played 22 minutes, attempting and making his only field goal while contributing six points and eight assists.
Jarvis controlled the rebounds, holding Harding to just 20% on the offensive glass, but the Bisons’ strong 68.7 true shooting percentage made up for all the lost ground on the glass and in the turnover battle. To be fair, JCC committed turnovers at roughly the same rate, but that doesn’t excuse the sloppy offensive play. The Bisons won’t always have such good shooting fortune, so it’s important to keep up the intensity in other areas of the game. They know this, I’m sure…I’m just pointing it all out.
Alabama-Huntsville 74, Harding 66
The real test for the Bisons came in the second half of the home tournament against intra-conference foe Alabama-Huntsville. The Bisons have been playing a home-and-home against the Chargers for several years, and it’s always a great test to see how well they’ll stack up against an evenly-matched opponent. The end result this time, though, was a lesson that the Bisons have a lot of learning left to do before the conference schedule starts next month.
The Chargers used a balanced offensive attack in terms of scoring, as four players finished in double figures, but they played the way I always remember UAH playing. They don’t wow you or run it up and down the floor because they usually aren’t equipped to do that. They do, however, play with discipline and make open shots. UAH turned it over just 11 times and made 10 of their 22 attempted threes in this one, which is about as well as anyone can expect to shoot on the team level. Srdan Boskovic made four of the ten threes and was the Chargers’ leading scorer at 16.
The Bisons led at halftime but couldn’t keep it up. Matt Hall’s 24 led the team, and Jacob Thies was far more active than usual on the offensive end, making all four of his shot attempts from the field (but just 3 of 8 free throws). No other Bison scored in double figures, but no Bison other than Hall took more than 7 shots. Steven Barnett dished out 7 more assists, so it will be interesting to see where he ranks when I finally compile all of the season stats.
Harding made just 5 of 24 free throws, which might be the main factor in their incredible offensive rebounding numbers (over 50% of missed shots were pulled back by another Bison).
It’s hard to be encouraged by a home D-II loss, but you’d like to think the shooting won’t be so bad on a regular basis. If you even out the shooting performances in the two weekend games, the Bisons win both games. But, I suppose, that’s how it works when you rely heavily on the three-point shot. I’m not sure how you fix that without changing the offensive style. Normally I’m all in favor of taking plenty of threes (especially when you have guys who can actually shoot), but at this point it doesn’t look like the Bisons will be consistently good in that respect.
It would be nice to see what Kevin Brown can do in extended minutes against D-II opponents, since he performed so well against JCC. A post presence would be a nice complement to Hall’s game, if that’s something Brown can provide.
North Alabama’s up next during this homestand, and it will be another chance for Harding to get a test from a D-II opponent. Hopefully they’ll take these flashes of categorical brilliance (rebounding one night, shooting the next) and transform it into a big win.