Harding shot and rebounded well enough to pick up a huge road victory over Drury this afternoon in Springfield, Missouri, but the Bisons must have been feeling charitable. After all, Christmas is just around the corner. They turned the ball over 33 times en route to a frustrating close defeat against a good Division-II team.
Any time you hand over the ball on a third of your possessions, you’re going to have to shoot and rebound exceptionally well to make up for it. The Bisons were merely good, and they fell 7 points short against one of the top teams in Division-II basketball. The result was a very poor 83.2 offensive rating, which won’t get it done against much of anyone, although the Bison defensive effort was solid enough to keep the team in the game.
The chief culprit on the offensive end was Steven Barnett, who despite a solid 14-point scoring effort, gave up an astounding 11 turnovers. Those numbers are simply unacceptable for a point guard, especially one for whom turnovers have been a persistent problem in his career. I don’t know that the Bisons have other options, and it’s entirely possible that this was a one-time heroic effort by the Drury defense, but Barnett is going to have to do something to keep his team strong offensively. Games like this just won’t cut it.
To be totally forthcoming, every Bison who played at least 10 minutes turned the ball over at least twice, except for Jacob Thies. The problem with turning the ball over so much, aside from simply killing offensive possessions, was that Matt Hall couldn’t get his game going all the way. Hall had just 15 points on 10 shots.
The other problem for the Bisons on the other end of the floor was staying out of foul trouble. Hall, Chris Dixon, and Kevin Brown all fouled out of the game, while Barnett and Trent Morgan finished with four fouls each. The result was a 25-for-35 free throw shooting performance for Drury. Harding actually kept Drury from shooting that well and held star Collins Harris to 8-of-20 shooting (even though he did score 21 points).
Strangely, Jesse Bynum did not play in this one. I’m kind of hoping that’s because of an injury, since he’s been playing well of late. Jacob Thies still only played 12 minutes, so most of the leftover playing time went to Kevin Brown (19 minutes) and Brian Howard (13 minutes). Matt Ragsdale also played 11 minutes, and Calvin Rayford was on the floor most of the game. Rayford again proved to be a solid outside scoring threat, knocking down 3 of 4 treys (half of the Bisons team total).
Harding nearly mounted a comeback on several occasions, even though they trailed for most of the game. They led by 2 late in the first half before a Drury run made it a six-point game at the half, and Drury held the Bisons (closely) behind them in the second half. It’s frustrating to lose a big game in such a sloppy way, but it gives the Bisons one more thing to work on before the conference season. They’ll face Ecclesia a week from tonight at home before taking a break for the holidays.
[UPDATE: For some reason, Drury’s box score gave HU 33 turnovers, while HU’s only gave them 32. I’m leaving everything the way I had it.]