Harding and Delta State are fairly consistently the GSC West leaders in one category: pace. This one was a barn-burner, but even when you account for the fast pace, Delta State clearly wasn’t ready to play defense last night.
Prior to last night, Delta State was averaging a 104.0 defensive rating against Division II opponents, and they were 5-6 in those contests. That’s slightly below the 102 average for all GSC West teams (The Bisons had been the second-worst, at 107.4). The Bisons’ rating of 137.6 (meaning 137.6 points per 100 possessions) was the third-best performance by a GSC West team this year, behind Henderson State in a road loss to Incarnate Word and Christian Brothers in a home win over West Georgia.
I suppose that means it should go without saying that the Bisons shot lights-out from the field, making 31 of 52 shots and 33 of 40 (!!!) free-throw attempts for a true shooting percentage of 74.7. It’s worth mentioning, though, that they cut down their turnovers and rebounded well, helping to make the most of their shot opportunities.
Matt Hall had another outstanding performance from all over the floor, efficiently making 11 of his 16 total shots, 3-of-6 from long range, and 12-of-13 at the line, all while staying in place defensively in order to grab 9 rebounds.
Nearly half of Harding’s baskets were assisted (15), and Steven Barnett had four of those to lead the team, along with 15 points. Chris Dixon and Jesse Bynum also scored in double figures, with the big man nailing his only three-point attempt.
Kevin Brown had a fairly typical “talented freshman” line, scoring 9 points in 21 minutes (5 at the line) and blocking a shot, while committing four of the team’s 14 turnovers.
Six Statesmen scored at least ten, led by Johnny Hodge, but no one on their deep roster could play enough defense to stop the Bisons from doing them one better at the other end of the floor. They have some talented players, as always, but every once in a while you see why they’re playing in D-II.
This was a very uplifting win, even if Harding still didn’t play well defensively. Seeing the offense click was rewarding, and they’ll be tested against the league’s best defense tomorrow night, when the team hosts Ouachita Baptist.
Arkansas Tech is the only other 2-0 team in the division after their home win last night over Christian Brothers. They’ll visit SAU on Saturday, but the Bucs will probably be 2-1 after a home game against 2-12 Henderson State.
Right now, no GSC West team is an NCAA Tournament lock based on non-conference games. CBU is 6-4 against teams from the South Region, DSU is 5-4, and Arkansas Tech is 4-0, but hampered because they only played two regional games outside the division. Every team has to be looking to win the GSC Tournament, which is more of a possibility after Montevallo’s personnel losses than it has been in a while.
Updated stats will be on the site this evening, and my goal is to have all the stat pages up to date (with a day’s cushion) from here on out.