My mind has mostly been elsewhere in the last day or so, but I was paying attention to the games last week, and hopefully I can throw out a few good thoughts.
Harding 69, Southern Arkansas 66
The Bisons mitigated the negative effects of Steven Barnett’s slippery handle (8 turnovers) with an impressive rebounding performance, almost a 2-to-1 advantage over the Muleriders. Showing some remarkable balance on an otherwise average offensive night, four players scored in double figures: Hall, Brown, Bynum, and Trent Morgan.
Jesse pulled into the team lead in both SUPER and Offensive Efficiency with his 11-and-5 game. Brown was the team leader in points and rebounds, but he only played 24 minutes. Frustratingly (and freshmen often are frustrating), he made just 5 of 10 free throws, while the rest of the team shot 15-for-17. You have to give the guy credit for getting to the line, though.
Barnett added 8 missed shots to his rough night handling the point, which really makes me wonder who was guarding him most of the night. Steven’s no offensive star, but he’s not that bad.
Calvin Rayford finally made a three, but his percentage is under 30% and his brick index is creeping to the top of the league leaderboard in that category. (Amazingly, the top three spots belong to one team, and it’s not Henderson State, but rather UAM.)
Both teams shot better from beyond the arc than they did otherwise, but SAU took more of their shots from out there, which certainly helped keep the game close. Cory Green scored 15 of his game-high 26 points on threes. The Bisons did make a fair percentage of the long jumpers they attempted, but they mostly relied on getting the ball inside for higher-percentage attempts. When you’re playing a weak defensive team like SAU (only HSU has been worse in 2pt FG% allowed), that’s not a bad strategy.
Harding 64, Christian Brothers 63
I actually listened to the whole game online, but I was treated to a frustratingly slow start with quite an exciting finish, much like the Super Bowl turned out on Sunday. Bynum’s tip-in as time expired had to be exciting in person, since I don’t recall a buzzer-beater like that in all the games I saw in Searcy.
This was a closely-called game in terms of fouls, unlike most GSC contests, and both teams had over 25 fouls. Christian Brothers’ lack of depth seemed to hurt them a little, and center Nick Kohs actually played all 45 minutes, including overtime. Pretty much everyone on the Bucs besides Kohs stayed in foul trouble, and both Colin Flynn and Reggie Peyton fouled out of the game.
Matt Hall played 43 minutes and struggled to get off shots all night. He still led the team with 14 points, but that’s not great for 12 FGAs and 9 FTAs. Kevin Brown had 13-and-7, adding in two assists with no turnovers in 29 minutes. That made him fifth on the team in minutes, and he may have had more if he had not fouled out.
Matt Garner played more than usual because of the Bison guards’ foul issues, but other than that, the distribution of minutes is getting closer to what I would like to see. Bynum has never been good defensively, but with good defense already on the perimeter, help from forwards Hall and Brown, and bench help from Jacob Thies and Brian Howard, I think he would be a viable starter.
It’s hard to make the call on whom to start elsewhere, since Chris Dixon is another decent slasher type who seems to play solid on-ball defense, but the guard slots are already solid with Barnett and Morgan. Barnett’s offensive limitations are sometimes frustrating, but he’s nice to have as a perimeter defender.
So, I guess the five I would have on the floor most would be: Bynum, Hall, Brown, Morgan, Barnett, with Dixon rotating in regularly at the two-guard and small forward and either Barnett or Morgan in the game at all times to run the offense. That’s not a stretch from the current setup…just a little more time for Bynum and Brown at the expense of Rayford and Garner. Overall, that’s a much bigger lineup, but I think it would be a solid one.
Around the GSC
Arkansas Tech has lost 3 straight since beating the Bisons in Searcy, leaving 5-2 OBU and Delta State a game behind 6-1 HU for the division lead. Honestly, there’s not much difference between #1 and #6 in the division this year in terms of talent, ranging from Delta State’s +8.3 Net Efficiency to UAM’s +1.9 (SAU is -14.0 and HSU is -18.7).
Realistically, the Bisons probably won’t go 6-1 from here on out, especially with four road games in the second half of the conference schedule. Now that HU is #10 in the region (and possibly higher when tomorrow’s new rankings are released), though, an at-large bid is becoming increasingly probable. I think a 4-3 finish probably isn’t good enough to hold a top-8 spot, but 5-2 with at least one win in the conference tournament might be enough in this down year for the conference. Keep an eye out from this point forward.