Not sure if this is a concern yet, but let’s kick it around anyway. USI’s men’s basketball team is losing the battle of the bench. That is, opponents are consistently outscoring the Eagles with their substitutes. USI may be 4-0. But it is 1-3 in the bench points game.
Kentucky Wesleyan outscored USI 24-15 in that category. Then Lake Erie did it 31-10. Next, King University outscored the Eagles 35-24. Only in its most recent game, against IU Southeast, did USI outscore its opponent, 14-7.
Most interesting is the breakdown of USI’s points from its subs. Against KWC, six players came off the bench, but nine of the 15 points scored came from Gavin Schumann. Against Lake Erie, four players came off the bench, but only Schumann scored, tallying all 10 points. Against King, USI employed seven subs (a couple were essentially mop-up players at the end of the game), with Manny Ogunfolu contributing 14 of the 24 points. Against IU Southeast, Ogunfolu totaled 10 of the 14 points when five players subbed into the game.
Again, I’m not sure if this really is a concern. In the way coach Rodney Watson plays the game, five to six players usually play the overwhelming majority of the minutes. That would explain why they get most of the points. That’s why getting beat on the bench points could be really deceptive. But down the road, I think, this could become a problem if any of the regulars start having trouble scoring and nobody on the bench, save a single player, can make up for those lost points. It’s just a thought. I’ll try to revisit this later and come to more of a conclusion.
The best defender on USI’s men’s basketball team this year is senior Ben Jones, hands down. And he has no choice but to keep his hands down. With the new foul rule that punishes hand checks (or even brushing a finger nail over an opponent’s butt), Jones has had to adjust his guarding technique. The hand check was a major part of his arsenal, as it was a big part of USI’s previous lockdown defender, Kenyon Smith.
“The biggest adjustment is just keeping your hands off,” said Jones. “Defensively my whole life I’ve put a little hip check on them. It really got to me in the Kentucky Wesleyan game.”
Covering KWC’s leading scorer, super quick guard Lonnie Hayes, Jones often got burned — not by Hayes, but by an official’s whistle.
“Hayes would drive into me and I didn’t get my hands up fast enough,” said Jones. “You have to learn to keep your hands off whoever you’re guarding. You really have to beat your man to the spot and be quick on your feet. They (the officials) are going to call those tick-tack fouls.”
Aaron Nelson on his 31-point, 11-rebound performance (breaking his previous career-high of 23 points set Nov. 24, 2012, against Philander Smith): “They played man-to-man on me, so I had to be aggressive.”
Lawrence Thomas, who hit the game-winning shot, about his still wearing a bandage over the cut above his right eye: “I had to have four stitches. And, boy, it’s going to hurt to take off that bandage.
Taylor Wischmeier, on USI building a 14-point lead that almost ballooned to 17 points with 14 1/2 minutes left in the game: “Ben (Jones) just missed a 3 in the corner. I thought if he’d hit that one, it would have been over.” On Lake Erie sinking 13 3-pointers: “They ran some really good stuff. They set a lot of good screens away from the ball.”
USI coach Rodney Watson, on winning on a last-second shot: “It’s all 50-50. Next time it’ll be totally different.” On why USI fell behind after leading by 14 points: “We got tired. They (Lake Erie) are a grind team. That means they make people play defense and wear you down.” On Lake Erie’s future: “I’ve got to believe they will win a bunch of games in the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).”
The statistics tell a lot about the Eagles’ 90-89, last-second win over Lake Erie on Saturday at the PAC. USI outscored the Storm 20-2 on second-chance points and 36-28 on points in the paint. The Eagles also had three players finish with double-doubles in points and rebounds: Aaron Nelson (31 points, 11 rebounds), Taylor Wischmeier (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Manny Ogunfolu (13 points, 12 rebounds). USI also had a tremendous edge at the foul line, going 21-for-32 while Lake Erie went just 2-for-6 (something USI would have howled about if that had happened to them against Kentucky Wesleyan in the Owensboro Sportscenter). But USI also didn’t shoot well in the second half (46.9 percent on 15-for-32 from the field) compared to the first half (58.1 percent on 18-for-31 from the field). Lake Erie also hit 13 3-point baskets out of 25 attempts, many of those shots with wide-open looks. But it looked like the final score proved what USI coach Rodney Watson keeps saying (but just barely) — that layups and free throws win most of your games, not 3-pointers.
USI senior point guard Lawrence Thomas, on what happened when he and KWC’s Lucas Barker collided on the sideline: “We were both running to the ball at full speed and I guess he mistook the ball for me. It (the collision) was like a Mack truck running into me. I caught all of it.”
Kentucky Wesleyan head coach Happy Osborne: “We’ve got to learn to play to win. We had it down to three points and we turned it over twice.
Osborne on USI senior forward Taylor Wischmeier: “I like Wischmeier. He has tremendous basketball savvy. I really like how he plays.”
USI coach Rodney Watson on his team’s defense on KWC guard Lonnie Hayes, who came into the game averaging 37.5 points but was held to 16 points on 5-18 shooting, including 2-for-6 from 3-point range, and only 4-for-4 at the foul line: “Manny (Ogunfolu, 6-7 USI forward) really did a nice job on him because of his length.”
Taylor Wischmeier on USI’s defense on Hayes: “We keyed on him. We put length on him and that allowed us to control his penetration. Anytime you can hold a 30-plus-point scorer to 16, you’re doing a pretty good job.”
Lawrence Thomas on opening the season with a win at KWC: “We were thrown into the fire quick. To come in here in a hostile environment, we knew it would be a dog fight no matter what. We handled their runs and tha’s why we came away with a win.”
Odds and ends:
Points in the paint — USI 30, KWC 28. Points off turnovers — KWC 24, USI 5. Second-chance points — KWC 12, USI 10. Fast-break points — KWC 12, USI 4. Bench points — KWC 24, USI 15. Attendance — 2,800 (which would have been close to a full house at USI but looked like a small crowd at the Sportscenter).
I didn’t get a chance to add any comments from Conner Chalfant to my USI signing story in print and online on Monday night. Chalfant is the 6-9 senior from Christian Academy of Indiana, a school in New Albany, who has only recently been playing varsity ball. “I played in leagues all through elementary and middle school, but I didn’t seriously pick up a basketball until we got a new coaching staff two years ago at my high school,” he said. “They really did a great job of drawing the best out of me.”
He said this year is officially his third playing on the varsity, but he’s really only in his second year on the team. “My junior year I started out playing on the JV and sitting on the bench with the varsity,” he said. “Last year coach did a good job of getting me some playing time.”
He said he needs to work on his post game for college. “At the high school level I’m pretty good at posting up. But at the college level I know that post-ups I make in a high school game will not work. I would also like to work on my long-range (shooting) game. That won’t be a (main) focus for me, but that will definitely be an added bonus if I do it. I’m a decent shooter from 15 foot, but nothing spectacular.”
The season hasn’t officially started yet and USI men’s basketball is already looking at two regulars being unable to play. Austin Davis, a 6-8 junior forward and outside shooting threat, suffered a high ankle sprain to his left ankle at the very end of Wednesday’s practice (“the very last play,” said coach Rodney Watson). Evan Brinkmeyer, a sophomore shooting/point guard, is suffering from a sports hernia. Both were listed as day-to-day, according to Watson. But I heard that Brinkmeyer may be out for at least a couple of weeks. It’s a good bet neither will be able to play in USI’s opener at archrival Kentucky Wesleyan on Tuesday night.
Apparently, USI’s men’s basketball team will sign a player on Monday — Brett Benning of Dakota High School near Rockford, Ill. (The town, pop. 496, is roughly northwest of Rockford not far from Freeport, which is USI junior Austin Davis’ hometown). Benning is a 6-5 guard, reports the Rockford Register Star, and he averaged 22 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as a junior. But Benning is mostly known “for his shooting touch,” especially from the outside, according to the paper. He was named second team all-state in Class 1A by the Associated Press last season.
Rockford Register Star quotes Benning: “It’s definitely an honor. It’s nice because not many people have gotten scholarships out of a small school like this. I am thankful to everybody who has supported me through everything.”
Register Star quotes from Brian Benning, presumably Brett’s father: “One of the things that really helped Brett was his performance on the AAU circuit this summer. We played one game in Milwaukee where there were 100 to 150 college coaches in attendance.”
Rick Stein believes that his USI women’s basketball team will have its hands full Saturday night against a team that presses the entire game and, when it’s not pressing, is creating half-court traps. Davis & Elkins, a Division II school from West Virginia, comes to the PAC for a 7:30 tipoff, but only has a 1-2 record despite averaging 84 points per game. It’s losses were 81-77 to Walsh and 98-85 to Lake Erie before a 91-80 win over Pitt.-Johnstown on Nov. 5. So the Senators will have been off for two weeks when they meet the Eagles.
Stein noted that D&E forces an average of 26 turnovers per game. But the Senators are averaging 22 themselves. They’re also shooting just 36.7 percent from the field, while the opposition is shooting 39.4 percent. Furthermore, opponents have sunk nine more 3-point baskets than D&E, 29-20, while the Nats are just 20-for-84 — that’s a microscopic 23.8 percent — from 3-point land.
The individual numbers are highlighted by Stephanie Wooten, a 5-7 freshman averaging 17.7 points per game, and Alicia Lentz, a 6-3 senior averaging 10.0 points. But this is shaping up as a high-scoring contest, although I think USI will have the high score by a significant margin. The Eagles’ defense should make it most difficult for D&E to get settled and set up, and USI’s offense should be quick enough to beat the press and get numerous easy layups. That said, the Eagles can’t get sloppy on offense and lazy on defense, and that goes for any opponent.
Pertinent quotes from USI coach Rodney Watson from Tennessee’s SID, on his team’s play against Tennessee: “This is not how we wanted this game to go. This really helps us get a concept of how hard we have to rebound, how hard we have to block out. The game is in the free-throw lane; the way the game is being designed you have to stop those drives down the lane. You have to hold your ground and you have to go up with two hands to get the rebounds. We talked in the locker room after the game, if anybody remotely doubts the importance of the weight room, this game shows you how critical it is. College basketball is such a multidimensional game that you have to play strong and you have to use your whole body. This was a good test.”
A few of my quotes from Watson after the game: “The best thing about this game is it forces you to play at a level you can’t simulate in practice. You think you’re blocking out and a 6-10 guy comes up from behind. It makes you do something extra all the time.”