Rodney Watson made a pretty big change to his USI men’s basketball team when he brought in Orlando Rutledge, Keith DeWitt and Aaron Nelson this season. “A year ago we couldn’t get power baskets,” he said.
That’s no longer a problem.
This should make a big difference on Saturday against Maryville when the teams play at the Physical Activities Center at 3:15. The Saints don’t have an outstanding big man, if their stats are any indication. You have to go all the way down to seventh place on their stat sheet to find a proper big: 6-8, 210-pound junior Melvin Turner. He’s averaging just 5.4 points and 2.5 rebounds. Their starting center is 6-8, 215-pound freshman Max Mischkulnig; he’s averaging 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds. Most of the rest of the regulars are around 6-2, 6-3, 6-5. Now imagine USI’s long-armed crew — the 6-6 Rutledge, the 6-9 DeWitt and the 6-8 wide body, Nelson — having their way with this lineup.
Of course, a smaller lineup can turn out to be a quicker lineup, and Maryville is averaging 22 3-point shots per game. USI’s guards likely will get a workout again. But Rutledge and DeWitt are pretty quick already, and Nelson is no slowpoke, either. The real challenge will be how USI’s offense handles Maryville’s matchup zone defense. Played well — like Nova Southeastern did in spurts when it handed the Eagles their only loss of the season — it can confuse the heck out of an offense trying to figure out how to attack it and get to the basket. We’ll see how much USI has learned since its only defeat.