Scoring off the bench has been fairly insignificant for USI’s men’s basketball team for quite a while now. That’s why Ben Jones’ career-high 14 points — including four 3-point baskets — in the 87-62 win at Indianapolis on Thursday night came as such big news.
There haven’t been many games like that. In fact, one of the most notable came the last time USI played Saturday’s opponent, Saint Joseph’s, at the PAC on Jan. 17. In that game Austin Davis scored 14 points, Melvyn Little totaled 11 and Taylor Wischmeier — then a sub for the since-injured Aaron Nelson — finished with seven. Travis Jones also had five points and Ben Jones tallied two. That’s 39 points off the bench. The Eagles got help off the bench over the next two games. Then came the loss at Wisconsin-Parkside, with only 11 points being produced by the subs.
From then on, bench scoring has been generally worse for a team averaging 77.5 points per game: Lewis (loss, seven bench points), Bellarmine (win, seven), McKendree (win, nine), Lewis (loss, 16), Wisconsin-Parkside (loss, seven). Of the six players who come off the bench for the Eagles, Little has the highest scoring average at 4.0 points per game. Next are Ben Jones (3.4), Austin Davis (3.0), Travis Jones (2.9), Manny Ogunfolu (2.8) and Evan Brinkmeyer (1.4). Davis has the highest playing time average, at 14.0 minutes over 21 games, while Ben Jones is averaging 9.6 minutes over 22 games and Brinkmeyer 9.7 over 22. Ogunfolu averages 11.1 minutes but has been in just 17 games. Then there’s Travis Jones, who has 13 pointers this season despite playing in only 17 games and averaging just 4.6 minutes per contest.
This isn’t to condemn USI’s bench. It just hasn’t been as productive — or, in some instances, used as regularly — as one might expect of a team that’s generally played as well as the Eagles. And it could become a big problem when the postseason tournaments begin, with teams having to play one game per day or one every two days.