October 27, 2011

SPORTS: Blog -- Scrimmage Shows Much Work Is Still Needed

by Candis Cunningham

The first scrimmage of the season for the men’s basketball team was pretty impressive if you ask me. Alex Young led the White Team with a stunning 30 points and 10 rebounds, so he left me excited to see his performance for the regular season. The Summit League Preseason Player of the Year was supported well by one of his other senior returning starters, Christian Siakam who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

The White Team was obviously the projected starting five for the regular season as the true freshman Lyonell Gaines finished with 20 points and the new addition in Ian Chiles got his feet wet too. The White team had four of its six players finish in double figures as they showed to be the bigger and more athletic members of the team who will compete best with opponents.

“They’ve had a very good fall (Chiles and Gaines)--two good players that will definitely be in our rotation,” said head coach Todd Howard.

The White team practically dominated the Red team with the exception of junior guard Greg Rice, who finished with 23 points and six rebounds. Rice pushed the ball at a faster and much needed tempo to keep his team in the game. Rice definitely proved he deserves to be in a steady rotation too, especially after being injured last season.

However, Howard is going to have to mix some things up when Sean Esposito and Donovan Gibbs return from injury. The two are expected to be back next week and in time for the next scrimmage Nov 1. Esposito has been the team’s key shooter and from the scrimmage, it looks like they need to find another. Rice was 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and his team was 9-of-31 while the white team had far less attempts finishing 2-of-13.

The scrimmage showed the biggest problem was breaking full court pressure zones and traps. Majority of the Red team’s 22 turnovers came from folding under pressure. The White team didn’t do much better with 20 turnovers. The aggressive man-to-man defense is one of the primary changes Howard made in his new position as head coach, but it came back to fundamentals. Knowing when to bounce pass, lob the ball, and not telegraph passes.

Now I have faith that fundamentals aren’t an issue, but practice is needed with the full court pressure and playing against good, consistent man-to-man defense. I’m interested to see what line-ups Howard draws up for next week’s scrimmage.

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