I'm going to make this decidedly quick - I have to admit, I missed the first half. Some might say I didn't necessarily "miss" anything, as it sounds like we sleepwalked through the opening 20 minutes.
Major news stories in the game - Jamar Samuels back in the lineup after serving his in-house three-game suspension; Martavious Irving back in the lineup after missing the Loyola (IL) game with a bum ankle; and no negative health news on Rodney McGruder, who was apparently nursing a hamstring strain against Loyola.
Oh, and it was Appreciation Night for the locally-stationed 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment from Fort Riley, whom the basketball team has a partnership with. No big deal. Support our troops.
I also have to admit, I had zero time to do any research on UMES - look to Ahearn's previous pre-game post for the skinny there. I did know that they are an offensively-challenged team, which is to say that if we could play even halfway decent, we should walk with this one.
Basic gut reaction to the second half:
Where the hell has THIS been so far this year?
Coming out of the locker room leading by the score of 36-29, the 'Cats took UMES to school. Great ball movement, good heads-up passing, actually running an offense, crashing the boards with reckless abandon on the offensive end. Solid, scrappy defense - defending passing lanes well, blocking shots, blocking out on the glass. K-State went out on a 28-9 run to open the half.
As Ron Burgundy so eloquently put - "That really got out of hand fast!"
Soon, attention was turned from just pulling away from this UMES team and toward what the final spread would be. Ultimately, the game got stretched out to a 42-point chasm that was the final.
Positives to take away:
- Ball movement. This is the first time I've seen the team reverse the ball on offense. Works wonders. Duh. The result was open shot after open shot. Like I've said before - D1 basketball players don't very often miss open shots. We didn't either - going for about 7 minutes without. missing. a. shot.
- Interior passing. Jordan Henriquez didn't start with JamSam back in the lineup, but it looked like these guys have got some of their spacing issues figured out on the offensive end. Good passing down around the bucket, and great entry passing from Rod, Shane Southwell, and the rest of the guards.
- Rebounding. We outrebounded UMES 44-23. Bout frickin time. We finally played with the ballyhooed length that we supposedly have, and took a squeegee to the boards, offensively and defensively. Offensive rebounds were put back up on goal with authority, often leading to scores.
- Scrappy D. UMES had 10 ASTs to their 17 TOs, were held to 32% FGs, and only 8 offensive REBs. That's stingy D, for the most part. Sure, we could get nittpicky about a possession lapse here or there (one comes to mind where we gave up a foul due to being out of position, committed a lane violation on the second free throw, and proceeded to cough up one of those OREBs on the ensuing retry), but as a whole, we seemed to play well on that side of the ball.
- Cleanup time. We emptied the bench for the final two minutes of the game. Fun to see those guys get to take a crack at it, and gives the middle of the bench some valuable "leadership time' on the floor, which effectively deepens our bench.
- Typical Frank Martin team. Great effort in the second half, and it was obvious we just wore UMES down. With the exception of some garbage time heroics (a breakaway power dunk and yelling when you're down 40? Really?), UMES looked like they were ready to climb back on their bus with about 10 minutes to go. Tired and listless D combined with sloppy and poorly orchestrated offense are the signs of a team that's been worked over.
- The Big Gipper's a stud. Next to "workhorse" in Merriam-Websters, there's a picture of Thomas Gipson. Hard Hat and Lunchpail guy. Narrowly missed a double-double (13 PTS, 9 REBs), but only played 22 minutes. He does it in very workmanlike fashion, and his fundamentals (solid fakes, uses his body to shield the ball, good interior passing touch, fluid jumper to the free-throw line) tell me he'll be able to get those kinds of numbers against anyone but the very best post players. He's a freshman, and he's putting up stellar, repeatable numbers already. I know I'm gushing, but this performance, following the 19 and 7 he put up in 28 minutes against Loyola? If he were playing a 30-35 minute clip in games, he'd be rolling up 20 and 10 nights. I'm officially a fan o' tha man.
Things I'd like to see improved heading into our next game:
- Mental lapses. We played really well for 18 of the 20 minutes I watched. I'd like to see us play really well for 20 minutes instead. We took some questionable shots - some went in, some didn't - that were as much of a "heat check" as anything. We also had some lapses on the D side (see the item above). Honestly, had to get pretty picky here.
- Two halves. This game should have probably been over when UMES got off the bus. But we kept them remotely in the game through halftime - against a halfway suitable basketball team, that could lead to problems. I can't honestly speak to why or how UMES stayed that close, but judging by the fact that we scored 36 in the first 20 minutes and 56 after the break, I'd say we need to settle down and play our game out of the gate.
- JamSam back in the fold. His first game of the year was expectedly rusty. Shot FTs well (7-9) and finished with 12 points, but only made 2 FGs, with 3 REBs. Just not quite in the flow yet. It looked like he played hard, just wasn't the factor that I'm sure he'll become.
Sorry kids, but I gotta skip the individual player analyses, because I just didn't get to see anyone play in the first half. From what I saw in the second half, though - there wasn't anyone on the squad I'd kick outta bed for eating crackers.
All in all, we should be very happy with what we saw in the second half. We got a glimpse into what this team is really capable of.
Now we've got a nice long layoff again - December 1 is our next contest, a game against George Washington in the Octagon of Doom.