Edit- Box score
The final was 75-65, but it was a 20 point lead late in the game. The team stayed focus and played hard throughout, and this should give us some confidence going into Las Vegas.
Richard Hendrix was too much for the UTPA center. When they allowed the 6'6 center to handle his own against Hendrix, he was abused. When they double-teamed him, Richard seemed to always find the open man, and more often than not, we were able to convert. The bad news is Richard got in foul trouble in the first half. The good news is we were still able to find scoring from other areas.
We had a chance to put the game away late in the first half with a 13 point lead, but sloppy play and a horrible call on the last shot of the half allowed UTPA to close within 6.
After a bad outing against Wofford, Riley bounced back and had a very good night. He shot the ball extremely well, and forced a couple of turnovers out of the zone defense. His on ball defense was not as bad as it has been lately. Gee turned in another good performance. Rico and Hollinger both made shots from beyond the arc which kept the UTPA defense spread out.
Richard Hendrix was 1 for 2 from 3 point land. That's 2 more than he should have shot, especially considering UTPA didn't have anyone who could even slow him down in the low post. I was very disappointed to see Coach Gottfried nodding his head in approval as Hendrix came to the bench during the next timeout following his successful 3 point attempt. We have some good shooters on this team, we don't need Richard playing around the perimeter. We sure as heck do not need him shooting from out there. I do not care if he made one or not, if I were coaching I would have chewed his butt out, and told him the next 3 he jacks up will be his last, as he would be sitting on the bench for the rest of the game. We had to suffer through this with Chuck Davis, Jemareo Davidson, and now Richard Hendrix. I bet all 3 of them combined shoot for less than 25% from 3 point range. For the love of God, Gottfried, tell your bigs to quit jacking up stupid shots!
Overall, I thought we defended very well out of the zone. At times we did not rotate fast enough and they were able to get some open looks, but for the most part we played good defense. We did an adequate job of switching to the man just enough to keep them off balance. One area of disappointment is our rebounding out of the zone. It's difficult to rebound out of a 2-3 zone, and we have not improved on this area from last year. It is much more difficult to box out because you are not assigned to a specific player, and instead must get a body on the nearest opponent. We need to get better at locating the proper assignments as soon as a shot goes up so that we can maintain a good rebounding position. It seems we give up more offensive rebounds than we should out of the zone.
I was really hoping Rico Pickett would separate himself at point guard by this point. I still think he is our best option, but he made some silly, freshman mistakes tonight. He dribbled the ball off his foot on a key possession late in the first half which allowed UTPA to hang in the game, and he made a few ill advised passes. That being said, he also created some plays off the dribble and did an adequate job. Torrance was also sloppy at times, and I think Hollinger has found his role as the backup 2 guard. It was good to see Hollinger willing to let some shots fly, as I think he can best contribute at the 2 spot.
Justin Tubbs seems to be in a funk. He's certainly showed in the past that he is capable of playing better than he has the last few times he got in the game. He was out of control on defense and his shot was off. Senario Hillman looked much the same. Senario Hillman has amazing athletic ability, but I'm afraid he won't be able to contribute much until he can start shooting the ball more consistently. He missed a wide open 3 from the wing by about 4 feet.
Free throw shooting continues to be a problem, although Rico did make 3 in a row at one point.
Yamene Coleman came in and did a good job of playing defense and rebounding while Richard was in foul trouble. Justin Knox got a few minutes, and I still think he will be a contributor before it is all said and done. He was in position to make some plays tonight, but it seemed like he had Yamene's hands.
In other news, Wofford went to West Lafayette, IN and beat Purdue 69-66 tonight. Prior to tonight, I would think Purdue would be the favorite to win the Las Vegas classic, but now we appear to be the team to beat. I still think Purdue is a good team, but maybe not as good as some thought. They did beat Louisville, but Louisville was without several of their key contributors at that time. As we saw first hand Monday night, Wofford can be tough if they are executing their offense and making their jumpshots. I'm guessing that was the case tonight, but obviously I did not see the game.
Up next, we travel to Orleans Arena in Vegas to play Missouri State at 7pm Central, 5pm Pacific on Saturday. For what it's worth, which isn't a lot, Missouri State played UTPA Monday night, and led by 7 throughout most of the game before finally winning by 12.
Depending on the outcome of that game, we'll either play Purdue or Iowa State in either the championship or consolation game on Sunday. I'll be making the trip to support the Tide, but I will probably be too busy trying to see how many sins I can commit in one weekend to bother posting an update, so expect a full report when I get back next week. Roll Tide!