Tony Mitchell had a coming out party tonight and showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect. He played very well within the offense and capitalized on his high percentage shots in the paint, to finish with 23 points. He also played good defense and pulled down a few rebounds. About the only flaw in his game tonight was taking a couple of ill advised 3's.
Speaking of perimeter shooting, I have stated that a lack of consistent shooting may be the biggest problem with our current team trying to run this system. We were a respectable 7 of 17 from the 3 point range tonight, but that includes 5 of 7 from Charvez Davis. Davis's ability to consistently shoot may end up being the key to the season...the rest of the team was only 2 for 10.
One of our key shooting threats, former starter Anthony Brock, is suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. I have no idea what he did, but I trust Coach Grant is handling the situation in such a way that will be beneficial to the program in the long term. Andrew Steele started in his place, and Ben Eblen saw a lot of playing time. Both took good care of the basketball, but neither is the scoring threat that Brock can be from the outside. Eblen is somewhat undersized defensively, but he makes up for it with his basketball IQ. He handles the ball very well and makes good decisions, and he is quick enough to defend despite his lack of size. Nevertheless, he's not much of a threat to light up the scoreboard.
We were not getting good shots in the first half and allowed Jackson State to keep the game within 5 points. I think our pressure defense wore them down somewhat in the second half, but our press was not as successful in terms of forcing turnovers. In fact, Jackson State broke it fairly easily for much of that night. Conversely, our half court man to man defense was very solid tonight. Jackson State did not have a lot of size inside like Cornell did, and we were able to block a few shots in the post to create some transition opportunities. We contested most all of their shots from the perimeter when we were in a half court man to man. Jackson State's lack of size also allowed Green and Mitchell to dominate in the paint. Davis kept them spread out enough by knocking down the 3's to allow our point guards to get the ball in to them. It was nice to see Green stay out of foul trouble. It was also good to see a fairly well officiated game, thanks to a lack of Ted Valentine on the court.
Overall, a solid win against an inferior opponent after a sluggish first half. For the first time this year we did not shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. We only had 10 for the game, which is pretty good considering the pace at which we play. Green and Hillman both had to come out of the game due to bumps and bruises, but both returned and appear to be fine. With Brock's suspension and Jemison already out for the year, we can't afford to lose any more guys. With the exception of Torrance, free throw shooting continued to suck tonight.
The crowd tonight was very small, I would say about 2,000 at best. Jackson State brought a small group of 10-20, including one of the most loud obnoxious fans I have ever heard. This lady (and I use that term very loosely) literally screamed at a very high pitch throughout the entire game. At their players, at the refs, at our players, at our fans, anybody who would listen, or even if they wouldn't but had no choice due to the sheer volume. She is missing a great opportunity to be a Mississippi $tate fan, she would fit right in with that bunch of loudmouth jerks.
Also, kind of off topic, but we really need to do something about our halftime shows. Saturday we had a bunch of kids on unicycles trying to hit layups, and they shot an even lower percentage than we do from the free throw line. Also, they went over their time slot delaying the teams from coming back out to warm up. Tonight, our halftime show literally consisted of 4 people eating a Chic fil a sandwich. I love me some Chic Fil A, but watching other people eat is not exactly my idea of entertainment.
Up next, the Friars from Providence will come to Tuscaloosa Friday night for a 7 pm tip. They are undefeated and come from arguably the nation's best conference in the Big East. We have a history with Providence, as they eliminated one of Wimp Sanderson's better teams in the Sweet 16. Billy Donovan played on that team, against Mark Gottfried. This is a winnable game for us, as Mercer played them within 2, but it will not be a cake walk. There is no reason why we shouldn't have a big crowd Friday night. The football team has an early game on Saturday, so go ahead and get to Tuscaloosa the night before and support our young basketball team!