The Byrd Cage

The Bruins: Passing The Test

In Game Posts on December 20, 2012 at 11:34 am

bruiser

 

Weekend Recap: The Three Game Teaser

When the schedule first came out, we all knew the middle of December was going to be a stout test. It became even more difficult when Blake tweaked his ankle in a practice session last Tuesday. Already a team that lacks depth on the front line (and depth in general), the stretch against three of the toughest teams on the schedule became that much more daunting. The run tipped off when Middle came to town last Thursday night off a big win against an undefeated SEC opponent. The last three matchups against the Blue Raiders had all been decided by a total of seven points. Kermit was bringing in the most efficient team (offensively and defensively) he has ever put on the floor. This had all the makings of a thriller and Kermit really disappointed the large of amount of Middle fans that made the trip up. I won’t bother you with more play by play recap but just want to touch on some observations from this game:

  • This was far and away one of the better defensive performances this current unit has put together. I understand that the Blue Raiders were dreadful from the field, but this had a lot to do with how well the Bruins defended. Middle was forced in positions on the floor that they are not comfortable scoring from. Most of the early attempts in this game came from 15 feet and out from guys who spend most of their time around the basket. The help side defense and occasional double teams down low forced Middle to become a more perimeter based offense. Clearly they do not excel from perimeter. I understand they missed several ‘gimmie’ buckets, but Rick had the perfect defensive game plan and it was beautifully executed.
  • It was no secret that we had the better coaching staff going into the game and we left with those thoughts unchanged. In addition to a masterful defensive effort, one particular offensive play sticks out in my mind. College basketball and basketball in general, allows teams way too many timeouts. An annoying amount of timeouts. Some coaches take advantage of the constant stoppages in play; some turn it into a dumpster fire. Rick falls in the first category. With time winding down in the first half, Middle turned the ball over and Rick took quick timeout. He made some quick substitutions and drew up a set play for the final possession of the first half. The play ended in a WIDE open three point attempt for J.J. and it dropped at the buzzer. Regardless of the result of the shot, the play was perfectly designed and ultimately executed in the same fashion. This sparked an 11-0 run that decided the game. Kudos to you Rick. Kermit, take notes.
  • On an individual basis, two performances stuck out. Ian Clark played all 40 minutes of this game. He has been a machine for the Bruins early in the season. He has carried this team on both sides of the ball. He never forces the issue and plays with incredible efficiency. In a quick cross sports comparison, do we see a little Federer here? Blake notched the other noticeable performance. Playing a bum ankle, Blake racked up nine points and six boards in the first half. He followed that up with a monster dunk and four huge blocks in the second half. Oh and he also went perfect from the field. Did I mention he was playing on a bum ankle?

As impressive as the Bruins looked against the Blue Raiders, the opposite can be said about the trip to Allen Fieldhouse. The looks were there early in the game and simply did not fall. Some people will say they were ‘intimidated’ or ‘nervous’. You can analyze it however you want; they just didn’t shoot well. I will not say the Bruins quit on this game, but certainly got discouraged early and never recovered. Blake still looked uncomfortable and was clearly not 100 percent. The height of the Jayhawks was overwhelming and on top of that, the Jayhawks shot the lights out. While fans and national media outlets were disappointed by the effort of the Bruins, Kansas was just better on Saturday. If that game was played again and some of those early looks for the Bruins dropped, the outcome would be different. But let’s be honest, this game is just too painful to talk about. I do have one bullet point, so bear with me:

*This is a beeeaaautiful looking jump shot. Why doesn’t this poor kid get some meaningful playing time!? I understand he is a below average defender but you cannot convince me that he is any more of a defensive liability than Reece, Jeff, and Holden. PUT HIM IN COACH! That is instant offense off the bench. You can thank me later, Rick.

The Bruins had a chance to get the bad taste of their mouth on Wednesday when the Jackrabbits from South Dakota come to town. The defending Summit League tournament champs gave Baylor all they could handle in last year’s NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits are in the midst of a six game road trip and just spent two overtimes handling Montana in Missoula despite their star guard Nate Wolters going 5-21 from the field. With several NBA scouts (including Tim Hardaway) in the Curb Event Center to watch the senior guard, he had another difficult night from the floor.

  • Wolters was harassed by a variety of defenders all night and could not get the ball in the bucket. He was 4-11 from the field and coughed up the ball 4 times. Certainly a night that he would like to forget. While it was a stellar night statistically on defense (allowing only .74 points per possession) the Bruins appeared to be lost at times particularly when switching screens. The Bruins ended up in some less than favorable matchups and left shooters wide open. But when the shots are not falling, your defense tends to look much better.  This was not the tight, crisp defensive execution we saw against Middle; but the result was the same.
  • Earlier this season against VCU, you saw how quickly a game could change. Quick runs can make or break close games. Belmont came out on the losing side of a quick run in Richmond and flipped the script against the Jackrabbits. At the 12:06 mark in the second half, the game was tied at 37. When Reece put behind all the turnovers he was serving up and hit a three from the wing, the Bruins erupted. The next 3 minutes and 16 seconds saw the home team outscore the Jackrabbits 18-0 shooting 7-8 from the field including 4 three balls. The most remarkable part of this run came after the initial 8-0 run that was interrupted by a quick South Dakota timeout. Rick decided he needed a line change and put four new guys on the floor. The run rolled on and was capped off by a corner three from freshman Craig Bradshaw. Good team effort. Game over.
  • I do not want to get too long winded on this game but the Hay Bailer had another fantastic showing. That is now 45 points in the last two games. He is finally getting his chance to play the five and making the most of it.

While this stretch of three games in six days will not define the season for the Bruins, it has been a great barometer. They finished off the stretch strong and showed no effects from the thrashing in Lawrence. If you told Rick he was going to go 2-1 through this stretch, he would take it in a heartbeat. With conference play on the horizon, this team is learning about who they are and what they are capable of. The game in Kansas was not enjoyable, but not indicative of who this team is. Simply put on Twitter by young freshman Jeff Laidig (@JLaidig21): “Jeff Withey owns me”. That’s all we can say.

A more accurate reading of this team going forward (or maybe a hopeful reading), in my opinion, would be their play against Middle: a solid game plan executed to perfection.

*Gambling Corner: Belmont was favored by -2 against Middle and -9.5 against South Dakota. In both instances the Bruins easily covered as the favorite. They are now 2-1 against the spread when they are favored and perfect at home in such situations. In Kansas, the Bruins opened as +13.5 dogs. That number got bet down to +12 at game time. Wrong direction gamblers. You could not set that line high enough. For those scoring at home, the Bruins are now 3-5 against the spread.

-Nick Broadhead

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  1. Nicholas,

    Glad you spotted me at the game you seem like a cool cat – although you must be outside your mind with the #freespencer deal. WOW. Keep that cat on the bench. Was it the home game against Lipscomb where homie had a clean look and bonked it off the top of the backboard? You gotta be kidding me, man.

    Anywho, I’m with you on about everything else. Trevor has been playing like a true gamer. I especially appreciate his patience/discipline defending under the basket where he’s almost always under-sized. He gets in position, get those hay bailing arms up straight, and uses that body weight to say “WAAAZZZUPP”. No hacking. At MTSU and against the Jack-whatevers this was extremely effective. Lots of ‘easy shots’ were missed by the Jackalopes cuz dude is pesky. (Chad Lang take notes dood).

    Also, I gotta wonder if CBRAD will end up sharing some more PG duties with Reeces Pieces down the stretch when Kerron is off* the floor. Dude can ball.

    YOLO,

    Tim

  2. Nick-Great post. Yes the Kansas game was a bit of a let down after a solid win against MTSU, however the loss didnt hurt as much after Kansas gave Richmond a beat down the other night. In my opinion, I think Kansas is a top five team and the polls may finally give them some love if they secure a win against OSU on the 22nd.

  3. Thank you for your comment Tim Sr. However, I will not back down from my #freespencer campaign. I would like to focus on that shot he took against Lipscomb that hit the top of the backboard. It did not just hit the top of backboard, it hit the top of the backboard twice!! That requires extreme touch and is quite remarkable if you really think about it. The kid can play. Clearly you haven’t seen the number of views that video is attracting. That is views upwards of 30! The nation has the fever. #freespencer

  4. lol I love when ya’ll call me Tim Sr.

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