Game of Runs

I’m more of an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, so the 11 o’clock hour required by 9 p.m. games means I’m recording the second half. When I wake up, I turn on the TV briefly to the news, try to not look at the score, and then finish watching the game. When I do catch the score, like I did Friday morning, I nevertheless watch the game because I need to know the story. Non-basketball lovers don’t understand that commitment.

When 76-73 Winthrop came across the screen, I thought, well, not ideal, but I bet we gave them a real run. I had seen the first half effort: Okeke’s foul trouble, forcing turnovers, Teague playing quarterback in the fastbreak, and Miller’s hot hand for threes. Of course, I had also seen Malik Smith get two fouls in less than 30 seconds and attempt a three. Asheville did a great job switching defenses and staying on the ball, but no one ever ran away with the game. The even, back and forth nature of the half led right into the second half.

UNC Asheville racked up fouls, turnovers, and missed more shots than trigger-happy stormtroopers, but balanced by forcing turnovers and making the FT’s from Winthrop’s own foul trouble in the second half. Asheville went roughly 11 minutes without a FG. In total, UNCA scored six FG’s and 19 FT’s.  You read that right 19 FT’s in 20 minutes of basketball on 25 attempts (76%).  When Thomas and the Bulldogs finally came to life, Winthrop had already gained the lead.

I’ve said before height has hurt us, and it continues to hurt. When a team plays the 1-3-1, you’re center is almost never the man at the bottom of the paint. He’s usually near the top of the paint. If the opposing team can fix their spacing and work the ball around, they can likely get their center the ball for an easy two. Moreover, the size of Winthrop’s Okeke presents a rebounding problem. Toward the final minutes, Okeke scored back-to-back down low, one with an offensive rebound, while we played the 1-3-1. Winthrop, outrebounding by 7, managed 16 second-chance points, while Asheville only got three. I give full credit to Winthrop for knowing their gameplan well enough to push the ball to the corners when UNCA played the 1-3-1 too. On four consecutive possessions, Winthrop attempted three long balls from the same corner and turned the ball over once.

So what now?

The Bulldogs focus on today, Campbell, and winning at home. Winning at home is critical because winning away in the Big South is so difficult. Only two teams in the Big South are below .500 at home, while only one team is above .500 away: Winthrop. Currently, UNCA sits second in the standings, down one game, behind the tie for first between Winthrop and Liberty, who play each other today. I feel confident that by Februrary 9th, when UNCA plays Winthrop in Asheville, the Bulldogs will be ready–and able to score more than six baskets in a half.

See you later for Women against Liberty and Men against Campbell!