HAPPY SUNDAY MORNING FRIARTOWN,
I thought about just leaving the page blank, because that would best describe how the Friars played on Friday night. No substance, no heart. Just blank, empty, gutless.
People will point out LaDontae Henton as the lone star. His performance was impressive in comparison to the rest of his team and his own seasonal stats, but let’s have a moment. His shots, they were created by Vincent Council who time after time gave him relatively open looks from three. His defense, well that was less than to be desired. But it’s impossible to just point him out for that, the team as a whole couldn’t seem to guard a bucket of trash outside of 7/11.
If the sense you are getting is that this post has started very negative, it has. PC went to Brown. They were favored by over 12 points in a true road game. GAMER projections had PC winning by 27. Any other projection you find probably had PC has a significant favorite. But they lost, and not only did they perform poorly, they choked when it mattered. Good teams, heck even average teams, find ways to win games they have no business winning.
To assess this performance in more detail, let’s go to the Crunch…
Tucker Halpern could probably pass as the most hated person in Friartown today. 10/17 shooting, 8/15 from three! How many remember those looks for the most part? I can tell you what the made field goals looked like? Open-Open-Open-Open-Open-Open-Open-Open. Let’s not turn this guy into the next reincarnation of J.J. Redick. The guy played one hell of a game, and he hit the big shots when it mattered, but they were for the most part wide open looks. He’s a shooter. If you give any good shooter those kind of looks, the results will be similar. Halpern is still getting healthy after missing most of the last 18 months due to illness so last night was his coming out party, but it’s still disappointing no one could get in his face when it mattered.
But this game, this game got away when LaDontae Henton decided to go off for 24 points. Now I’m not saying that in itself was the reason, but for as hot as he was in that stretch, there is no reason that PC was just struggling to maintain a lead. Where was the defense? That is the important question.
When Henton hit a 3 with 6:08 left (his 15th straight point), PC went up 56-49, seemed like the dagger right? It would have to me, actually it did to me. The crowd was starting to get loud, the bench was erupting with every big basket, and the momentum was clearly starting to favor the more athletic, Big East squad. But let’s follow the gamelog…
-Sullivan turnover/Fortune Steal
-Fortune missed 3
-McGonagill made 3 (PC 56-52)
-4:47 Henton 3 (PC 59-52)
-Halpern 3 (PC 59-55)
-Henton 3 (PC 62-55)
-3:26 McGonagill 3 (PC 62-58)
-Henton 3 (PC 65-58)
-2:31 Sullivan Jumper (PC 65-60)
-1:58 Batts Layup (PC 67-60)
There is a four-plus minute stretch where offensively, PC played out of their mind (and by PC, I mean LaDontae Henton), but defensively? When it came time to get a stop, there were no stops to be had. Brown, let’s repeat, Brown had an answer for every bucket. This was not Louisville , this was not Syracuse . It was Brown. The looks were pure, they were clean. Despite all of that, PC still had a 7 point lead with under two minutes. I thought to myself, there is no way with Vincent Council, LaDontae Henton, Kadeem Batts, that they could throw this one away. Yet, I kept watching…
-1:37 McGonagill missed three/Pontacelli offensive rebound
-1:29 Kris Dunn steals inbounds pass
-:55 Henton misses three
-:45 McGonagill hits three (PC 67-63)
At this point, Brown called a timeout to set up their defense. PC had time to set up their inbounds. My question – Why was PC so unprepared for the pressure? Common sense says, team is trailing by four points, 45 seconds left, what kind of defense should we expect? 2-3 zone? No. Half-Court Man? No. Ok, um they’ll probably try to create a turnover or foul, so full-court press? Bam, let’s run a play with multiple players cutting to the ball, back screens, etc.
Yet, when Council took the ball from the ref, he looked like they didn’t have a clue. No one was really running to the ball. He didn’t even attempt to run the baseline. PC had to waste a timeout there, and what happened? They run another iffy-press break play (at least it resembled a press break though), ball gets tipped, Brown grabs it, and what happens?
32 seconds – Halpern for 3
PC is a Big East team making high school mistakes, from the coaching down to the players. The lead just vanished into thin air, PC is up 1 with 32 seconds left. So without Cotton (the point in free throw situations), who takes the ball and heads to the line? Vincent Council. I love Vince, but he has been one of the least clutch Friars I can remember in quite some time. This one I chalk up to first game back, but it’s a trend in his career, not a one game outlier. Need big FT’s, he misses them. Gets end of game shots, bricks them. He goes to the line, and he hits 1 of 2 against Brown.
What does a coach teach his team? Don’t give up the three. You are winning by 2. Don’t overcommit because you don’t want to foul. If they want to shoot a 3, stick to him, get a hand in his face, but don’t leap, don’t lunge. Stay in good position. Let them force a bad shot if they want to play for the win, but don’t chase them around and get beat. Worst case, we play for overtime. That is common basketball 101.
Yet, you watch that poor excuse of a defense break down, bad help defense, poor rotation, and you see Halpern upfaking Fortune into the stands, leaving one of the best shooters PC has faced all year wideopen in the corner, one dribble, BANG! PC is down by 1. Just like that. The opposite of what any competent defense does, that is what happened on that possession.
PC burns the timeout, Vincent takes the ball down the court, takes a flat jumper, tip is missed, game over. Friars lose. Is it a heartbreaker? I’d say so. Friar fans everywhere were getting high just last week that “the reinforcements were coming back.” Kris Dunn, All-American. Sidiki Johnson, Top 100. Vincent Council, Wooden Award Finalist.
What did the reinforcements give you last night?
Kris Dunn – 7 points, 8 rebounds, 2/7 shooting, 2 assists, 3 steals, 1 Turnover, 35 minutes
Not a terrible statline for a kid in his third career game, but not instant impact, especially against Brown. This was a guy who was supposed to be a terror around the rim, getting to the rim, into the paint, yet, we haven’t seen it. Last night in the second half, he was kept away from the ball for a while, as VC and Henton ran the show. His job was to create for others, but still needs to learn how to balance. It’s just disappointing that his tremendous speed, acceleration, and athleticism have not been been seen, or at least properly seen. We’ve seen some good moves, usually resulting in a bad decision (forced shot). I’d personally love to see the creative Kris Dunn who gets in the paint and forces opposing defenses to defend multiple passes and angles.
Sidiki Johnson – 0 points, 7 rebounds, 15 minutes
So far, he has reminded me of a bigger, stronger Ron Giplaye. No touch, yet brute force gets him a ton of rebounds. But when it comes time to score, to hit a shot around the rim, it’s almost like just throwing it up there. And let’s ignore the defense, there is none.
Council – 6 points, 1/8 shooting, 9 assists
Not a bad debut back outside of the shooting numbers, but PC needed more out of him with Cotton injured. They needed him back to his real form and not still recovering from a bad injury. Tough spot to be in.
And shall we talk about the rest of the bench?
Kofane – 2 rebounds in 7 minutes
Goldsbrough – Empty in 1 Minute
Bancroft – Empty in 1 Minute
Last week I talked about depth, and how it was important that PC get it back to compete. Well out of your bench yesterday, you got 0 points, 9 rebounds, and a lot of bad defense. That is not competing!
But you can’t just blame them, the guys on the court who start and play the big minutes did not particularly help, especially offensively, in the second half.
LaDontae in the second half – 26 points, 8/10, and 5/7 from 3.
The rest of the team – 8 points, 3/20, 1/8 from 3.
You can’t win a game when your team is completely one-dimensional. LaDontae is Buckets, he is not LeBron James. He isn’t the type of player who you can isolate and have him play one on one ball. He needs those around him to be better, to make him better. Last night, he did big things, he hit big shots. But they were open, rhythm shots for the most part. They were tough, gritty points on the block. But he isn’t Michael Jordan, nor should he have to be.
And let’s talk about Kadeem Batts. This guy was supposed to be mature, the leader of the group. Yet, he still continues to do stupid bonehead things. Against BC, he had 0 fouls at halftime, last night he had one. So what does he go and do last night after drawing about 5 fouls in 10 minutes of 2nd half game action against BC? He tries to take charges on nearly back-to-back possessions. Both he was late, both he was frustrated that he didn’t get the call. He gets all fired up because he is a knucklehead not playing responsible knowing there is no depth, and later proceeds to tell Maia after a blocked shot after a foul “What’s up B****!” as reported by RIC Coach Bob Walsh.
What didn’t really hurt is the fact that Brown only hit 2/4 FT resulting from that sequence, but that Batts’ picked up his fourth foul, critical to a team that lacks a post presence to begin with. So again we had to play musical chairs, who sucks the least, and rotate through Kofane and Johnson, hoping to get some sense of dominance down low. That game had nothing to do with the officiating, and Batts deserved to get T’d if that is indeed what he said (and we have no reason to believe he didn’t.)
And what support do we have of this lack of post presence? PC got OUTREBOUNDED by Brown. Officially, 37-30, a Big East PC Friars squad was out-muscled on the glass by the Bears. While Henton was doing all that scoring, he decided to only grab four rebounds. Batts four rebounds. Those are your starting PF and C combining for 8 rebounds in 63 minutes. Brown also outscored PC in the paint, 22-18. Are you kidding me? PC had only 7 second chance points, and how many on the break? 0! 0! 0! PC is supposed to be an up-tempo, running team, and they can only get 0! Points on the fast break. You have an All-Big East guard and a McDonalds All-American, and you can’t manage to get any recordable fast break points?
PC is now 8-4, and how would we describe them entering Big East play? Limping? Crawling? Dying? It’s hard not to be disappointed in the Friars at this point, getting destroying in every aspect of the game back-to-back against Brown and Boston College. Hopefully, after Brown shot 13/27 from three, that will wake them up for a tough game next week at the KFC YUM! Center against Louisville . Most of us get more defense out of toilet paper after a bowl of Grandma’s beans, but I’m not losing sleep over it!
Happy New Year Friar Fans! Next Year Can’t Get Any Worse!