It was a nice night in Anderson Arena last night, as the latest episode of Night of the Thieves appeared on the hardwood floor of The House That Roars. BG put together a nice performance against Manhattan and won the game easily. Manhattan is certainly not a good team, but, at the same time, BG spent November losing to teams that were not good (Howard, Niagara, Albany) and so beating teams that are not good is better.
The remarkable part of our game that has emerged is our ability to get steals. Our team identity for a long time has been a low-paced, Charlie Coles offense laid on top of a Syracuse 2-3 zone. Coach mentioned after the WKU game that trapping and getting steals might be a part of our identity, and indeed it might. It certainly puts the game in a different light.
For example. Last night, BG stole the ball on over 23% of Manhattan's possessions. That is just staggering. One out of 4 times that Manhattan brought the ball up, BG stole it. (They turned it over 38% of the time, in total, almost 2 of 5 possessions).
This brings up a crackpot theory I have had for a while. The NCAA tracks points off turnovers, which I think is the wrong statistic. There are two kinds of turnovers--those that produce dead balls (travelling, 3 seconds, a pass out of bounds, stepping on the line, charging, etc) and those that produce transition opportunities (steals).
Off the dead-ball turnovers, teams inbound the ball and get into their half-court set. There is no reason to expect that possession to differ from any other possession, and therefore attributing the points to it being "off a turnover" doesn't make any sense.
I believe points off steals is the better stat. On one quarter of Manhattan's possessions, they not only had zero chance to score but gave the Falcons a transition opportunity going in the other direction. I can't imagine what you would need to do to win under those circumstances.
To put it in complete terms, in 2 out of 5 of their possessions, Manhattan had no chance to score due to a turnover. On 25% of them, they were facing a transition opportunity going in the other direction.
That's my crackpot theory.
Anyway, back to the matter at hand.
This is the second appearance of "Night of the Thieves," the first being the WKU game. The Manhattan game is the 26th highest steal percentage in a game by a D1 team this year. (WKU game was 5th). BG is 8th in the nation in steal %.
The other thing BG did well was shoot the ball. This was our third straight game with more than a point a possession, and our only three D1 games about .9 points a possession. The offense is clearly sustaining some success. The Manhattan game tied the FIU game for the season's best shooting, and the last 3 games are our best 3 shooting games of the year, including Ohio Dominican. Finally, we made 8 3s, our season high, and shot 40% from beyond the arc, a D1 season high.
I know Coach would like to see the opponent's shooting % go down, and I know that we were beaten on the boards and at the free throw line. There is no doubt that we gave up some easy baskets when the trap was beaten, but there's no way it balanced out to the disruption the pressure caused. I thought we had some good positional defensive moments. Particularly, last year we were dead when the opposition got the ball at the free throw line against the 2-3, but we did a nice job having the middle back guy step up and take that away.
The game flow was just what you like to see. BG had a 10 point lead relatively early, and when Manhattan started some runs, BG fought them off, usually nailed a 3 and kept the Jaspers from ever feeling like they had a shot. The lead never got back within 10 points again for the remainder of the game, one of my measures of a dominating performance.
Study below the lovely parallelness of the two lines.
BG got great guard play, something Coach Orr mentioned in the post-game. Luke Kraus was our leading scorer with 15 points with 3 3s and 50% shooting overall. Joe Jakubowski and Jordan Crawford had really efficient games as well. Joe had an offensive rating of 245 (2.45 points per possession) thanks to 4/6 shooting, 3/4 from the line and only 2 turnovers. Crawford had a 215 rating on 2/4 shooting, 3/4 at the line and no turnovers.
Just to understand this, Jordan may only have had 7 points, but he also did not use up a ton of possessions getting there. This increases the effectiveness of the team as a whole.
In fact, scoring was very balanced. Kraus had 15, Joe had 11, and five players had 7 or eight points. Scott Thomas led the rebounding with 8 and added 7 assists and 4 steals to go with his 8 points.
So, the Falcons head into Christmas on a winning note. They don't play again until next Thursday when Texas-San Antonio comes into town, another game you'd like to think we win on the home floor. In the meantime, while this team certainly has a ways to go, things are coming around and are not as bleak as they were a couple of weeks ago.
We will have to see if the Night of the Thieves continues its run at Anderson Arena. So far it is....