The men's basketball team at BG picked up its 3rd win of the season last night in the Stroh....where in fact, the Falcons are now unbeaten in three attempts. BG's 3rd D-1 win didn't come until December 30 last year.
Detroit was picked to finish second-third in the Horizon League. They are, however, playing pretty short-handed. They started with just 4 guys on the bench, and then Nick Minnerath was injured two minutes into the game and did not return. Shot block specialist LeMarcus Lowe also was in foul trouble all night, so it was a skeleton crew of Titans on the floor last night.
BG bolted to a 17-7 lead as Detroit made 9 turnovers in the game's first 7 minutes. BG had its 8-minute offensive drought in the first in this game, going from 9:48 to 1:42 without a field goal and being outscored 17-3. The Falcons trailed by only one at the half.
BG had trouble scoring out of the locker room as well, and Detroit built a five-point lead, but Scott Thomas nailed a 3 to settle that down. BG eventually opened a six-point lead with 9 left on a James Erger trey (!!!) but Detroit tied the game at 50 and 52. The latter came with about five minutes left, and BG went on a 5-0 mini-run (Black nice touch in the lane and Calhoun three-ball) and BG had the lead with 2:29 left.
The game's key possession came inside 90 seconds when Evan Bruinsma missed a game-tying three and Jordan Crawford went and got the board on the weak side. BG ran clock, and Calhoun ended up drawing a foul and nailing both free throws giving BG a five-point lead with :39 left and at that point, the game was largely over and Detroit never had the ball with a chance to tie again.
Make no mistake, BG won the game on its defensive end of the floor. BG held Detroit to .89 points per possession, which would have been our sixth best D1 game last year. Detroit shot under 40% from the field (37%) and under 30% (28.6%) from beyond the arc. They also had 21 turnovers, which means that on nearly 31% of their possessions, they didn't even get a shot up.
What was troubling was the fouls. I was having Dan Dakich PTSD flashbacks as our man to man defense committed a lot of fouls due to being out of position. BG gave up 25 fouls and 25 free throw attempts, and unlike Austin Peay, Detroit was good, hitting 19 of those 25 shots and holding a +6 advantage at the line (which includes Detroit's last minute fouls). Without that, the game is not as close as it was.
When the Dakich team had this issue, it was because we were less athletic than our opponents and insisted on playing man. I think our man defense is getting results this year, so I hope that as we get more comfortable, we can foul less.
On the offensive side, BG had .98 points per possession, which is better than last year's number, though for much of the game it certainly didn't feel like it. BG only shot 40% for the game, and, in a little anomaly, actually shot better on 3-FG than it did on 2-FGs. Rebounds were pretty even...BG built the victory on a slight shooting advantage and taking better care of the basketball.
A'uston Calhoun had a slow start but ended up with 14 points and six rebounds while Scott Thomas had 11 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. Perhaps the game's key performance, however, came from Craig Sealey, who had 9 points and 9 rebounds in 24 minutes of play, including a couple of key baskets when we needed them. He seems to be able to find a mid-range jumped and get it down when nothing else is working for BG.
Cam Black had 4 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. He showed a couple of times his really nice touch in the paint on the offensive end, but when he is on the floor, we don't ever seem to get the ball down there. I'm not sure whether that's by design or if the issue is with his positioning or with the feeders, but I think there is clearly upside remaining with him.
BG used 11 players in the game, which is more depth than we had used very early on.
So, BG has a chance to sweep this little string of "tournament" games with a win against a very good GW team tonight. (The CBE "title" was actually awarded last night). They are also 2-0 in this string of games, and will present a very good challenge for our team.
So far, BG has beaten two teams they lost to last year, is playing well at home, and is playing good defense. It may well be, when all is said and done, that this team will only win consistently by grinding out defensive victories, because we don't have anyone who has consistently shown the ability to be a pure scorer. But, if Thomas and Calhoun and whoever else gets hot can string a few baskets together and the team defends well, then we can have a competitive season.