Sunday, November 27, 2011

Victory, Sweet Victory!

The Falcons pulled off what might well be their biggest non-conference win of the Orr era and certainly their biggest win in the Stroh Center, as they battled a very good Temple team for 40 teams, finished on a 7-1 run and ended up with a 67-64 win over the Owls.

Nothing could be a starker contrast than the difference between what the Falcons came up with today and what they came up with against GW Wednesday.  The Falcons clearly used the time they had to prepare to put together a game plan that was exactly what was needed most of the time.

One factor that has to be noted:  Temple's rebounding and shot blocking C Michael Eric was injured and did not make the trip.  His absence certainly impacted the game in the paint, but that's how things go sometimes in sports, and it also doesn't detract from the Falcon victory.

Temple came out in a 4-guard lineup and BG attempted to guard it man to man.  Temple scored on 7 of its first 8 possessions, and in the first media timeout, BG went to the 2-3 zone, which Coach Stone said after the game had given Temple trouble last season.  It did seem to take Temple out of their rhythm and while they had a successful offensive night, they never had any dominant scoring streaks.

The first half was actually pretty even, with eight ties and both teams in the lead at various times.  Temple led by three when the break finally came.

BG has had a problem over the past two years coming out of the locker room as if they ate a turkey dinner during halftime.  Certainly was an issue, for example, in the GW game.  It was not, however, an issue today.

The game was tied at 36, 44 and 48 before BG went on a 6-0 run with 8:39 left.  Temple took the lead back with about five left, and then the game was tied at 58 and 60 before the game's critical endgame began.

With 2:50 left, Khalif Wyatt nailed a trey to put Temple up 63-60.  On BG's next possession, Calhoun missed a shot, got his own board and missed the put back, but BG's defense got a stop on the other end, and the Falcons had the ball inside two minutes needing essentially and score and then a stop.  I don't think there was anyone in the arena who didn't think that could happen, though.

On BG's possession Scott Thomas was fouled shooting and nailed both his free throws to cut the lead to 1.  Temple ran clock and ended up with a shot down low, but Scott Thomas came up with his second big play, getting a clean block on a shot by Hollis-Jefferson.

BG called time with :54 left.  Coach Stone said BG had a play drawn up for Scott Thomas, which Temple covered.  Jordan Crawford was working the point, and he improvised, which in this case included feinting a drive and pulling back for an NBA-length trey that hit nothing but net.  Falcons up two with :30 left.

Temple came down and drew a foul and split two free throws, and BG's lead was one with :22 left.  Temple called timeout to set up their full court press.  Clearly, everyone in the arena expected an attempt at a steal and then a foul.  But, BG got the ball to the Crawford, at 5'6" and fresh from his big hoop, drove through the pressure and could not be caught long enough to be fouled.

He spotted Calhoun alone in transition on the left block, fed him, and Calhoun dunked the ball home to put BG up by 3.

Temple took their last time out, with about 12 seconds to tie the game with a 3, certainly well within the realm of possibility.  BG pulled a surprise by going back to the man defense for this possession, and Temple managed only two poor looks on three balls, each of which missed, and the Falcons had picked up a victory in a game in which they were 8 point underdogs.

Want to see how close the game was?  Check this out.

Leading BG was A'uston Calhoun with 16 points and 7 rebounds.  Just as importantly, his points came on 7 of 13 shooting.  Thomas added 11 points and eight rebounds and Dee Brown had 11 points and six assists.  (Crawford had a thigh injury in practice and was limited to 15 minutes, though he made the most of them.  Cam Black had seven points (3 of 4 shooting), three boards and three blocks and seemed to do a great job guarding the free throw area, which is the 2-3 zone's weak spot.

Not to be forgotten, Luke Kraus had 30 minutes, and while he did not have much in the way of stats, he did play some very solid defense on Ramone Moore, who finished with 10 points, half his average.  Torian Oglesby had five rebounds in 13 minutes.

The game was verrrrrrrry slow paced.  There were only 59 possessions, so BG had an offensive rating of 113 and Temple came in at 108.  The key factor was shooting.  BG shot 55% overall and 60% on its 2-FGs, which is probably where we need to be to compete.  Temple shot only 46% for the game and 33% from three.  Offensive rebounds were tied, but since BG missed fewer shot, it was advantage Falcons, and the other metrics were pretty even.

So, better shooting, a zone defense, and Scott Thomas and Jordan Crawford each making two plays in the game's final minutes were the difference.  It was a very small crowd at the Stroh, but it certainly seemed to get loud as the game came to the end, and the end was very happy for the people who were there.

So, now we have seen what our team can do when they play well and what happens when they do not.  From here, it is a struggle between those two poles as the team moves toward the conference season.  BG will play only once more at home before the MAC season starts, and that is against an NAIA game, so there will be some road warrior work.  What the team needs--and what we have rarely seen in the last two years--is sustained production at a high level.  That will be the test.

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