If you want to see an elite MAC team...the kind that is just very tough to beat...I give you the Akron Zips. They are deep, they play as a team, they have strong guard play, they have tremendous length and size and they have strong inside players. They make the next pass. That's just a really solid basketball team that came into BG and beat the Falcons by 13 in a game that was actually not that close.
The most interesting thing--and you can't say this very often--was what was said after the game. Coach Orr rarely says anything too interesting--it just isn't his style--but I thought some of his comments yesterday were telling. He talked a lot about leadership, and specifically, that young players don't have to wait to show leadership. If you think about what would make someone say something like that, you would have to come to the conclusion that there is a leadership vacuum on the team...or that, at least, last night it wasn't coming from the expected quarter...ie, the veterans.
He also said that we have to learn to "handle heart, handle toughness."
Or, how about this. "Once we understand nothing's easy...."
Seriously, if this team doesn't understand nothing is easy now, I don't know when they are going to.
Finally, Chauncey Orr said the team "retreated" and that's why we got our "butts kicked."
BG is not a young team. In fact, according to statsheet.com, the actual lineup we have put onto the floor is the second most experienced in the MAC. BG has four seniors, and they shot 4-29 from the field against Akron.
Anyway, I guess it sounds to me like there is some soul-searching going on in the program, and that's appropriate given where things stand. Right now, we're not in the top tier or the middle tier of MAC teams.
Todd Walker said that BG's real problems were in the first half, and it is hard to argue with that. It wasn't going all that badly...Akron had led most of the half but with 2 minutes left the lead was down to 6 points. Akron finished the half strong (5-0 run) from there, taking an 11 point lead into the locker room. BG shot an appalling 19% from the floor and 10% from beyond and frankly, with shooting like that they were lucky to be that close.
Akron was dominant most of the second half. BG pushed the lead down to 7 a few times, the last time with about 13 minutes left, but the Zips went on an 8-0 run over the next 2 minutes to go up 15 and from there the game was never in single digits again. Akron led by as much as 20.
Looking at the stats, BG held a huge advantage in free throws. BG shot 24 free throws and made 19, while Akron made only 5 of 9. I'd be interested to know how many teams in Division I had a +14 free throw advantage and lost the game by 13.
The answer is shooting. I already mentioned that BG struggled to shoot in the first half (to say the least). BG shot 50% in the second half, but Akron shot 57%. For the game, the Zips made 11 more FGs and 7 of those were 3s, and that's how you overcome that deficit at the line.
Akron finished with 1.08 points per possession, which is actually below their season average but above where BG needs to be to win. The Falcons, meanwhile, scored .87 points per possession, which well below even their season average. BG did a better job than most teams keeping the Zips off the offensive boards but the Zips did the same to BG. Turnovers were even.
Individually, I have already noted that BG's seniors struggled. Calhoun was 2 of 13 from the field. Coach Stone said after the game that Calhoun needs to attack the basket like Akron's big guys do and that he settled for too many fade away shots. To be fair, Calhoun did have 11 rebounds and shoot 7 of 8 from the line, though Coach Stone said if he had been more aggressive he could have gotten to the line even more.
Crawford shot 1-11 from the field. He just really struggled. He did have 5 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers.
Chauncey Orr had a very solid night for BG. He shot 7 of 12 from the field and lead the team with 16 points. He has now scored in double figures in 3 of the last 4 games, and we continue to watch to see if he can become a consistent scoring threat for this team. If he can, that helps us both this year and looking to the future.
Craig Sealey got 19 minutes and scored 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting. It was his first significant minutes in some time. Coach said after the game that he failed to "reward" Craig for his hard and work and Coach took the blame for that on himself and said it was going to change. Sealey has shown some promise in other games and has been really silent this year. Any contribution from him coming home would be great.
The other thing to note is Spencer Parker. He is starting to get small numbers of minutes. He is clearly a guy who is built to score...he drives the ball and shows energy. He clearly isn't there yet, but I do think you can see some potential in him.
So, BG falls to 7-13 and 5-13 in D1. BG is 2-5 in the MAC and in a five-way tie for 8th. Ball State--also 2-5--comes into BG Saturday for what is a winnable game for the Falcons. After that, they travel to Dekalb--the Huskies beat Kent there last night.