Thursday, January 23, 2014

Falcons Astound, Defeat OU

Well, if you were one of the people (like me) who despaired after the NIU loss, it appears that it was premature.  If you wondered (as I did) how you could win any game if you had not won that game, then you have to say this:  if you can win at OU, where can't you win?

Let's stop for a moment and appreciate what is happening here.  This was a team picked to finish last in the division and I don't know how many people outside the program disagreed with that.  Then, the team lost Chauncey Orr for the season and Craig Sealey now for 10 games.  Not that those guys are lottery picks, but you could certainly use them.  Zach Denny, who was expected to contribute, has only played in 3 games.

Essentially, you took a team that was not expected to be good, limited it to 6 players (one of them a FR) and then went and won games @WMU and @OU consecutively.  This team is clearly overachieving, and for all the criticism which has been heaped upon the current Coach, he has to get some of the credit for this.

It is the last year of his deal.  Everyone knows it.  A week ago, there was every reason for this team to pack its bags up and wait for the new guy.  This did not happen.  This team is giving as courageous and inspiring effort as any Falcon men's team I have seen in a long time and they are clearly overachieving.  As fans, we should appreciate it.

It is the first win @OU since 2009, the year the Falcons won the MAC regular season title.  It is the first time (I learned from Matt Daley on twitter) that BG has beaten OU and WMU on the road in the same season since the 90-91 season.  This has turned into a very interesting part of the season.

Obviously, every game is a new challenge, but we have to appreciate the effort that has gotten us here.

The game in Athens certainly did not start out the way we would hope.  Six minutes into the game, in fact, OU was out to a 15-4 lead and it was looking like your worst case road scenario.  Down 16-6, BG then went on a 12-0 run to take the lead with 8 minutes left in the first half and the game remained close until OU closed it out on a 5-0 to enter halftime up 3.

Still, BG had to feel pretty good about where they were.  Two minutes into the second half the game was tied again.  Here's the amazing part.  BG took the lead with 11:06 left on an Anthony Henderson 3-ball and except for one possession where OU was ahead by 1, the Bobcats never led again.

With 2 minutes left the game was still close.  BG had a 3 point lead on a Jehvon Clarke layup.  The Falcons got a stop and Clarke came down and hit another shot and BG led by 5 with 1:31 left.

OU nailed a 3 to cut it to 2 with 1:07 left, but that would be all the scoring that the game would see.

The last minute was not pretty.  OU racheted up the pressured and BG really struggled to get the ball up floor.  The problem for OU was that BG was not in the bonus yet, so when they fouled BG it reset the shot clock.  The Falcons used 3 timeouts in the last minute and finally Clarke was fouled and sent to the line.

It was only a 1-1 (which almost never happens late in a game) and he missed the front end.  OU came down but it sounded like BG played very stingy defense, allowing Kellogg a less than ideal shot and an off balance one where he had to shoot off the dribble (Coach Stone said BG tries to force teams to not catch and shoot in that situation) and he missed and BG had the win.

The first guy to mention individually is Jehvon Clarke.  I was with everyone else...guy wasn't shooting and was turning the ball over more than he was getting assists.  For the last few games, that has really turned around.  Last night, he had 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting with 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 turnover.  Coach Stone contended that it has taken him some time to develop as a PG and you can't argue with what you see, which is that he is improved.

Spencer Parker also continues to play well.  He had 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting, 6 rebounds and only 2 turnovers.

Overall, the offensive performance was good enough but not great (more in a second), and that largely came from the shooting woes of Holmes, Henderson, Black and Tisdale.  Holmes still finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds (4 offensive) and Black finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds, though he is still struggling to score.

Anyway, 188 of the 200 minutes in the game were played by 6 guys.

In fact, it was defense that won this game.  I am as interested in stats as the next guy, but we have to concede these facts.  Our team is playing very good defense and only using 6 guys, so those guys must be good defenders even when they aren't shooting.  Which is important to keep in mind.

BG scored .95 points per possession, which is above the team average.  Meanwhile, OU usually scores 1.05 and BG held them to .92, which is exactly BG's season average.  The Falcons mixed man, zone and pressure defenses.  They seem to be finding a nice rhythm.  They start halves in the man and then switch to the zone and teams are having a hard time adjusting.  After the game, Coach Christian was critical of himself for how they attacked the zone.

For the season OU is shooting 45/32, but they got 42/27 in this game, which is an accomplishment for BG.  The biggest issue was turnovers, though.  It was only a 61 possession game, which is slow, and OU had 18 turnovers, which is 29% of their overall possessions and when you combine that number of blank possessions with the low shooting.

OU did a good job on the offensive boards and in getting to the line but BG was actually better on the boards and made 85% of its free throw attempts, meaning that while OU got to the line 4 more times there was only a net +1 advantage in made FTs for the Bobcats.

All this is to say that BG played very effective defense against OU and good enough offense to win the game and that's a model we should be looking for moving forward.

Next up is Miami at the Stroh, certainly a winnable game.  That would give BG a 3-0 week when they could easily have gone 1-2.  After that, a rematch with EMU at their place.  Regardless of what happens, the season is turning out better than expected and is becoming very interesting.  I look forward to seeing how this team develops from here until March.

Last note:  Here's a little highlight for you...

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