Sunday, December 08, 2019

Falcons Finish Hard, Beat Oakland

Coach Huger said after the game that it was a good example of what MAC play will be every night...a tough, grinding, possession by possession game that required BG to find a couple new playmakers and then make a couple big baskets late to beat Oakland, a well-coached team that always plays hard.

It breaks a five-game losing streak to Oakland.

BG, playing without Justin Turner, controlled the play in the first half.  The Falcons led by 8 about mid-way through and popped it into double figures with about four minutes left and led by 9 at the half.

The second half was much different.  Oakland came out and played much better defense.  They did a better job at getting the ball into the paint--which is their strength--and BG had a hard time defending against their two very good power forwards.  BG was still leading by 11 with 14 left, but then Oakland went on a 16-2 run and took the lead with 8 minutes left.

I was pleased, though, that BG was able to re-engage the battle.  Lots of times, teams have trouble doing that.  

With 2:22 left, Oakland did something really unusual, but was worth noting.  They hack-a-miked Michael Laster.  He was bringing the ball up and just out of nowhere they fouled him intentionally.  Granted, he came in as a 58% FT shooter...but you just don't see that, especially with that much time left.  I don't know if they were trying to get BG to pull him out or honestly felt that was their best defensive shot--they had been defending well.  They were in the double bonus...just strange.  (Spoiler alert:  it seemed to awaken the inner-New Yorker in Laster, who made all 6 FTs coming home, including the 2 after the hack-a-mike incident.

BG had a 3 point lead, but then from 3:20 to 1:41 Oakland scored 9 points and allowed 2 to have a four point lead.  

ESPN gave them a 75% chance of winning.

BG had the ball, down 4, ran offense.  Coach said the play was for Laster to get to the rim but he drew the help and then hit Diggs in the corner.  Diggs had been struggling, but he nailed this shot, which the Falcons absolutely had to have.  Down 1, 1:25 to play, Oakland's PG--who had been pressured all night by a variety of Falcons--got into the paint but missed his shot and Sierra boarded and BG ran a break and with :53 left Diggs hit a layup to put BG in the lead.

On the next possession OU got the ball deep to Xavier Hill-Mais, their best player, but he turned it over on the baseline with :33 left.  (It was on the other end of the court from me, but the call required a lengthy video review.)

Oakland fouled...Laster...with :31 left, but he made both FTs to put BG up 3.  At this point, you're one stop from a win.  BG defended really hard--and Oakland isn't a 3FG shooting team...Hill-Mais ended up launching a brick with :13 left, BG had the rebound, Laster was fouled, he made both FTs to make it 5 and OU got a last second meaningless layup.

It wasn't always pretty but it was a gritty 68-65 win.  When you think about the teams we have admired in the MAC over the years...that's what they do.  They make plays right up until the end and walk out with a win while the losing team wonders how it happened.

Looking at the numbers, the game was definitely played at Oakland's pace, with 65 total possessions.  BG ended up with a good offensive night at 1.05 points per possession.  Oakland scored 1 point per possession, which higher than they have been scoring and higher than BG has been allowing.  It is right on the D1 average, though.

BG's offensive path is clear.  The Falcons are only shooting 47% (EFG), which is well below the national average.  What BG does right is not turn the ball over.  They have turned the ball over on 12.5% of their possessions....WHICH LEADS THE NATION.  So, you don't shoot well, but you have extra shooting possessions because you don't turn it over, and you can score.

As below.

In fact, Oakland beat BG everywhere else.  As noted in the preview, OU gets to the line a lot.  They shot 19 FTs and made 13 (68%), while BG only shot 16 but made 12 (75%) and made 10 of 12 in the second half.

BG continues to struggle to make 2FGs.  The national average is 49%.  BG is shooting 44% and is 303rd in the country.  They shot 49% against Oakland but only 33% from beyond the arc.  Meanwhile, OU made 57% of their 2 FGs and only 30% from 3FG.

Interesting note.  Oakland has attempted 40% of its FGs from behind the arc in four games, including this one, and lost them all.

As mentioned, BG is playing without Justin Turner.  Dylan Frye has been carrying the scoring load, but he didn't have it last night....and for much of the game Trey Diggs did not either.

You needed other guys to score to win, and BG got them.  Daeqwon Plowden had his best game of the season, scoring 23 points...6 of 9 from 2FG and 3 of 4 from 3FG.  That's a great offensive night in anybody's book.  He made both his FTs, had 10 rebounds, 2 steals and only 1 turnover.  He stepped up when the team needed someone to.

The other stepper-upper was Tayler Mattos.  He scored 12 points...his first double figure night as a Falcon...on 5 of 6 shooting and 2 of 3 from the line.  He added 9 rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal and only one turnover.  Played 26 minutes.  

Mattos has been a pleasant surprise.  He's replacing an all-MAC player and he's not that right now and he's probably not even to the mid-point of MAC post players, but I feel like he's been solid on a team with other good players.  BG has been playing a mostly post-free lineup in the last few games.  I think he's got a shot to be a contributor. BG has a decent track record developing big men.

Dylan Frye scored 10 points and was 1-8 from 3FG.  It happens.  Also, he had 7 assists over 1 turnover.  He was not on the floor over the last 1:41 of the game.

Also, there's no stats for it, but Caleb Fields played a great defensive game on the Oakland PG, leaving him little room to operate.

BG is now 7-2 and #106 in Kenpom.  Next up is the hot mess Cleveland State Vikings--who delivered BG their rock-bottom moment last season.  The next four games--and the last four until MAC play--are against teams ranked 300 or above.

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