Saturday, February 24, 2024

Sweet Victory

How's that work for you?  What a night.  Incredible crowd.  Just an electric environment.  Enough Rocket fans to make it spicy.  And our boys delivered in a big way.  My heart was pumping for hours afterward.  It is just crazy how good it makes me feel.  So proud of our boys.

As we all know, we came in playing poorly.  You get on home court, you bring in our rivals...and the formulas changed.

It was no fluke.  On this day, we were better.  BG led for 28 minutes, UT for about 9. UT's biggest scoring run was 6.  BG led for the last 21 minutes of the game.

The first half was tightly contested.  There were 4 lead changes and 6 ties. Each team led for about 8 minutes.  BG's biggest lead was 7, UT's was 4.  BG led by 1 at the half.

BG came out of the locker room hot and scored the first 8 points of the half, setting the tone for the half.  It was never a one-score game again. 

UT chipped it to 4 with 14 left to play, but a Thomas FT, a stop and a Hill second chance basket had it to 7.  With 11 left, BG running off a Cochran turnover hit Spurgin for a dunk that brought the house down to make the lead 11.

UT got it to 5 with 4 minutes left when Da'Shawn Philip hit an absolute dagger 3FG from the corner late in the shot clock.  He's not our leading scorer, but he seems to be around when plays are made to win. That made it 8...UT got it to 6 and BG got a fast break off a missed FT and Hill made it 8 with 2:31 left. 

UT missed 3FGs on consecutive possessions and Hill was fouled, converted 2 FTs and BG was up 10 with a minute to play.  That was the game, but, you know, it's like a vampire, they are never dead until the stake goes into the heart.

It was pandemonium.  Suddenly, everyone in the arena is a long-lost friend.  Noise...civilized court storm.  A red-faced Tod Kowalczyk forced into a handshake line.  Damn straight.  It was the best.

As you can see here, BG won three of the four facets and neutralized the fourth. In the previous game, UT kept BG off the offensive boards and off the line, but not this time.

BG ended up with 1.14 points per possession, and UT had 1.02.

I thought BG's shot selection was ideal.  The average team takes 37% of their shots from 3FG.  BG is 11-2 when they try less than that. They are 6-1 when it is under 30%.  This game was 22%, BG's lowest of the season.  BG made 55% and 33%.  Maybe the biggest key was at the line. BG made 18 of 21 and were +5 at the line, something that doesn't often happen to the Rockets.

But make no mistake, the game was won on defense.  UT is an OK defensive team that scores very efficiently.  This was their 3rd worst game in MAC play in terms of offensive efficiency.  It was their 2nd worst in terms of turnovers. They made 40% on 2FGs, their worst in MAC play.  They took only 3 shots inside the cylinder and were 7 of 19 in the paint/outside the cylinder.

BG just played really hard on defense.  UT is hard to guard.  They move the ball and when the scramble is on, they keep the ball moving.  BG had the match this time.

Marcus Hill had 31 points.  It wasn't his greatest night...he was 11 of 22 and 0-2 from the field. He was also 9 of 11 at the line.  Add 6 rebounds, 1 assist, no turnovers, 1 blocked shot and 2 steals.

If something like that might interest you.

Phillip had 11. That's 3-3 and 1-4, but that one was a clutch, gotta have it dagger. Add 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals with 2 turnovers.  Love this guy.

Agee had 10 on 4 of 8 shooting and 2-2 at the line.  11 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.  And, yes, 6 turnovers.  But don't lose the headline here. UT had no answer for him.  He was a wrecking ball on the glass.  Tod will be seeing Agee in his dreams. Finished the game +14.

Thomas had 10.  He was 2 of 4 and 1 of 2.  Also 2 steals in 35 minutes.  He was a calming presence with the ball.  Also +14.

Coach said after the game that Spurgin was sick this week.  With Towns back (6 points and 3 rebounds in 23 minutes) he was able to go only 22 minutes.  I think the depth will help him stay fresher. Humphrey was back and had solid minutes. Greer played only a little and Edwards not at all.

One last thing.  With 6:30 left, UT switched to a full-court press, a solid move against us.  BG turned the ball over and then needed a timeout when they couldn't get the ball in. BG moved the ball effectively through the press the rest of the way.  I don't think we had any more backcourt turnovers.  In our recent history, it hasn't always been that way.

BG moves to 8-6.  The win pretty much ensures they will go to Cleveland, though it isn't clinched yet.  Even more importantly, depending on today's games, they have a shot to get some distance on #6.  Playing in the 4/5 game is better than the 3/6 game.

Miami comes to town on Tuesday.  Let's hope to build some momentum heading into Cleveland.  Coach said at CMU he thought we had turned the corner on defense.  If so, we can still be the team no one wants to see at RM.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Rockets Part II

Quick preview, we all know what we are getting here. The Rockets are tied for first place and are having another good year.  They just keep chugging along.  Rocket fans I have talked to figure that this year--with a team with less marquee talent--is the year they break through to the Big Dance.

BG battled the Rockets at Savage, leading by 5 points with 12 minutes left.  For about 4:30, the Rockets executed at a high level and BG did not and when the dust settled the Rockets were up 9 and ended up winning by 16.  At the highest level, you have to perform at a high level consistently...even a four minute lapse is deadly.

UT has 1.26 points per possession, a total befitting their traditional strong offense.  They shot the ball well and took care of it.  Meanwhile, BG shot the ball decently, but UT kept us off the offensive boards and the free throw line--two things we really rely on--and that was what they needed.

UT defends without fouling.  They are #1 in the MAC and #25 in the nation in opponent FT Rate. They are #64 in fouls per game, but they play at a higher pace, so tempo-free the rate is lower.  They average 7 more FTs a game than their MAC opponents.

Dante Maddox is #3 in the MAC in 3FG.  Raheem Moss is #8 in scoring.  Tyler Cochran is #7 in rebounding. 

BG comes in playing really poorly.  They are going to need to make some shots to compete.  But what better time than a rivalry game to get a fresh start.  We have been better at home. Hopefully, the Stroh will be rocking.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BG MBB Loses to CMU in OT Again

 As they say in the UP, "uff da."

That was a tough one.

Only in the MAC.

For the first half, BG played their 5th straight half of unwatchable basketball. And this was probably the worst of the lot.  BG shot 5 of 20 from 2FG and 0 of 10 from 3FG.  CMU shot awful, too....10 of 24 and 2 of 10.  Add in 7 BG turnovers and the Falcons hit the locker room down 11 and even that was a miracle.

I will give the Falcons credit.  They battled in the 2nd half.  Overall, things only got a little better on the margins, but they got the game to OT.

BG shot 11 of 21 from 2FG and 1 of 6 from 3FG for the second half.  CMU also shot poorly...7 of 17 and 4 of 11.

The difference was free throws.  BG was 14 of 19 at the line for the half and CMU was 2 of 6.

It was well into the second half before it looked like a competitive game.  BG was still down 8 with 12 to go...38-30!!

BG went on a 7-0 run....a huge run in a game like this to cut it to 1 with 9 left and then CMU nailed a 3FG to put it to 4.  BG got it to 1 a couple more times and then took the lead with 4:50 left on a Thomas 3FG...BG's only 3FG of the game.

CMU took the lead right back, though.  Just inside 2 minutes, BG got a turnover, Jason Spurgin ran the floor and dunked the ball and BG had a 1 point lead back.  BG got a stop and board and ran clock, with Agee hitting a 2FG to put BG up 3. 

Pritchard hit 2 FTs (:46) to cut it to 1.  BG ran clock, Hill missed a driving layup but Agee had the board and hit the 2nd chance hoop with an and-one and BG was up 4 with :19 to go.

I know, right?  After all that, in a position where you should win the game.  94% chance, according to kenpom.

Derrick Butler BANKS a 3FG with :11 left.  They fouled Spurgin, who split the pair. BG up 2 with :10 left.  As the clock ran down, Vasko drove into the key, threw a shot up, lost control of the ball and it flew in the direction of the backboard and bounced into the basket.

Cruel fate.

OT was rough to watch.  CMU had three bigs fouled out, and yet BG made 1 basket.  CMU made 2.  Game was tied and BG had the ball with 1 minute left. BG got a shot clock violation, which was pretty emblematic.

CMU ran the clock to :08, Taylor drove into the lane and scored to put CMU up 2.

BG ran the ball up floor to look for a transition advantage, and called timeout with 3.5 left to set a play when it didn't materialize.  They lobbed the ball in to Agee who kicked it back to Hill who missed the shot in heavy traffic and that was it.

Look, CMU is a good defensive team.  BG's 29% EFG was its worst since a 1999 game against WVU, which a good BG team lost by 46. The 6% 3FG shooting was the worst in 14 years.

So CMU is a good defensive team, but probably not the best we have seen in 14 or 25 years.

62-60. IN OT.

Hard to see getting outshot and out-turnovered like this and making it to OT. BG was +17 at the line.

Agee had 18 points.  That's 3-8 and 0-1 shooting, but 12 of 14 at the line, 11 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 3 turnovers.

Hill? 15 points, on 6 of 22 and 0 of 1 shooting.  That's a huge win for the defense. He added 8 rebounds.

Thomas had 11 on 2 of 2 and 1 of 8 shooting.

Spurgin is struggling.  Luckily, with Towns back really for the first time, they were able to hold Spurgin to 26 minutes.  He's played a lot for a big.

Towns played 24 minutes and had 11 rebounds.  Great to see him back.  He had only played 21 minutes total in two games since his early December injury.

DaJion Humphrey did not see action.

Coach said that BG's defense was improved and that "when the offense comes around" we can be a force in Cleveland.  At one point we were #4 in offensive efficiency in the #6.  Reversing that trend is critical, especially as an undermanned team that has, of late, been easy to game plan for, battles fatigue.

BG has been under 30% from 3FG (27% actually) in its last 5 games.

BG is now 7-6 with the Rockets coming in Friday night. They are in 5th place.  You'd like to fall no further than 6, so you have a probable match up with CMU, a team you took to OT twice, or OU, a team you beat.  BG is only 1 game out of 8th and two games ahead of Ball State, the #9 team.

This has been a better season than expected.  And they are in the dark forest right now.  It will be interesting to see if it comes around.

Monday, February 19, 2024


Central Michigan is the clear surprise team in the MAC.  CMU was picked last in the MAC before the season and they are #3 and holding.  They have a bad loss to UB, but their other losses are @UA and @OU. They have beaten UT. They destroyed WMU in their last game and they won their Sun Belt game.  Three of their best players have missed at least one game in the last couple weeks and yet the beat goes on.

They were terrible last year...Kevin Miller transferred to Wake Forest.  Jesse Zarzuela went to Oregon.  MAC FOY Reggie Bass went to Kent.

And here we are.

We played a couple weeks ago and it was a double OT thriller that CMU gutted out without Harding and Pritchard.  BG had the ball with 1 minute left in OT and up 4, and yet the game went to a second OT.  And BG had the ball down 1 at the end of the 2nd OT and failed to get a decent shot.

Look at this.  BG was ridiculously outshot for a game that went into 2 OT.  But, they took excellent care of the ball and got to the line more, ending up +11.  CMU held BG to 43% 2FG and 21% 3FG shooting and that's not a winning position to be in.

CMU is the 2nd best defensive team in the MAC.  They allow .95 points per possession for the entire year and BG has never reached that level on defense for any MAC game.  They are the hardest team to shoot against in the MAC overall, hardest on 2FG and #2 on the 3FG.  BG meanwhile is the #7 shooting team in the MAC.  They also lead the MAC in not giving up FTs, which is something BG relies on.

They are 8th in offense, which makes that result in BG all the more disappointing.  Anthony Pritchard leads them with 14 PPG and 4.3 APG.  Taylor, Harding and Butler score 11 PPG each.  Harding is really good on 2FG (2nd in MAC) and Butler on 3FG (5th in MAC).  Aidan Rubio is #2 in MAC from 3FG.  Taylor is 6'6" and leads the team in rebounds and is #9 in block%.

This is a rough patch in the BG schedule.  They are clearly skidding and have played two clunkers in a row.  They are going to need to rally or this week could get pretty ugly.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

MAC Reset

So with 6 games left, here's a look at how things stand.

Basically, four teams are battling for the 4-7 seeds right now. 

BG plays 2 of the top 3 and none of the bottom 3.
OU plays 1 of the top 3 and 2 of the bottom 3.
KS plays 2 of the top 3 and 1 of the bottom 3--has only 2 home games left.
Miami play 2 of the top 3 and 1 of the bottom 3.

So, I'd say OU has the easiest route, Miami next, BG next and Kent last.  The 4 seed would play the 5 seed.  At 6 it would be CMU, 7 would be UT and 8 would be Akron.  You'd like to avoid those if possible.


Saturday, February 17, 2024

BG MBB Loses to Short-handed Eagles.

Well, that one is going to leave a mark.

Facing a 2-9 EMU team playing without starters Julius Ellerbe and Orlando Lovejoy, BG lost by 9.  It was a little closer at the end, but the score probably does tell the story.  EMU led for 36:38 of the game, BG for less than 2 minutes.  In reality, it was pretty one sided, even if BG did make a run to steal the game late.

It is close whether the 18 point home loss to #312 Bellarmine or this loss is worse....but it's pretty bad either way.  EMU came in ranked #332 and, as mentioned 2-9 in MAC play.  True, BG is without Towns, Smith and Felt....but this was one you needed when you see the next two opponents.

It was pretty bad right from the drop.  Acuff was unconscious...with 11 minutes left in the half, EMU was up 20-9 and Acuff had 15 points.  The lead stayed over 10 most of the way until halftime.  BG had it to 6 with 5:23 left when Acuff answered with a 2FG.  BG had it to 7 inside the last minute and with a stop might have done something, but they did not get the stop and went to halftime down 9.

It was a dreadful half for BG, who shot 26% overall and 14% from 3FG against a 2-3 zone that had me thinking Rob Murphy was still in the building. BG was also 6-10 at the line.

The second half started even worse.  Three minutes in, the lead was 15.  BG rallied a little, went on a 12-2 run to get the lead to 5.  A stop would have played well at this point, but Acuff hit a 3FG instead and a couple minutes later the lead was 10. With 9:17 left BG had it down to 3, but EMU split a pair of FTs, got a stop and Acuff hit a 3 to make it 7.  

BG was down 8 with 3 minutes left.  BG went to full court pressure and was actually effective at it. With 1:53 Philip knocked the lead to 6 and then hit a transition layup off a turnover to make it 4 with 1:41 left.  Unfortunately, those were the last points BG would score.  There's a blocked shot, missing the front end of a 1-1, a highly questionable charge on Agee off a backcourt turnover, etc.  EMU won 69-60.

The lead was never one possession with BG having the ball in the second half.

BG shot 42% overall and 33% from 3FG in the second half, which was better but still really poor. The difference was that EMU shot similar numbers for the second half, which ended up tied.

BG ended up with .88 points per possession, which is just terrible. It's WORSE than the Louisiana game.  EMU finished at 1.01, which is not great but approaching average at least.

Shooting decided the game.  BG had the edge on turnovers, rebounding was pretty close as were FT attempts until the end.  BG made only 10 of 19 FTs.

The thing is, EMU was the easiest team to shoot against in the MAC coming in...and BG made nothing.  

Acuff ended up with 35 of 7 of 10 2FG shooting and 5 of 11 from 3FG, 5 of 11 at the line and 10 rebounds.

Marcus Hill had his streak of 20 points games broken.  He had 19, but it was rough.  He was 5 of 15 from 2FG and 1-5 from 3FG.  That's a victory for the EMU defense. Also 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 turnover.

Thomas had 13, but similar to Hill, had 1 of 4 from 2FG and 3 of 8 from 3FG.

Tough night for Agee (13 rebounds though), Spurgin and Greer.

So, BG is now 7-5 in MAC play, with their next games @CMU and hosting UT.  As I watch this, CMU is up 25 on WMU at McGuirk.

Staring down the barrel at 7-7.  They hold a 3 game lead over the last team out, BSU, with 6 to play.  You'd like to get yourself to #5 so you can have a better shot at making the semis, but that's looking tough.

BG's lost 4 of the last 6 in MAC play. Their kenpom is 247.  BG finished last year at 286.

BG is short-handed and I think might be having some fatigue catch up to them.  In addition, they might have been a little ahead of schedule early, and those chickens are coming home to roost.  I still like our direction, but I think we are seeing it is going to be a little more of a process than we hoped after those first MAC games.

But today's loss is an absolute disaster.  EMU was down 2 starters...just a season-wrecker.

Friday, February 16, 2024

EMU, MBB, Part Deux

Next up, the Eagles.  Part II.

BG now faces the Eastern Michigan Eagles, the first team BG has played twice this season. 

They were picked 11th in the MAC, which is where they are right now.  BG has now beaten them 9 straight and 10 of 11.

They came to BG at 7-5 and 5-5 in D1 games, ranked #305 in the nation.  BG won that one in OT, and EMU is 2-10 since that date, 2-9 in MAC play. They beat Kent in YPSI, also in OT, and then beat UB in YPSI.  They have fallen to 336 entering this game.

As mentioned, the first game went to OT at the Stroh.  BG trailed by 8 at the half and needed a stop in regulation to force OT, which they got and they needed another one to clinch the win, with Hill blocking an Acuff shot to close it out.

While exciting at the time, subsequent events suggest it was closer than it needed to be.  BG fell 12 spots in kenpom with the win.

The stats were as close as you would expect.  The difference was fouls.  EMU committed 29 fouls, which is amazing--there are no tactical catch-up fouls in there.  BG made 24 of 38 at the line, (63%) and EMU made 9 of 14.

It is the most FTs BG has made (tied) and taken in a D1 game this year.  BG is #44 in the nation in FTs attempted per game.  BG got to the line 42 times last year against Morgan State, the highest for the year in the MAC.

The game had the top two scorers in the MAC facing off.  Tyson Acuff had 31 and Hill had 35, as the battle lived up to the billing.  Agee had 19 and 11.

Since then...

Hill now leads the MAC in scoring, in MAC games and all games. In MAC games, Acuff is now #5.

They have played without Julius Ellerbe, who started the BG game, for the last 5 contests.

The Eagles are 11th in offensive and defensive efficiency.  They are last in shooting and defending the shot.  They are the worst 3FG shooting and the worst 2FG defense. They are decent on most other things, though they are last in getting to the line and 11th in FT shooting.  They get only 14% of their points at the line...nationally it is 18%.

As mentioned, Acuff is having more issues in MAC games.  His shooting is down to 48% on 2FG and 20% on 3FGs, of which he has tried 64.  He also leads the team with 3 assists per game. Orlando Lovejoy scores 10.4 PPG on 48% 2FG shooting, also not great. Jalin Billingsley leads the team with 4.9 RPG.

Kenpom has BG winning at 66% and ESPN at 76%.  This is one BG needs to win.