It was a great shooting night for the Cowboys as they downed the Bears in a game they lead the entire way. What hovered around a 3-6 point lead for most of the first and early second half, stretched to a 10-16 point lead with about 12 minutes left in the game and the Cowboys secured the victory from there. The usual solid defense showed up, but the most reassuring thing about this victory was that this Cowboy team, which up to now has had a lot of problems putting make-able shots in the basket, shot 57.8% overall, 46.7% from three, and 78.1% from the line (and that was after starting 5-12 on FTs).
There was a lot of nice ball movement in the halfcourt set for a change which lead to the most easy shots we have seen this team get all season. A common (and my favorite) set was to spread the floor and move it around the perimeter until some space opened up in the high post. Then either hit Moses there or drive to the high post and pull up, dump it to a baseline cutter, drop it for Moses, or kick for an outside look. There was a lot of successful baseline utilization in general as the Bears mixed in some zone that the Cowboy slashers (Brown, Olukemi, Pilgrim, D. Williams) were able to get behind for some easy points (and a couple of nasty Olukemi and Pilgrim dunks).
The main negative would be some questionable passing in transition and in the halfcourt sets trying to hit backdoor cutters under the basket from the top of the key. There were about 5 attempts that I can remember of the guards trying to thread needles that shouldn't have been attempted... 2 turnovers early from this and a couple of fast breaks and delayed breaks were nullified by errant passes.
A smaller, second negative would be on the offensive glass where the Cowboys only pulled down 4 rebounds, by far the fewest of the season (average 14 per game). I say this is a small negative because the much higher shooting percentage obviously lead to fewer opportunities on the offensive glass.
Overall the defense was once again pretty impressive. The man-to-man was solid, most of the time the Bears driving guards were re-directed or cut off, the big men were hedging on ball screens, and the switches and help side was good. Sure there were mistakes, most notably that no one could stop PG Nafis Ricks (but I don't know that anyone in the country could stay in front of that guy, he has excellent handles, he sees the court, and can finish in a variety of ways...if the NCAA held a one-on-one tournament Ricks might win the whole damn thing), C Will Creekmore was able to showcase some of his nice post moves, and there were a lot of open three attempts, but those are things that were expected and in the end they only gave up 70 points (5 below the Bears average... and this was a fast paced game).
Markel Brown is impressive. He hit three threes and showcased some great form and rhythm in doing it. He has one of those shots that just always looks like it will go in. He also had a few (at least 5 that I can remember) nice passes that lead to good shots that came from slashing into the lane and either dropping it to Moses or kicking to an outside shooter. He was only credited with 2 assists but he deserved a few more as on two of those passes the shooter was fouled and on one Marshall Moses missed a layup. He plays good defense too. Sure Nicks blew by him a few times but Brown did as good of a job as anyone at staying in front of him. My favorite Markel sequence was with 10 minutes to go in the game he had an amazing feed to Williams from the wing when Williams was on the block on the opposite side of the floor. Brown saw that Williams man was shading to Moses side ready to double him on the near block, so Brown whipped a pass from the three point line, across the lane, to the opposite block for an easy lay in. Then he ran back down the court and soared above the bigs for a tough rebound on the next Missouri State possession. This dude is going to be special.
Speaking of great games, Jean-Paul Olukemi finished with 21 points on 5-5 shooting. Yes those numbers are correct... he only took 5 shots and had 21 points. That is what getting to the line 12 times will do for you. Olukemi had a nice dunk with 9:26 left in 1st where he drove the lane hard and elevated between 4 Bears from a step inside the foul line and threw it down hard. And had another nice one driving baseline with 14 minutes left in the 2nd. Great game by him... he loves to attack the basket and really forces the defense onto their heels.
I will put the Plus/Minus stuff up tomorrow or Monday, but I will go ahead and say that there is no reason Olukemi and/or Brown shouldn't be on the floor most of the time (and really I prefer both). They add so much vertical game and athleticism to the floor that Sidorakis and Page/Penn at the SG are lacking. I loved, loved, loved (love x 3) the lineup of Page, Brown, Olukemi, Moses, Pilgrim/Williams. I would like to see it with Penn rotating with Page at that PG spot as well.
Keiton Page had another nice Keiton Page game finishing with 23 points on 7-14 shooting (3-7 from three) but did have 5 turnovers (he was responsible for 3 of those bad transition passes I mentioned earlier). I really liked how Page got most of his looks in the flow of the offense instead of having to run those special plays for him where he runs around 9 screens.
Welcome Matt Pilgrim the enforcer!!! There was an intentional foul by Jermaine Mallett when he came down hard on Brown who had a clear path to the basket. A second later Pilgrim bumps Mallett with his shoulder in a "don't fuck with my boy" manner and gets whistled for a technical. It was kind of a cool sequence as you could see the Pokes on the bench pumping each other up about it. Stuff like this is what leads to teams gelling and stepping their game up.