First game is in the books for the Red Storm, as they beat Long Island 73-63.
After a sharp and scrappy start, it was a Tums-inducing tour-de-inconsistency, with a pair of star turns from DJ Kennedy (career-high 23 points) and Sean Evans (career high 13 points).
Phil Wait wore a lovely black shirt and tie on the bench to match the black warm-up jerseys. Gary Payton yawned in the stands. The team won without figuring how to bust a 2-3 zone. And no one hurt themselves on that poorly-placed table under one of the basket at Carnesecca Arena.
I don't know if it was the urge to take show-off deep shots to demonstrate range and put up points, as Coach Roberts mentioned in his post game press conference, but there were some bad ideas on the court. And more than 3 bad shots as he stated in the post-game conference.
Not that the team took bad shots - they were in rhythm - but Anthony Mason, in particular, has to stop trying to hit easy deep shots and drive in to pick up fouls and use his passing ability. The team tried to push - and Justin Burrell in particular showed some good vision with a pass, as did Evans.
But too many times, guys like Burrell and Mason were taking threes. Guys, you don't have to prove you can hit those shots. Do that after you've salted away the game and have the other team hanging like cured Spanish meat.
Malik Boothe was very good, displaying a useful jump shot and playing offense and defense like a great point guard. He also played well with two fouls in the first half, and with three fouls in the second. Paris and Quincy Roberts were okay bringing the ball up when they had to. TyShwan Edmondson - along with Paris Horne and Quincy - didn't seem like they could make any plays happen form the point position, however, and that's going to be an issue going forward on this team.
Defensively, I saw a good commitment from Mason and good footwork from Kennedy. Mase blocked some shots, and Evans was good at ending possessions with his rebounding (11 boards, 7 defensive). Jaytornah Wisseh was stifled, though Kyle Johnson got a number of good looks.
It was a win that left the fans and coaches thinking that there is a lot to work on.
Maybe it was jitters. Maybe. There were some promising performances, and some worrisome moments... like Dele Coker picking up 4 fouls in 8 minutes just like LAST YEAR.
From the Keys to the Game:
Smother and Steal? For 33 minutes, the point guard play was generally solid; Malik Boothe even hit some outside shots, and shows confidence in his jumper, DJ Kennedy attacked outside in, and with the help of Boothe, Mason, and Horne, harassed Jay Wisseh into a horrible night. But in spurts, they couldn;t stop Kyle Johnson... and the other 8 minutes were interesting.
New Year, New Flow? Boothe and crew looked fluid for stretches, especially in the 15-3 run to open the game. And then they looked horrible, especially when Boothe went out with 2 fouls in the first half. Ty Edmondson got a chance for 2 minutes and looked lost. Quincy Roberts looked much better, but was more comfortable off the ball. The ball didn't get inside to Justin Burrell enough, especially when the Blackbirds played zone. Sean Evans looked pretty good, hustling from spot to spot. And Burrell was good in making quick moves and passing out of double teams.
Bully Sticks? Evans was tough inside, and really has developed nicely - even passing. But some of the other players were out of position, or making silly fouls. Coker's sudden urge to jump up in the second half, garnering his 4th foul was an example. 4 fouls against this kind of competition is not a confidence builder, ticky tack fouls or not. He still has to control his body. Burrell did not always assert his will on the interior going for rebounds. Kennedy's aggression in going to the hoop was nice to see.
So, who’s the Shooter? All the questions about the team remain unanswered. Rob Thomas looked slow and played sparingly; the squad went 4-23 from the three-point line, and under 40% from the field. Mason couldn't find the range (though he made some nice moves going to the hoop). Justin apparently thought he should try out his range... and missed the 2 threes he's attempted. He does display some consistency from the free throw line, so he might have that range... maybe. Quincy's shot looked very good. Like water, as they say.
A Comfortable Cushion? That was NOT a comfortable game. From the fouling to the point guard issue, to the bricklaying shooting...