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A play-by-play guy trying to survive in a mid-major world

Archive for the month “November, 2011”

Ready to Bounce Back

For the first time this college basketball season the IUPUI Jaguars faced a Division I opponent. Tuesday night in Little Rock Arkansas the Jags faced a team that had speed, height, and a willingness to rebound unlike any of the previous three teams they played.  In the end they fell behind late in the first half by 16 points and a furious 2nd half rally fell short resulting in a 75-70 loss.  Todd Howard’s bunch is 1-1 after two regular season games and will try to bounce back Friday night in Milwaukee.

Tuesday night IUPUI played pretty good basketball, but failed to rebound and were outscored in the paint.  UALR was out-rebounded in their previous two games by an average of 13…they finished +7 against IUPUI and had 10 more board than the Jags at the half.  “That was a big key in the game.  When Christian (Siakam) got the two quick fouls it changes us inside.”  Coach Howard continued, “when he is out on the floor he rebounds and creates space to allow other guys to rebound.  Without him in there, they really bunched things up.  When you lose on the boards, you will lose in the paint, and the other team typically shoots more free throws than you.”  UALR made 18 free throws, one more than IUPUI attempted.

Overall the head coach was pleased with the offensive play and his players can use this as a wakeup call.  “Honestly, I thought last year we only had two games where our offense was better than it was tonight.  That was against IPFW (at Conseco Fieldhouse) and Oakland (at the fieldhouse).  We had really good spacing and took some good shots, but it wasn’t enough.  I plan on showing the guys video of our good plays and telling them that they far outweigh the bad offensive plays.”

The Jaguars don’t have much time to dwell on the loss.  The team will bus to Milwaukee tomorrow afternoon for the Friday game.  After that it is a showdown Sunday afternoon vs. Eastern Michigan and then on Wednesday they will play on the road at Ball State.  The guys will have to be ready to play and they will have to do some preparation on their own.  The Jags will not practice on Wednesday (NCAA rules mandate you need to take a day off) so it’s up to them to study and scout Milwaukee.  I’m looking forward to see how they bounce back against a Horizon League foe.


It didn’t take long for the subject of conference realignment to be brought up at Arkansas-Little Rock.  UALR competes in the Sun Belt and won the conference tournament last spring advancing to their first NCAA tournament in 21 years.  Just after I set up my radio equipment an usher walked over to me and asked it I heard anything about UALR joining the Summit League.  This summer Oral Roberts is leaving the Summit to joint the Southland Conference leaving the League with 9 teams.  Is UALR a candidate to joint the league?  They belive they are.  It appears, according to the usher, UALR is worried they will be forced to leave the Sun Belt because they don’t have a football program.  Rather than lose the ties with the Sun Belt, they may begin snooping around the Summit League.  This doesn’t seem to be much of a secret in Little Rock, but it was news to me.  Can I really take the word of an usher?  I did a little digging of my own and it does look like UALR would look into the Summit.  I didn’t talk to many people, but those I did speak with were quick to say they really like the Sun Belt and the long rivalries.  However, as we have found out with the recent conference moves…that doesn’t mean much to universities.

UALR has a tremendous basketball facility and their state of the art practice facility that was donated by Alum Derek Fisher.  He played for the Trojans in the early to mid-90’s and his name is on the practice court.  The facilities will make UALR a player in the Summit League.  I’m only on board if Indianapolis finds a direct flight to Little Rock.


Senior point guard Stephen Thomas returned to the court 14 days after injuring his right ankle.  The 5th year player came off the bench, but started the second half and played very well for missing two weeks.  The challenge was fitting him back in with the team after missing so much practice time.  He played 29 minutes and according to him, “felt more like 40 minutes.”  He was sore and tired from seeing his first action since the injury on November 1st.  The next step is to see if he returns to the starting lineup on Friday.  I’d bet on it.


Greg Rice started at the point the past two games with Thomas on the sidelines.  The redshirt sophomore continued to impress hitting all three of his shots from beyond the arc and scoring in double-figures.  At the start of the second half coach Howard went with Rice and Thomas in the back court leaving Sean Esposito on the bench.  There is no doubt that Rice brings you effort and production when he is out there on the floor.  He can hit shots (more importantly he’ll take a big shot) and can play defense.  Espo has started the past two games and we’ll find out if he will stay there or come of the bench on Friday.  If he comes off the bench he’ll be the #1 shooting option on the second unit and that may fit him perfectly.  Oh, and why “THE GIANT?”  Rice went to Ben Davis and I’m convinced he thinks he is 6-6 235 pounds instead of 5-11 188.  He’s a bulldog on the court and I like watching him play.

I mention Rice has the guts to take a tough shot and even a big shot if needed because IUPUI is looking for that guy.  Tuesday night the Jaguars were making a run and it looked like they really missed graduated Senior Leroy Nobles.  The 2011 2nd team all-Summit League performer was THE guy to take and hit a game changing three.  Obviously he isn’t with the team and they need to find the next Nobles.  At times it looked like Thomas and Alex Young didn’t trust who was camped on the wing ready to shoot.  Maybe I’m way off, but a big shot was needed late in the game and no one was able to hit it or find the right shooter.  With time IUPUI will have to find that shooter.  Who knows, maybe it’s Greg Rice.


Finally, you have  to see the latest video at  Check out this great video of head coach Todd Howard mic’d up at practice.  It’s on the right had side of the page and you can play the video right from the main page.  David Harris from Webstream Productions did a terrific job and I think you’ll like it.

Join me for the play-by-play Friday night from Milwaukee at 8 EST.  In the meantime I’d love you hear from you at





The Todd Howard era finally gets underway and this time the games and the stats will count.  After winning both exhibition games the IUPUI Jaguars will tip of their regular season against the Anderson University Ravens.  With all due respect to the Ravens, tonight’s game will have the look and feel of a regular season game, but this should be a cupcake for the Jags.  The two teams are meeting for the 3rd straight year, but this game is a IUPUI regular season game for the first time since 1997.  IUPUI has won the last two years by an average margin of 25 points.  The game counts for the Jags, but it’s an exhibition for the visitors.  Tonight I expect a win and don’t expect too many questions to be answered.  The real test will be on Tuesday night when the Jaguars hit the road to play Arkansas Little Rock.


Coach Howard is not changing much, but he is making sure that the program reflects his style and beliefs.  The tradition and rock solid foundation that was laid down by Ron Hunter is still there with a little tweaking by the new head coach.  First there was the first ever open Red-White Scrimmage and a few days later he invited every former player to take in a Saturday morning practice.  That was a huge hit with the team and the players.  (A more indepth look at that practice will be coming your way early next week.)  So Todd has added some new events, but the one thing everyone will notice this season is the new uniforms.

L-R Seniors Christian Siakam, Stephen Thomas, Alex Young

The uniforms have been changed for the first time in several seasons and the team will sport white, black, and gold uniforms.  The new uniforms are by NIKE and the players absolutely love them.  Alex Young likes the change.  “The uni’s are smooth and comfy and what I like is this has a coach Howard look to it.  The new look says it’s a new time and the coach Howard era is here”

Howard is trying to become the first IUPUI head coach to win his debut since Mel Garland won his debut in 1979.  Now, to be fair only two other coaches have been on sidelines since Garland was the head coach.  Bob Lovell lost his debut in 1982 and Hunter fell in his debut back in 1994.

The team will be busy once the season tips tonight.  They will play Tuesday at Little-Rock then a week from tonight against Horizon League foe Milwaukee.  Less than 48 hours after tipping off in Milwaukee the fellas will be home for a Sunday afternoon game vs. Eastern Michigan.  Wednesday November 23rd is the first of two match-ups against Ball State and three days later it’s back home for Texas Southern.  November concludes with a trip to DC against the Georgetown Hoyas.  Add it all up and including tonight the Jaguars will play 7 times over the next 18 days.


All eyes this season will be on Summit League preseason player of the year Alex Young.  AY5 joins George Hill as the only player to take home the preseason honors.  Here is where he ranks among the university’s all-time greats:

Career Points:

Carlos Knox                      ’94-’98                   2,556

Aldray Gibson                 ’83-’87                  2,454

Jesse Bingham                ’85-’89                  1,928

Alex Young                       ’08-present         1,633

–couple of things on this list…Knox is the untouchable number and he is did it in only THREE SEASONS.  Plus, how good was the Gibson/Bingham duo in the mid-eighties?

Career Rebounding:

Alex pulled down 211 rebounds a year ago.  He enters this season with 479 career rebounds.  Another season of 200 boards and he will end up his career in the top 5.

Don Carlisle                     ’97-’01                   769

Brandon Cole                  ’02-’06                  703

Jesse Bingham               ’85-’89                  703

Charles Price                   ’97-’02                   688

Tony Long                        ’87-’91                   639

Alex Young (13th)           ’08-present          479

Minutes Played (D1 only):

Brandon Cole                  ’02-’06                  3,717

Leroy Nobles                   ’07-’11                   3,479

Matt Crenshaw               ’00-’04                  3,477

Alex Young (7th)             ’08-present         3,053

–AY totaled over 1200 minutes during the 2010-2011 season, so it’s a pretty good bet that he will be the all-time leader in minutes played.  He could eclipse the mark on January 12 at home vs. Southern Utah.

You can see where Young ranks in some pretty heavy categories.  Another number for you…Young and Christian Siakam (5th year Senior) have been a part of 60 wins in their
career.  Not sure where that ranks in the all-time D1 list, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them end up with 85 for their career?


Senior Stephen Thomas is not expected to play tonight, but he may suit up for Tuesday’s game at Little-Rock.  “I have been living in the training room from sun up to sun down.  I’m feeling better each day and my goal is play on Tuesday.”  The point guard severly sprained his right ankle at the end of the first exhibition game.  The timeline has always been 2-3 weeks and if he plays on Tuesday that puts him in the 2 week category.  Thomas is working hard, but it still may not be enough.  Coach Howard is cautiously optimistic.  “He is feeling better, but when you are coming back you can feel great and then plateau.  We need to make sure that he isn’t at the plateau and to him 50% feels like 100% when it clearly is not.  Once he can prove to the Jess (Jessica Shaefer, IUPUI Athletic Trainer) that he is healthy and improving we will give him a look.”


Tonight’s game can be watched online at and you can hear the play-by-play for free at  Due to a prior scheduling conflict this game will not be on the radio dial.  It was expected and you can expect to find the Jags on their new home 1260 am on Tuesday night from Little-Rock.

I would love to hear from you a and you can follow my tweets at






Did that count?

On Tuesday night Todd Howard and the IUPUI Jaguars took to the court for an exhibition game vs. IU-East.  The Red Wolves from Richmond Indiana entered the game ranked 21st in the NAIA rankings and based on the twitter and fan reactions the Jaguars entered the game ranked 21st in all of college basketball.  IU-East controlled the tempo, hit some shots, and lead the Jags for most of the game.  The home squad finally took control mid way through the 2nd half and took home a 87-77 win.  The fans expected a more lopsided game, but remember it was an exhibition and it is a great way to work out the kinks, and believe me there are kinks.  But nothing to get too worked up about…at least not yet.  The visitors drilled 9 three’s, but IUPUI dominated the glass and points in the paint.  In the end IU-East wore down and Coach Howard survived his first game.  I’m wondering should everyone be down after a 10 point exhibition win?

Look around the Summit League and you will see that preseason favorite Oral Roberts cruised in their exhibition game while UMKC and North Dakota State lost in exhibition play.  After one night are the fans of the ‘Roos and Bisons done with the season?  No, it was an exhibition game and most of the time it means more for the underdog.  Tuesday night IU-East came out firing and had a solid crowd behind them.  Before the Jags knew whats happened they were down and losing a grip on the game with about 13 minutes to play.  About that time Alex Young scored 6 straight points…then Stephen Thomas chipped in and a huge run ended with Greg Rice drilling a three.  For a solid 4 minute stretch, the Jaguars played like a Division I squad and took it to the NAIA Red Wolves.  That’s all it took, a four to five-minute burst and they went on to win.  Now what did we learn in the exhibition game?

True freshman Lyonell Gaines (Louisville, KY) and Marcellus Barksdale (Lexington, KY) will make a difference at some point this season.  Gaines played 18 minutes scoring 7 points and pulled down 6 boards.  Barksdale had 5 points in 13 minutes, but more importantly, both players saw most of their minutes in the second half when it was a tight ballgame.  Physically Gaines is ahead of most freshman and Barksdale is already one of the team’s top defenders.  You could see coach Howard putting different players on the floor to see how they would react to each other.  Remember it’s an exhibition and yes, IUPUI was trying to win in Howard’s debut, but it was a great time to give minutes to the freshman and sophomore transfer Ian Chiles.  Most of Chiles 21 minutes came in the first half as he found himself in the starting lineup.

Alex Young took over the game while letting the offense come to him.  He had only 6 points at the half and finished with a game high 23.  He played excellent defense and had a few really nice passes to set up his teammates.  Sophomore Greg Rice was my wild card at the start of the season and he was a spark on Tuesday.  Injuries have limited him each of the past two seasons and at times he can be a little too fast, but as he proved in high school, he can score in bunches when given the opportunity.  Rice scored 10 points in 17 minutes hitting four of seven shots from the floor.  He is a bulldog on defense and has a score first mentality at the point, but that may have to change.

It was an exhibition games so I’ll let the coaches worry about the sloppy play, missed defensive assignments, and winded players (yup, a few fellas looked a bit gassed out there.)  The one major concern for me was with under a minute to play, 5th year senior point guard Stephen Thomas went down with a severely sprained ankle.  It was a three on two break and instead of passing to either one of the wings, he tried to split two defenders and landed hard on his ankle.  He let out a scream and the Jungle fell silent.  The good news is it isn’t broken (feared initially by the coaches), but the bad news is it could keep him out for a month.  Coach Howard didn’t sleep well Tuesday night because he was worrying about his floor general who scored 19 points on 12 shots in 28 minutes.  Injuries have limited the career of Greg Rice and now an injury may give him a shot at establishing a role.  The time-table for Thomas is 2-4 weeks and the team can only hope this injury doesn’t linger for the length of the season.

I look for better play and flow from the team in their next exhibition game on Monday night vs. Marian University.


I had some audio of Todd Howard and Alex Young, but I didn’t realize that you need to drop some coin to upload audio onto wordpress.  So I can’t upload the goods until I see if the Jags will float me some cash or I’ll have to pony up my own dough.

Here is a quick synopsis of what both men had to say.  Coach Howard said the game was a challenge because of the frantic style IU-East plays.  They roll out five guards and that took away the IUPUI bigs.  (Christian Siakam played only 21 minutes, but did grab 9 boards.)  Once the pace slowed and IUPUI could get IU-East into a set the Jags responded with better defensive rotation and they jumped the passing lanes.

Todd singled out freshman Marcellus Barksdale for his defense and went as far as to say that the young man settled down the Jaguars defense and helped spark the run.  The fans may not realize how good of a scoring team IU-East is and the Jags purposely scheduled this game early to see such a unusual style.

Alex Young didn’t want to say the team came out flat, but he acknowledged the Red Wolves were ready for the challenge and it took the team a while to catch up to speed.  AY was pleased to play with young players and liked the way they responded in tight situations.  I mentioned to Alex that the rest of the league would check the box score to see his numbers and asked if he was ready for that scrutiny.

“Yeah I ready for the pressure and if they aren’t talking about you, then you haven’t done anything.  People can talk and say whatever they want, but the game isn’t played on paper and we will settle games on the court.”


I’ll fix the audio issue shortly and allow you to hear directly from the players and coaches.  It was only one game and it didn’t count, but you better believe there was relief throughout the locker room the Jags won.  It beats the alternative, just ask the fans for UMKC and North Dakota State.  Heck just ask a Butler Bulldogs fan.

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