Is this thing on?

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

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.

NEWS AND NOTES:

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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