Losing a rivalry game always hurts. Losing a rivalry game in a fashion that you feel was avoidable hurts a little extra. Here are my 10 Takeaways from Tuesday’s loss at Dayton.
One –Bright Lights
It’s never good when your star scorer admits that maybe some of his teammates were overwhelmed by the moment.
Gibson Jimerson: “They were pressing us and we’d get in the halfcourt and by then there would be 20 seconds on the clock and we’d be scrambling. It was loud, so sometimes we had trouble hearing what we were running. For some guys it might have been 1st-time jitters a little bit.”
— stu durando (@studurando) January 12, 2022
This is not the first time the group has looked overwhelmed. At Memphis they looked downright shell shocked, and their play reflected it. UD Arena is a hard building to play in, but you would think the core of this team would be used to playing amid this type of hostile environment.
Playing in big games is the only way to learn how to play in big games. But it seemed like the Billikens are more prone to being shaken in difficult environments.
Speaking of which…
Two — Decision Making
It’s hard to tell if that hostile environment was the key contributor, but it certainly played a role. The Billikens seemed to repeatedly make decisions that are hard to understand. Hero ball, forcing bad shots at the rim, holding onto the ball for too long, standing still, driving into traffic without looking for an open teammate. And that’s just on offense.
Part of this is game plan, but part of this is not doing what they do best. Which is playing as a team. Yuri Collins rarely has a bad night in terms of leading the offense, but this was a bad game. They seemed disjointed, and independent for way to long. The moments where they weren’t, were obvious and productive. Once Yuri was out of the game, all hell broke loose.
It happens, I’m not worried about it till it happens repeatedly.
Three – Game Plan
I think a reasonable case can be made that the plan that Travis Ford wanted to happen was not the one that we saw. But that can’t be confirmed without knowing exactly what he wanted.
To open both halves, the Billikens were effective in creating three-point chances off dribble penetration, down screens, and in the pick and roll. Eleven of the Billikens sixteen three-point attempts came in the first five minutes of each half.
It seemed as if this is what Travis Ford wanted. It was the message coming out of the locker room to start the game and happened almost identically in the start of second half.
Why did the Billikens get away from this? What changed? It’s possible the Billikens players got overwhelmed and lost their way. Is it possible the Billikens reverted to their default ideology of getting to the rim to draw fouls? But if the fouls don’t come that becomes frustrating.
It’s hard to say. It felt like no one was on the same page for large portions of the game, which leads me to believe that those on the court lost the plot or got confused.
Four – Need More
Yuri Collins is being asked an impossible task. Yet here I am asking for more. It’s completely unfair, and potentially not doable long term, but it seems like it will be necessary.
For this team to be successful, it feels like night in and night out you’re asking Yuri to be a primary defender, score in double-digits, get 7-8 assists, don’t turn the ball over, and don’t foul out.
Now tack on being a selective scorer, orchestrate all the offense, make sure everyone else is where they’re supposed to be, and make on the fly adjustments in lieu of whatever the defense throws at you.
Yuri has the potential to be all these things. He’s shown it. So instead of asking HIM to do more, it may be time were asking someone else to contribute to these more existential questions.
Five – TJ
What a game from Terrence Hargrove Jr. Of all the guys out there, TJ clearly was not overwhelmed by the moment. He rose to the occasion and did so in the face of a hostile environment.
If I’m coaching this team, I’m asking for more of this from TJ. Keep showing that confident stroke and teams will have to respect it. More than anything, keep showing that you’re not scared of the moment.
Six – An Identity Change?
At the beginning of the season, Travis Ford highlighted that one way SLU was going to make up for the lost scoring output of Javonte Perkins was going to be to try and get to the line and shoot free throws. Thus far, it’s worked out well. They shoot it well; they’ve been good at manufacturing that particular outcome.
Now that we know what we’ve got in this team, we see they have guys who can score, is it time to start building a system that highlights their abilities? For a team with guys who can shoot it as well as they can, the identity of this team seems way to…uninterested in taking that shot. They’re top 100 in three-point shooting percentage, but 332nd in attempts.
I’m not saying clear out and start taking highly contested jumpers from the logo. But there’s a middle ground here.
Seven –Bench Depth
It’s hard to be critical of bench depth when you’re missing a major aspect of this rotation. Really two pieces, but Marten is who I’m talking about here.
Fred Thatch is clear bench depth, and a vital player, but beyond that it feels very shallow right now. Ford has started to go to Markhi Strickland periodically, but not for anything consequential. DeAndre Jones is the defacto back-up point guard, but he hasn’t shown us a lot and is really hard to play in the two role beside Yuri. Lassina Traore has been effective for what he’s being asked of but ideally, he’s your good third guy in the center spot.
Then there’s Rashad Williams who has been stapled to the bench. While he hasn’t been great in his incredibly limited time, maybe it time to see what you got there. It’s hard to believe he has no role in this group…we’re talking about a guy who was a top three point shooter in the nation last year… unless there’s something we really don’t know about.
Like asking too much of Yuri… but until this team can prove to play even limited minutes without him, Yuri needs to hold back on defense and keep himself in the game. An easy two, or non-steal is worth having him in the game.
Nine – Beating Yourself
When I asked the coaching staff what went wrong the first response was “we beat ourselves.” I don’t know if it’s quite that simple (meaning if pressed, I would bet they would have a more nuanced answer) but it was certainly a key aspect.
Billiken mistakes allowed the Flyers to create momentum to capitalize on. They took one mistake and made it an 8-point run instead of a blip on the radar. With each error compounding on the last.
Part of this comes from being overwhelmed. Part of this comes from trying to be the hero. If this bug can be nipped out, that raises the floor of this team significantly and makes everything easier.
Ten –Big Stretch
The Billikens are about to go on a 10-game stretch where they will be the statistical favorites. Eight of which are expected to be teams in the bottom half of the league. You win all 10, you’re back in the at-large conversation…stumble…it’ll be a long season. At the very least, go 6-0 before the Dayton Flyers come back to Chaifetz Arena.
Now is the time to really work out who you are, solidify what you do, and become the team you hope to be.