The Zips dodged a bullet last night, and dispatched YSU in overtime, with plenty of good offensive performances to go around.
First, the box score (still waiting for StatSheet to get the +/- run .. hopefully that'll be soon.
I didn't write any notes down last night, so these are from memory the morning after.
With the customary regrets to Sergio Leone, my observations from the JAR:
- Took a punch, landed the last one: KD is fond of this concept, and it's growing on me. It's good to know your team can take a punch and get back up and stand in. While this wasn't the toughest adversity the Zips will face this season, I thought it was a nice early season test of the Zips mettle. They never got down more than 5, but YSU didn't just go away. This is an upgrade over some other games where a 5 or 8 point run early in the 2nd half is enough to blow things open. The Zips needed to stay in this mentally the whole way, and they did that.
- Offense: This will be a strength of the Zips. We saw tonight what can happen when they push the ball inside to start the offense. Career highs from our 2 bigs, and our shooter. These are linked. Brett will continue to see single coverage and good space to work on the perimeter and the mid-range as long as our interior guys are playing well on Offense. This was a nice step for the Offense. Zeke and Nik are showing signs of working well together and appear to have a pretty good sense of where the other one is and what he's going to do. Great to see.
- The Penguins: Flat out the best Penguins mens team I've seen since a guy name Peters was coaching over there. Not just because they pushed the Zips to the brink. Slocum seems to have turned a corner of sorts. Glad to see it. Hope they go 30-1 and tear the Horizon up. And I hope we continue this series.
- Career highs: Nice scoring punch from 3 different guys. The inside out was working well and Zeke was good and kept things moving inside out, especially late in the game. It'd be good to see some more career highs in rebounding to go with it.
- Minutes: 38 minutes from the bench is not going to be enough. Some of this is KD's rotations, but a lot of this is guys coming off the bench and contributing. These guys need to step into the void and give quality minutes and effort when out there. 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist to go along with 4 turnovers is not adequate bench production for this team to be successful in the long haul. An area for improvement.
- The boards: Two things the Zips are doing are naturally counter to being a good rebounding team. #1, they're playing a zone with the big guy patrolling the lane. By definition, if you're in a zone, it's harder to have guys on bodies boxing out when the shot goes up. So zone teams will usually not rebound as well as strictly man teams. #2, with a shot blocker, if you're going to be aggressive in going after blocks, the shot block guy is going to be out of position for the rebound. Larry Nance was never a great guy on the boards because of this. It's going to take some experience and a retraining a bit of the team to adapt to both of these things. Giving up 15 offensive boards to a smaller opponent indicates there's some work remaining. The Rome & Wood front court was an example of a Zips team that blocked a fair amount of shots (Rome) & rebounded well (Wood). So it can be done.
- Shots for Steve: We all would like to see Steve moved over to the 2 more. That will happen more with Alex's development, but we need to have him involved more I think. One thing that will help our bigs inside is if every perimeter player is viewed as a legitimate outside threat. As far as Brett & Daryll go, they're taking enough shots to maintain that. Steve passing up open looks will allow teams to condense the middle a little more. So I think the Zips need Steve to be a little more aggressive with his shots. Alex developing into a 20 minute guy would help that.
- Defensive rotation: It seems like the Zips are playing no D right now, but I think it's a consequence of the process KD is going through in adjusting the team to the strength of his talent. We've not had a stud 7' shot blocker as the anchor of the defense before. The Zips have always played primarily man, with the guys who guarded their man best being the 5 on the floor when it matters. Well now, we're seeing more interest in using a 2-3 zone to leverage Zeke's ability to protect the rim. He's getting better at it, and 3 blocks will grow as the year goes on. But what will happen while this process continues, is that the rotations are a bit slow, or they get caught out of position. We saw that a bit tonight, and against Dayton. While it seems like the Zips are getting killed from outside, they're eventually going to win the battle inside the arc and force teams to shoot lights out from outside to beat the Zips. Case in point vs. YSU, the Zips outscored the Penguins 50 to 36 inside the arc. If they can push that advantage and do better on the perimeter rotations, the defense will improve.
- The Stripe: The Zips shot an anemic 65% from the line as a team, and still made more FT's than YSU attempted. If they shoot a more palatable number, this game is over in regulation. They're not going to shoot 90% as a team, but they need to be above 70 I think. Getting to the line that much is a good indicator of forcing the action at the rim .. but they need to convert. They did when it counted in OT, but regulation wasn't pretty.
- Turnovers: The Assist:Turnover ratio was better than 2:1 as I recall in the Dayton game, but against YSU, the Zips turned it over 13 times. Many of these were somewhat necessary .. so that number can be lower. I think it will be unusual for the Zips to turn the ball over more than the opposition, but it happened. Speaks to the need for stiffer D.
... And a few comments more:
- Zeke's higher level near the end of regulation and overtime show us what kind of upside he has. The 2 rebounds at the end were clutch, and driven by heart and effort as much as his size. I absolutely LOVE this guys instincts in these situations to look for and hit the outside guy immediately in one motion. There wasn't any thinking in that situation .. he went after the ball, and got it where it needed to be. He's starting to look for his shot more .. but the thing that I'm liking more and more is his awareness of the defense and ability to pass out of the double teams. These things will make him a monster because hitting a high percentage outside shooter will earn him some more single teams .. and there's not a guy in the league that can check a 7 footer with a soft jump hook. He seems to play pretty well angry as well .. so like Rob Preston before him, perhaps the staff should find a way to get him fired up.
- The Freshman bigs intrigue me, and I hope they find their groove and can contribute 10-15 minutes consistently before the end of the non-conference. I liked that play were Dakotah got the rebound in traffic and fought it back to the rim immediately without bringing it down. Egner is getting to the line, but needs to sink them. These 2 kids will help the Zips before this season is over.
- The Crowd was decent for an early game .. seemed lively at the end, and was treated to a good basketball game with a nice tempo and lots of offense. I have to believe a bunch of these people will be back on Wednesday to witness another of these regional rivalry games. Another win on Wednesday may go a long way to pushing the average attendance this season up over last year.
They're off and running, and I'm liking what I've seen. Big game Wednesday before a big road trip to 4 solid teams. This schedule will test this team and build it up.
I got 'em on .. do you?