It’s a statistic I’ve been talking about since the first game of the season. Heading into the tournament, the Racers were 13th in the nation at forcing turnovers, averaging 16 a game.
Today, they forced 22.
And because of that, the Racers were able to weather 39% shooting, 50% shooting from the free-throw line, and being outrebounded by 8, on their way to a 58-41 win over Colorado State.
Isaiah Canaan led the Racers with 15 points, but hit just 4-13 from the field, and 1-6 from deep, and never got into rhythm. Donte Poole finished with 13, scoring the Racers first 8 points of the game, but might have suffered a broken nose in the second half.
Almost anyone that’s watched the Racers this season will tell you they didn’t play their best basketball.
And they still won by 17. That has to be a good sign going forward.
The Racers looked a little flat starting off the game, as Colorado State led through much of the first half. The Racers would get an 8-0 run to go up by as much as 5 with 6:54 left, but went cold down the stretch, as the Rams would retake the lead by 1 heading into the locker room.
In an NCAA tournament first, the Rams head coach tweeted at halftime: “Win the half, we win the game.”
They didn’t win the half. Anything but.
The Racers opened the half on an 18-2 run, and never looked back.
Poole’s nose: Is “likely broken” according to head coach Steve Prohm, and Poole is getting x-rays on it. He was able to come back into the game, so it shouldn’t affect his ability to play on Saturday, although I think a face mask is more than likely.
One reason for the Racers poor shooting percentage: …was bad shot selection, especially in the first half. Colorado State was doubling off of every ball screen, making it much harder for the Racers to get those curling 3’s they like so much. Because of that, it took the Racers a while to get into a grove in their half court offense. And since they didn’t have a single fast break point in the first half (1 steal, 9 deflections according to Prohm) the Racers had the rely on their half court offense for all of their scoring. That being said, after halftime, that problem seemed almost instantaneously fixed.
The un-charitable charity stripe: Is it just me, or have we seen the Racers struggle from the free throw line a bit more than usual in the past 3 weeks or so. I mentioned it before, Racers just 13-26 from the stripe in this one. Not a lot can be done about it at this point, but they Racers will (obviously) need to do better to make the Sweet 16 Saturday.
Defense needs more stats: Seriously, the defense was outstanding. 22 forced turnovers, and when the Rams did get shots, they hit just 33% from the field, 21% from 3 point range. What statistically that’s about all I can point too, if you watched the game, you saw the Racers defense at it’s best. They rotated to the ball handler, they rarely got lost on screens, they kept the ball out of the paint, Ed Daniel drew his daily charge. I think a lot of people probably watched the game and go “only 58 points,” and yes, the offense struggled, but holding the Rams to just 41 points, and just 2 points the first 10 minutes of the second half is nothing short of phenomenal.
Fan Support: I’m not sure if they’re release an attendance number for this one, but my guess: 17,000 or so. And I’d bet 90% of those, either in Racers blue and gold, or Kentucky blue, were cheering for the Racers. Kentucky head coach John Calipari apparently tweeted for Big Blue Nation to show up and support the Racers, and did they ever. Not that there was any lack of support from Racer Nation. Now you just have to find tickets for Saturday…