It didn’t take more than a few minutes after the first buzzer sounded that the overreaction began. It happens every year, so I’m in no way surprised.
But as I always do at this point, and as I even did in today’s first word, I caution reading too much into today’s games; good or bad. For some teams, like the Eagles, today is a great starting point for the season. For others, like the Skyhawks, there’s obviously work to be done.
But one game doesn’t make a season.
..unless that’s game is in March. Here’s tonight’s Final Word:
Morehead State 77, Long Island 74
Milton Chavis scores 24 points off the bench, Khalil Ownes adds 21 of his own, as Morehead State holds off a late LIU rally to earn their first win in the Sean Woods era.
With 2:49 left in the second half, Morehead State held a 75-64 lead over the Blackbirds, before Long Island rattled off 10 straight points, trailing by just one in the final 6 seconds. Bakari Turner made two three throws for the Eagles, and a last second heave fell short, giving the Eagles a solid win in New York to open the season.
If you’re looking for signs from this game, the Eagles 3-point defense was terrific, as LIU-Brooklyn hit just 2-16 from deep. They also shot the ball well, hitting 46% from the field, and 39% from deep. But there are negatives, including 19 turnovers, 27 personal fouls, and just 8 free throw attempts. Morehead State also struggled to contain Jamal Olasewere, who finished the game with a game high 26 points.
As for tempo, tonight was a somewhat successful start to speeding up the pace: Morehead State had 75 possessions in the win; Last season, they averaged just 62.
Tennessee-Martin 68, Arkansas-Little Rock 84
UT Martin’s defense picked up where it left off last season. No, that’s not a compliment. Four Trojans finished in double figures, and the Trojans shot 46% from the field in a sixteen point win over the Skyhawks.
Two freshman off the bench, John Gillon and James White lit up the Skyhawks for a combined 40 points, and Will Neighbour added a double-double in the win for UALR. White’s 4 offensive rebounds were more than the Skyhawks combined. (3. And it wasn’t for a lack of missed shots)
One bright spot for UT Martin: Myles Taylor, who put 24 points, thanks in part to hitting 10-11 from the free throw line, and two for two from deep. (He only hit three from behind the arc all of last season) Starters Mike Liabo and Justin Childs combined to shoot 4-18 from the field in their 30+ minutes each. Terence Smith fouled out in his first game back, as did Bobby Jones.
Samford 64, Austin Peay 75
The Governors jumped out to a 13-2 start over their former conference foe, and never trailed on their way to a very encouraging opening night victory over Samford. Four Governors finished in double figures, as Austin Peay shot 54% from the field, and 45% from deep. The Governors nine 3-pointers were more than in any game all of last season. By comparison, the Bulldogs hit just 2-24 from deep.
One of the more surprising performance came off the bench by Chris Freeman: 12 points, 11 rebounds in just 18 minutes of play. Will Triggs was very solid, scoring a team-high 15 points, and adding seven rebounds.
On the down side, Austin Peay forced just seven turnovers on the night, and struggled to contain Tim Williams who finished with a game high 25 points on 10-18 shooting. The rest of the Bulldogs: just 17-52.
Eastern Illinois 53, Bradley 76
Panthers head coachJay Spoonhour told us he didn’t know if his team would be able to score. Tonight was not a good sign. The Panthers shoot 35% from the field; allow the Braves to shoot 58% in a blowout loss to start the Spoonhour era in Charleston.
Despite the struggles, the Panthers led in the early going in this one, before the Braves outscored EIU 21-7 over the last 9:01 of the first half. From there, Bradley was never threatened outside of a small second half run by Eastern Illinois.
Morris Woods was somewhat solid in his first outing, finishing with a team high 14 points and 8 rebounds. He was able to get to the line, led the team in assists, but also led in turnovers. The Panthers had no answer for Tyshon Pickett who finished 9-12 from the field.
Reinhardt 63, Jacksonville State 93
It may have been against a non Division-I opponent, but an impressive offensive output for team that hasn’t broken 90 since December of 2009. It was a balanced effort from the Gamecocks with four players in double figures, and 13 players posting points in the Gamecocks opener.
Despite the big win, it was far from wire-to-wire. Jacksonville State trailed by one with 2:48 left in the first half before finishing on a 10-2 run, never looking back from there. The one offensive category the Gamecocks didn’t succeed is one they struggled in all of last season: 3-point shooting. Jacksonville State shot just 2-13 from behind the arc.
The Gamecocks pulled down 13 offensive rebounds on just 22 missed shots, but turned over the ball 15 times in the win. Jacksonville State also had 20 assists on 33 made baskets.