For the home-team, (its) eleven first-half turnovers set the stage in a Big-5 game that never saw the Cats impose its will on the Hawks of St. Joes. On the Hawks way to-victory, Ex-Nova Assistant Coach, Billy Lange, utilized the exact game-plan that worked for the Quakers two weeks ago when Penn bested the Wildcats by four at the Palestra. Just like Penn was able to do with its two-three zone on the defensive end, the Hawks’ version of the two-three gave the Cats fits all-night; as the away-team hung its hat on preventing dribble-penetration, not falling for ball-&-shot fakes, and overwhelming Cats ball-handlers with timely double-teams and active-hands.
With two of the Hawks’ defenders routinely positioned at the top of the perimeter (and) in the middle of the floor, Nova’s primary ball-handler, Justin Moore, couldn’t find a way to attack the interior with his dribble while settling for contested three-balls along with a slew of questionable passes that led to turnovers. Although Nova’s fifth-year senior point-guard found a way to finish the Big-5 affair with 17 total-points, Moore’s ability to lead the Cats in-scoring was undermined by his 3 for 12 shooting-effort from 3 (and 6-16 overall) not to mention his four turnovers.
While the Cats found themselves down 8 points at half-time, Eric Dixon scored two of his 14 total-points with a nice-finish off-the-glass at the rim as time-expired in the first-half; and the 6-foot 8-inch power-forward was beginning to assert himself in the painted-area once the first-half came to a close. But, Dixon was limited to 27 minutes of playing-time for the entire-game as early foul-trouble became problematic; and the Cats’ All-Big East front-court leader found himself being targeted by Billy Lange’s offensive-scheme.
Specifically, the Hawks’ trio of 6-foot 2-inch guards in junior-Erik Reynolds, freshman-Xzayvier Brown, and junior-Lynn Greer couldn’t be kept-down by Dixon and his Nova-teammates; as the Hawks’ skilled back-court shot the lights-out while combining for 21 made field-goals on just 32 shot-attempts including 24, 16, and 15 points; respectively. As part of the guards’ 55 points together, the trio knocked-down 10 of its 14 deep-balls and executed their head-coach’s effective-scheme to near-perfection; an offensive-strategy that skillfully picked-apart the Nova-(man-to-man) defense by taking advantage of its tendency to switch-everything.
Too many times, Nova’s defensive-switches left Eric Dixon exposed on-the-ball and out-on the perimeter; thanks to the fact that the big-man was on an island of his own while (also) being (at a disadvantage; and) forced to guard the Hawks’ elite-backcourt one-on-one. The Hawks’ head-coach was crafty and savvy enough to utilize the kinds of high, on-ball screens mixed in with dribble hand-off’s and ball-movement that freed up St. Joes’ best-guards to-play one-on-one against (Nova-) front-court defenders like Dixon and Lance Ware. Moreover, Lange was keen on getting his team to play with pace; a faster-tempo that made Nova uncomfortable from the get-go.
As for Nova’s quadruplet of transfer-players in this demoralizing game, the upper-classmen combined for 77 minutes of playing-time and only managed to score 12 points on a 5 for 14 shooting-display. Last season’s All-PAC 12 honorable-mention player, TJ Bamba, had a dismal performance and finished the Big-5 show-down with a single-point on five-missed shots from the floor and a couple of turnovers. The Kentucky-transfer from Camden, New Jersey, Lance Ware, played just 8 minutes with no-points on zero-shots and, for good measure, (he had) one-turnover alongside one personal-foul. Like Dixon, Ware was forced to check (/guard) the Hawk’s small(-er) guards more than once during his short-run and, perhaps unlike Dixon, the 6-foot 9-inch transfer got-caught (sleeping by defending the perimeter) with his hand-down and, another time, he failed to chew-up (the) space between him and the ball-handler/shooter; who made Ware and his Cats pay (-by converting FG’s).
Two-time All A-10 selection-player, transfer Tyler Burton (Richmond), struggled to find his footing in the loss and was held to just 5 points on a 2 for 4 shooting-effort during his 28-minute run. Like the former Washington State guard, Burton is a wing-threat with (good-) size-&-athleticism who has a history of scoring the basketball at his original school. Also, both transfers are used to playing off-the-ball, on-the-wing, and creating scoring opportunities with their own dribble. Unfortunately, neither player has shown they’re capable of sinking outside-shots on a consistent basis; a hallmark of guard-play in Nova’s storied-past.
For the most part, the Washington State and Richmond transfers don’t appear to be very comfortable (in) shooting the long-ball; as they seem (to be) reluctant to pull-the-trigger when the opportunity presents itself and, on the somewhat rare-occasion they do decide to hoist a 3-ball, their shooting-form is nothing to write home about and their misses aren’t exactly what Brendan Hausen’s look like. That being said, even the 6-foot 4-inch sophomore-sharpshooter (Hausen) was unable to piece together a full-game of consistent-scoring, given how the young-guard from Amarillo, Texas, was feeling-it early before cooling-off in the second half and finishing the game with 9 points on a 3 for 10 shooting-display; with all 10 of his shots coming from-3.
As for Maryland-transfer (in) , Hakim Hart, the 6-foot 8-inch Roman Catholic grad tallied his 6 points and 3 rebounds (in addition to his 3 for 5 shooting-effort) in just 10 minutes of action. Like Bamba and Burton (and Ware), however, the All-Big Ten honorable-mention Terrapin doesn’t shoot the long-ball (well or) with a stroke that’s all-that convincing, and his shooting-motion appears to be a bit of a push-shot (that comes) from-the-chest. Still, Hart is an excellent athlete who can stretch the floor with his size and athleticism; and he’s going to be an asset (especially) against the teams that aren’t as perimeter-oriented as St Joes and Penn are.
Throughout Nova’s 13-point loss to its (originally-) 12.5-point underdog-foe, the favorites couldn’t apply enough pressure to its opponent on the offensive end of the floor. While 65 points isn’t exactly a bad showing in terms of point-total, it’s far from rock-solid; and given how the Hawks’ defense was (so consistent in its scheme; or) able to lean on its 2-3 zone from start-to-finish; it’s strange the home-team struggled to score the ball as much as it did. In past seasons, well; maybe not last-year, Nova’s shot the 3-ball willingly and with supreme-confidence. These days, the Cats aren’t built the same as they once were; and this version of Nova clearly relies on their ability to play down-hill and get-out in-transition (and) more than (other) Nova-squads in recent-history.
Once again, the Cats of new-times have been brought back to earth by a troubling loss; shortly after riding a (short wave of a) high that’s failed to persist. During this surprising loss for the Cats, its second-year coach, Kyle Neptune, was back-at-it with his nervous-tick; where he twists the hairs of his beard in a seemingly ceaseless display of trepidation.
In spite of Neptune’s outwardly tight physical-expressions, the 38 year old head-coach can only do so much; and as St. Joe’s guards were feasting on the Nova defense from beyond the arc (14 for 27 from-3) , the Cats had no-luck (in) returning the favor with only 10 makes on 37 attempts from three-point territory. Still, Neptune’s defense seemed out of touch with the personnel it was facing; from a game-plan standpoint and a literal or physical perspective. To-be specific, Nova’s perimeter-defense wasn’t closing-out on the Hawks’ shooters diligently and, at times, untimely/bad fouling was costly.
Unlike old times, the Cats were undisciplined on too many of its defensive possessions against the Hawks speedy-attack; including a 16-minute, five-point, and five-foul run from sophomore-guard, Mark Armstrong, that was littered in avoidable errors. Since the 6-foot 2-inch under-classman first arrived on Nova’s campus, he’s proven he can play with pace, attack defenses off-the-dribble, and finish at/around the basket using his impressive-hops and body-control. On the flip side, the young-guard hasn’t (yet) developed much of a perimeter-&-jump shot and he’s still learning how to be a reliable presence on defense.
Almost a carbon-copy of the Penn-game only without the late-rally that (also) began too late, the Cats latest-loss can be mostly attributed to its inability to attack a physical, 2-3 zone along with a well-prepared opponent that came ready to-play; via its game-plan and its tenacious presence all over the floor.