A-10 Sends SEC Into Conference Play On Sour NotePosted by Greg Mitchell on January 6th, 2014
There was an unofficial, inadvertent Atlantic 10/SEC Challenge on Saturday, with three games matching up teams between the two conferences. Unlike the official Big 12/SEC challenge, this one didn’t take five weeks to finish. But the SEC again found itself on the short end of the inter-conference match-up as two league teams were sent into conference play with disheartening losses.
- Richmond @ Florida, the narrow escape. Richmond held a lead in the O-Dome with under seven minutes to go, and it seemed that the Spiders had the recipe to spring the big upset. But Florida outscored the Spiders 22-10 down the stretch and escaped with a win. The up-and-down start for the Gators was probably due to a couple of factors. Scottie Wilbekin had an off game (4-of-13 shooting, two assists) and Richmond often runs a funky, quick version of the Princeton offense. They’re also a solid enough team to take advantage of a better opponent that comes out flat, which describes the Gators on Saturday. The real positive for Florida was that Michael Frazier carried them offensively at times. The sophomore has been very efficient (20.1 PER) and deadly from three (49%), but understandably passive on a team with a number of upperclassmen ahead of him. It’s encouraging for Billy Donovan that Frazier has shown that he can step up when needed.
- Dayton @ Ole Miss, the understandable loss. The Flyers are a good team (#42 KenPom) so this loss, even at home, is not debilitating for the Rebels. The problem is that this was their second overtime loss at home to a good team (the other was Oregon), and either one would have looked great on their season resume. Jarvis Summers has been the Rebels’ best player this season, and yesterday was just another example of this. While Marshall Henderson was wallowing to only three total field goals, Summers scored an efficient 29 points on 9-of-15 shooting and got to the free throw line 12 times. That should have been enough to carry Ole Miss to a win, but the Rebels couldn’t contain Dayton’s Devin Oliver (26 points, 11-of-14 FG). Guarding big, versatile wing players (the 6’7” Oliver had three three-pointers) has been an issue for Ole Miss all year in their losses. Mercer’s Ike Nwamu got loose for 24 points and Oregon forward Mike Moser buried them from deep in the second half (24 points). Aaron Jones (98.9 defensive rating, 9.2% block rate) and LaDarius White (103.1 defensive rating) are going to have to take responsibility for defending these guys the rest of the way.
- Rhode Island @ LSU, the bad loss. You can’t explain away this one, at least not very well. SMU hammered Rhode Island by 31 points in November, and the Rams lost to 8-8 Detroit two weeks ago. It’s not always smart to define a team by its previous losses and translate that into an unrelated game, but those are still bad losses, and smart or not, they’re hard to ignore. LSU came out flat offensively, especially Johnny O’Bryant, who settled for long jumpers instead of powering his way to the rim. Johnny Jones thought so much of O’Bryant’s effort that he sat him on the bench for a good portion of a second half when LSU was trailing. “He wasn’t doing what we needed him to do in the first half,” Jones said. “There were guys on our bench that were willing to do the things we needed them to do. I thought they showed it in the second half when we were able to make a run. We had the game tied and I thought those guys did a great job of competing. We’re hopeful that (O’Bryant) can understand and get better at what we need him to do.” It was a bold move by Jones, especially because O’Bryant is likely headed to the NBA after this season and the risk of losing him mentally is greater than with some of the other players. LSU did fight back and had a chance to win the game at the end, but Rhode Island’s dominance on the glass (+14) was just too much. With the size the Tigers have inside, they simply can’t allow a mediocre rebounding team like Rhode Island to bully them to the tune of 16 offensive rebounds.