Second Basketball Scouting Report: Bucknell
Sometimes, there's just no point in making a situation any more nuanced or layered than it actually is… or needs to be. Army competed well against Holy Cross in a battle for third place in the Patriot League. It just didn't hit foul shots – it really is that simple. In a three-point loss which featured high-level three-point shooting and a slow-to-medium pace, the Black Knights went 5-of-12 from the foul line. The good thing about such a loss is that it doesn't end Army's hopes of winning the Patriot League Tournament. In February, these kinds of losses can become a call to improvement, a reason to get the Black Knights to be better at the foul line in March, when the moment matters more.
Coach David Paulsen faces a situation that's uncomfortably similar to what Navy has dealt with: His team just can't score consistently. In Bucknell's last seven games, it is 3-4. The Bison scored at least 70 points in their three wins, but no more than 63 in each of their four losses.
The Bison use a nine-man rotation. Of their four reserves, their primary bench contributor is forward Dom Hoffman. His scoring average had been slipping over the past few weeks, but he scored 14 points on Wednesday in a big win over Navy. Hoffman averages 5.8 points per game, so his breakout performance against Navy was an eye-popper. Army will want to keep an eye on him.
Forward – Brian Fitzpatrick – Senior, 6-8, 230; 2013-14: 9.7 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game
Fitzpatrick has actually increased his scoring and rebounding averages since the first encounter between these two teams this season, but only by slight amounts (0.6 points and 0.3 boards). Bucknell needs more substantial improvements to become more of a threat on a nightly basis in the Patriot League.
Guard – Cameron Ayers – Senior, 6-5, 205; 2013-14: 15.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.4 assists per game
Ayers' scoring average is up by 1.4 points per game from the middle of the month of January (these two teams met on Jan. 19), but it's worth pointing out that he's logging 33.9 minutes per game, which is nearly eight minutes more than any other player on the Bison's roster. As an extension of the minutes he's getting, Ayers's numbers aren't as spectacular as they look. Nevertheless, it's impressive that his rebounding average has slightly increased over the past month (0.2 boards per game). This tells you that Ayers isn't just focusing on his scoring; he's making an attempt to get involved (and stay involved) in other ways.
Guard – Chris Hass – Sophomore, 6-4, 170; 2013-14: 11.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
Hass – whose scoring average is slightly up from where it was in the middle of January (0.6 points per game) – remains an above-average three-point shooter, at 40.6 percent. Army has to be vigilant when guarding him, and the same is true for Ayers (42.1 percent from three-point range).
Guard – Ben Brackney – Senior, 6-6, 205; 2013-14: 8.1 ppg, 4 rpg
Brackney is improving as a rebounder, but his scoring average is slightly down relative to the last time these teams played. If Army has to make decisions on defense, making Brackney shoot instead of the Ayers-Hass combo should be on the list.
Guard – Steven Kaspar – Junior, 6-3, 193; 2013-14: 7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.1 apg
Kaspar scored only 3 points this past Wednesday against Navy, but he snagged 9 boards and dished out 10 assists while collecting 4 steals. Army has to prevent Kaspar from having such an all-encompassing impact on this game.
Keys to the Game
1) Let Bucknell know it won't enjoy much space on offense. Bucknell felt very comfortable on offense against Navy. Army needs to let the Bison know from the start that they will be uncomfortable on every offensive possession.
2) Run Bucknell off the three-point line. Holy Cross really hurt Army from three-point range. The Black Knights simply can't allow Bucknell to do the same.
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