The Pack's game with Campbell on Thursday night was far from easy, but credit the Pack for closing the game strongly after an uninspiring first 30 minutes of play. It was still just a one possession game with nine minutes remaining when the Lorenzo Brown and Alex Johnson went on their own two-man run – outscoring the Camels 13-2 over the next three minutes to push the lead out to 14 points.
During the stretch the Pack was able to create a few turnovers and get into its fast break. Johnson was particularly effective on the break, going right to the basket and scoring over much bigger defenders to finish off Campbell. Credit the Camels for never giving up and managing to cut the lead back down to single digits, but he game was decided in that three-minute run by the Pack's two point guards.
Richard Howell, Rebounding Machine
For whatever reason Richard Howell has become the source of ire among a subset of Pack fans – ones who look at his vertical leap or his supposed lack of athleticism. Mark Gottfried probably wishes the rest of his front court had the same athletic problems as Howell, who leads the team in rebounding and now ranks in the top five in the conference.
Howell took it to another level on Thursday, dominating the glass on both ends of the court and finishing with 17 points and 17 rebounds. He had 10 defensive boards and seven on the offensive glass – a big reason the Pack dominated both in the paint (46 points to 24 points) and on 2nd chance opportunities (18 to six).
Cashing in at the Charity Stripe
Campbell had been putting people at the free throw line all season long, so the Pack had to figure it would get its chances from the charity stripe on Thursday. Lorenzo Brown seemed to take that part of the scouting report to heart, attacking the basket with abandon and getting 16 free throw attempts for his efforts. But the Pack's ability to sink its free throws is what really stood out, the team was perfect in the first half and had just one miss until the final minute of play. Even with two misses at the end of the game the Pack finished over 90 percent from the line.
One of two glaring problems with the Pack's defense all season long, the perimeter pressure was once against non-existent for most of the game against Campbell. The Camels hit 6-of-8 from behind the arc in the first half before cooling off some in the final 20 minutes, but they still hit 64 percent of their 3s on Thursday. The Pack's lack of perimeter defense, more than anything, is allowing teams with lesser talent to hang around.
That means that the Pack is dominating poor shooting team (Northeastern) while struggling against teams with shooters (Princeton, Campbell). This is a deficiency that will cost the Pack wins in league play if it doesn't figure out a way to guard the perimeter more effectively.
Perhaps you can blame this on a little bit of a holiday hangover. The team took a few days off over Christmas and it showed early in the game, as the offense looked disjointed and sloppy passes caused unforced turnovers that led to Campbell points. Gottfried has the Pack playing extremely well offensively overall, but if the team could cut down on the stretches of careless or lazy play it would be one of the top offenses in the conference. The Camels won the turnover battle and out-shot the Pack, so it's a credit to the team that they gritted out a win by getting to the line and rebounding.
Player Of The Game
Richard Howell gets an honorable mention for his 17 point, 17 rebound performance – his third double-double of the year. But this one has to go to Lorenzo Brown, who finished with 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in his most assertive game of the season. He didn't always make the right decision when he was barreling down the lane to the basket, but that aggressiveness got him to the line 16 times (he made 14 of his attempts) and was a welcome change from the passiveness he's displayed in recent games. Gottfried called the performance ‘sensational' from his sophomore point guard.
Gottfried on getting better:
"We are just now figuring out how we need to play. It's taken us a little while and we've done it through a really tough schedule – which has probably made us evaluate ourselves better. So it forces us to really learn. We are playing against good teams and we are learning ourselves better now and how we really need to play."