The Continually Improving Defense
Delaware State is a very bad shooting team, but the Pack gets credit for holding them well below their season lows in both 3-point shooting and two-point shooting. The Hornets hit just 3-of-12 from behind the arc and shot just above 30 percent from inside the line as well. It was the second-worst shooting performance of the season for Delaware State, and a positive sign that the Pack's defense is moving in the right direction.
Going Into Conference Play with Confidence
The Pack enters conference play coming off two of its strong performances of the year, and has won five straight games since falling to Syracuse on December 17th. The mood of the players after the game was that of cautious optimism – a lot of these players have been through the ACC schedule before so they know how tough the next 16 games are going to be, but their seems to be a real belief within the team.
After the game, Richard Howell perhaps summed it up best, "We still have a couple of areas that we need to improve on but I feel like we have enough practice time and we're good enough going into conference play."
A Consistent Rotation
Mark Gottfried seems to have carved out a rotation and a role for everyone in that rotation. The starters are all getting around 30 minutes a game while DeShawn Painter and Alex Johnson act as the two main subs getting about 20 minutes each. Thomas de Thaey is the eighth man and his minutes seem to be dependent on foul trouble and score.
Within that rotation the roles are clearly defined. Johnson and Brown are the ball-handlers and creators. Wood and Williams are the perimeter scorers. Howell, Painter and Leslie serve as the rebounders and interior scorers. The team seems to be at its best when everyone is playing within their perspective roles on the court, and the ability to establish those roles and get players to buy into them is a credit to Gottfried.
It's easy to forget because the Pack finished the first half on a 20-0 run and never looked back, but the first 13 minutes of Wednesday's game were a struggle. The Pack never trailed but Delaware State trailed by just two points, 20-18, with just over seven minutes left in the half. The Pack struggled offensively and defensively during that stretch – turning the ball over and allowing a few easy looks for the Hornets.
Because Delaware State was such an inferior team athletically, the struggles of the first few minutes were quickly forgotten. But those dead stretches could hurt the Pack as they get into league play and the team goes on the road against stiffer competition.
It's looking more and more like Jordan Vandenberg will be forced to take a red-shirt this season due to a shoulder injury that isn't healing. The Pack's Australian import has played in just seven games this year averaging 2 points and 2.7 rebounds, but has played 11 total minutes since November 25th. After the game Gottfried said the team expected to make a decision this week on Vandenberg's future, saying "There is a strong chance we could make the decision to redshirt him. He's had lingering issues with his shoulder, we're at that point right now where that decision needs to be made pretty quickly."
Player of the Game
While Richard Howell continued his double-double streak, let's give CJ Leslie the nod for his solid all-around game against the Hornets. Leslie finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, two steals and one highlight-reel dunk. Leslie has now scored in double figures in 11 of the 12 games he's played and leads the Pack in scoring at 13 a game.
Mark Gottfried on starting the ACC schedule:
"I don't know if there is a magic number but we're going to have to win a lot of games. You have to take each individual game on each night and play it out from there."