The same can be said for the Owl basketball team. The product on the floor is much better it seems, but still needs some polish before it can be called "complete".
In summary, the Owls played pretty well in stretches today but lost their shooting touch in the second half, losing to the defending Big Sky Champion Portland State Vikings 73-68.
The Owls have the components to have a very competitive team this season - here's a run down of the what the team looks like...
Freshman Connor Frizzelle got the start today at the Point and I can see why Coach Ben Braun is high on him. He's got solid ball handling skills and doesn't turn the ball over. He isn't a dynamic scoring threat just yet (3 points today) but showed the ability to drive the lane a couple of times. He drew a tough assignment in defending the returning Big Sky Player of the Year Jeremiah Dominguez. But Frizzelle will only get better. Brian Beasley split time running the Offense today.
Cory Pflieger and Rodney Foster are bright spots on this team. But the team may live and die by their shooting. Unfortunately, Pflieger had the hot-hand today leading the Owls with 17 points, while Foster did not. Though the Owls shot 57% from the field they missed some untimely shots today. Their poor Offensive rebounding compounded the problem and the combination of the two was perhaps the difference in the game. Lawrence Ghoram was 0-3 from the field, but made it to the charity line 6 times where he connected on 50% of his attempts.
Aleks Perka had some really athletic plays today and played with a lot of confidence. He had 15 points and a team leading 9 rebounds. If Perka can play the way he did today for the rest of the season the Owls will have a chance to compete. If not, Rice could struggle to score enough points to win many games. Suleiman Braimoh was 2-2 from the field and also chipped in with 2 Offensive boards but the sophomore from New York needs to continue to improve Offensively.
In a day of "firsts", Trey Stanton looked pretty solid in his first start as an Owl. He's got a complete game, and can do it all. He made a couple of errant passes today but that isn't likely to reoccur. Rice drops off pretty quickly behind him though. Freshman Lucas Kuipers looks like he'll be good in time. Rebounding and Defense is something both need to improve on.
The Owls were in this game for most of the day and actually led the game for most of the first half. Depth is an issue and the Owls need more scoring from their bench. They also need to rebound better, especially on the Offensive end - they managed only 5 Offensive rebounds today. They also gave up way too many uncontested lay-ups.
The encouraging thing about today is that they played a team down to the wire that was 23-10 last year and an NCAA Tournament team.
So, just like their new home, with some finishing touches here and there - its possible that the 2008-2009 Owls will look quite impressive in the near future.