I went back and rewatched last night's 76-67 Saint Louis victory at SIU-Carbondale this morning.
Here are some of the things that stuck out:
• Jordair Jett's defense when the ball is two passes away is unlike anything I've seen in quite some time. He remains tightly locked to the offensive player, rather than sagging off. As the tape continues to roll, though, his deceptive quickness more than make up for this position as he is able to cut off drives to the lane or get his hand on the ball for a steal.
• Crews told us postgame that SLU created an early deficit for itself by allowing too much space. Well, he was actually giving his team too much credit. Marcus Fillyaw and Desmar Jackson were wide open on numerous occasions, which is simply unacceptable. The initial defenders got beat pretty badly and when help came then naturally SIUC shooters were available all over the court.
• Mike McCall Jr. is an exceptional slasher to the bucket, but reviewing the tape really reinforced the thought that his outside jumpshot might actually be his bread-and-butter. When he's in rhythm, it's more than likely going in. That's what makes him so difficult to defend, in my opinion. His quick first step keeps the defender on its heels, so when he uses a crossover and pulls up from 18 feet as opposed to driving to the bucket, it just adds another element to his game that opponents have to watch out for.
• Jake Barnett shot with extreme – and I do mean EXTREME – confidence last night. As Crews said postgame, people think he's a shooter but that's not why he's been inserted into the lineup for the past two years. Having the ability to spread the floor and knock down deep shots is key to an offense that struggles at times, but Barnett seems to be one of those players whose offense feeds his defense. He had things rolling offensively, and his defense ratcheted up a couple intensity notches thereafter, too.
• Junior big Grandy Glaze continues to impress this season. His defense left a little to be desired last night, and the fact that he only had two rebounds on the defensive glass was a bit concerning, but overall he was an "animal" as McCall Jr. has referred to him in the past. He even had a "warrior rebound", one of his four offensive boards – and finished with eight points and six rebounds. Once again he had another "wouldn't-have-done-that-last-year" moment when he stole the ball on the break and took it home for a nice jam.
• Austin McBroom was quietly efficient last night with nine points, but what I noticed on the tape was his composure. He was a bit wild early on in the season, but really seems to have gotten used to the more purposeful pace that this Billikens' system runs. He had a few frantic plays, but otherwise he gave SLU some nice minutes which was important with a rather short bench.
• As my friend and colleague Tom Timmermann noted, this wasn't a game for the Dwayne Evans time capsule. He struggled for 36 minutes last night, but the last four showed why he's a potential Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. With 3:56 left and SLU up just 64-61, Evans proceeded to go 4-for-4 from the free-throw line and 2-for-3 inside the paint down the stretch to keep the Salukis at bay.
MISC. NOTES: Crews said postgame that John Manning wasn't really available per se. He was only in uniform in the event that there was a late game situation where they needed Manning to cover the ball. He was out with an ankle injury.
The decision to not play freshmen Tanner Lancona and Mike Crawford wasn't a 100% product of matchups. When I asked him whether or not that was the case, he said that it was not only that, but that he prefers to put Lancona and Crawford in at the same time and didn't feel right doing so in last night's game.
Freshman big man Reggie Agbeko showed quite nicely in his collegiate debut. In just six minutes, he scored twice and was very active inside as well as setting picks for guards.
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