(Brian’s note: Before we proceed here, it should be stated that we did not have access to Tech coach John Pelphrey after the game. No bias here.)
You’ve read the recap. Now, let’s go inside the numbers on Tennessee Tech’s road victory at Winthrop.
- Tennessee Tech is a team that wants to be known for its voracity in offensive rebounding, and Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey also preaches to his team the importance of hitting the boards on misses. This game was a tale of two halves for the homestanding Eagles on the offensive boards. After holding Tennessee Tech to just two offensive boards in the opening stanza, the Golden Eagles held a 7-3 offensive rebound edge in the second period. That pushed the Golden Eagles to a 34-33 rebounding edge, and the extended possessions helped tell the tale. I asked Kelsey about this change in fortune. His response:
“We pride ourselves on being a very good offensive rebounding team, and to be an offensive rebounding team, you have to relentlessly pursue the ball. The cumulative effect of that leads to a big, crooked number in the offensive rebounding category. We want 1-of-3 misses. One of every three, we wanna get. If we’re getting 33 percent of our misses, that puts us in the top 50 in the country. We were inching toward that […] Our standard in the offensive rebound is (that) you need to go like you’re the only guy who can get it, and if you don’t get it, we’re gonna lose. That’s pretty hard. I don’t think we pursued the ball to that standard.
I think we had six offensive rebounds, maybe, in the first two wars. I don’t know if that’s fact, but I felt like we had a lot early, and I think it was six, and then we ended up with 10 for the game. In the next 34 minutes, we had six offensive rebounds.
An inefficient offense is when you have more turnovers than offensive rebounds. There’s more into that equation of efficient offense and points per possession, but I call it the “golden principle”. You’ve gotta have more offensive rebounds than you do turnovers. We had a failing in the golden principle tonight with 10 offensive rebounds and 17 turnovers. You can’t have that many empty possessions, and a lot of them were self-inflicted.”
- To that point, forward Micheal Anumba missed the game for Winthrop, as he battled the effects of a tailbone injury suffered in a fall during Saturday’s game against Mid-Atlantic Christian. Though Anumba’s presence would have likely mitigated some of the factors that led to the loss, Kelsey refused to cite his absence as a contributing factor.
“I mean, Mike’s a good player, he’s an important part of our team, and he’s a leader. He’s played a lot of minutes over the last year and a half, but that absolutely, positively had nothing to do with why we lost the game today. We lost the game because Tennessee Tech was better than us today. You give them credit. Guys get hurt, guys go down, guys get sick, guys sprain ankles. That’s why you have 13 players on scholarship. Next man up. Absolutely not. That had nothing to do with it.”
- Winthrop freshman guard Russell Jones Jr. reminds many — including this writer — of former Eagle standout Keon Johnson. This is not strictly due to their diminutive statures (both were, or are, listed at 5-foot-7, and neither likely meets that measurement), but Jones is already showing much of that same mentality Johnson displayed. He is a quick and active defender, fearless when driving to the basket, and dives after loose balls with reckless abandon. Here’s Kelsey on the similarities between the two:
“Russ is a warrior. He’s a tough, tough kid. It’s hard to compare him to Keon. He’s only a freshman, and Keon’s the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school. They’re different. Russ does things that Keon didn’t do, and Keon did things that Russ doesn’t do, but I can see the comparisons. Obviously, the size — and when you’re that little, you play with a chip on your shoulder. I have an affinity for those types of guys. I wasn’t nearly as good as either one of those guys, but I was little for Division 1 basketball, and I walked into every gym and every practice feeling like I had to prove myself. That’s what the Keon Johnsons and the Russell Jones do every time they lace ’em up, because everybody goes, ‘You? You’re too small. No way.’ If you don’t have that, you can’t survive at that size.”
- Winthrop is clearly still finding its legs from the new three-point line. For a team that prides itself on success beyond the arc — the Eagles sank 372 threes last year and shot greater than 37 percent from distance — they are down nearly five percent from last year, and went 6-for-24 in Thursday’s game. That number was magnified by a 2-for-11 first half.
- Neither team got to the foul line much, but took advantage when they did. Tech was just 5-for-6 from the stripe, while Winthrop was 8-for-10. The Golden Eagles were whistled for just nine total fouls, compared to Winthrop’s 14.
- Winthrop came into the game getting big contributions from its bench, and it did again on Thursday. Unfortunately for the Eagles, Tech got a bigger contribution from its bench. The Golden Eagles placed two reserves in double figures, with one, Amadou Sylla, falling just one rebound short of a double-double. Sylla normally starts for Tech, and I had planned to ask Pelphrey if his not starting was a coach’s decision or something else, but was unable to do so.
- And finally, the Hustle Stats:
- Points in the paint: Tennessee Tech 30, Winthrop 30
- Points off turnovers: Winthrop 28, Tennessee Tech 10 (this is interesting, considering the lamenting from all of Winthrop’s representatives in postgame media about their number of turnovers)
- Second-chance points: Tennessee Tech 10, Winthrop 8
- Fast-break points: Winthrop 14, Tennessee Tech 13
- Bench points: Tennessee Tech 37, Winthrop 31
TENNESSEE TECH 61, WINTHROP 58
TENNESSEE TECH (2-5): Kuimi 1-2 0-0 2, Williams 2-8 0-0 4, Davidson 1-2 0-0 2, Quest 0-0 0-0 0, Vick 5-10 2-6 4-4 16, Sherfield 2-4 0-0 4, Clay 1-5 0-0 2, Allen 6-14 0-0 16, Sylla 6-8 1-2 13, Wilkinson 1-3 0-0 2, Crosland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 5-6 61.
WINTHROP (3-3): Ferguson 1-5 4-4 6, Claxton 3-5 1-2 7, Jones Jr. 4-9 2-2 12, Corbin 0-1 0-0 0, Vaudrin 1-10 0-0 2, Pupavac 0-0 0-0 0, Falden 2-5 0-0 4, Hale 4-10 0-0 11, King 1-1 0-0 2, Zunic 3-5 1-2 8, Burns Jr. 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 22-57 6-10 58.
Halftime — Tennessee Tech 29-24. 3-Point Goals—Tennessee Tech 6-20 (Williams 0-1, Davidson 0-1, Vick 2-6, Sherfield 0-1, Clay 0-2, Allen 4-9), Winthrop 6-24 (Ferguson 0-4, Claxton 0-1, Jones Jr. 2-4, Corbin 0-1, Vaudrin 0-2, Falden 0-2, Hale 3-7, Zunic 1-3). Fouled Out — NA. Rebounds — Tennessee Tech 34 (Sylla 9), Winthrop 33 (Ferguson 7). Assists —Tennessee Tech 16 (Clay 9), Winthrop 12 (Jones Jr./Vaudrin 4). Total Fouls — Winthrop 14, Tennessee Tech 9. Technical — NA. A —2033.