Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fouls, Free Throws and Jaspers - Oh My! (Recap of Manhattan vs. South Carolina)

A lot has been made of the new NCAA rules concerning fouls now being called on hand checks as well as the change in what is a charge as opposed to a block.  Fouls are up considerably in Division I basketball.  As of today, one hundred and seventy four teams are averaging twenty fouls or more per game.  Last season, only twenty nine teams averaged twenty fouls per game or more.  That's a difference of ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY FIVE teams.

I had noted this in a previous article two weeks ago.  The number of teams that are averaging twenty or more fouls per game has not changed.  Most teams on average have now played ten games, which is nearly one third of the season.  So the idea that teams will adjust to the new rules (see Jay Bilas), well, that's not happened yet.  Not by a Dominick Mejia three point attempt (that one was for Dan Crain).

One of those coaches struggling to adapt to the rules is Manhattan coach Steve Masiello.  He was quoted recently as agreeing with Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo about the "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense Izzo believes his Spartans should play now;
"Tom Izzo said it best. I believe his quote, I don't want to misquote him, but he said after the Barclays Center games that he's going to just tell his players to drive in, create contact, throw the basketball up and worry about foul shooting, because it's taking away defensive advantages for schemes and scouting purposes. I have to learn the rules better and try to do a better job, and I'll do that. If you ask me how I feel, just take Tom Izzo's article, whatever he said, I agree. Steve Masiello agrees with Coach Izzo."
Manhattan averages five more fouls per game than they did last season; twenty six fouls this season compared to twenty one last season.  Yet the Jaspers have so far overcome the new rules/additional fouls and entered last night's game vs. South Carolina with a 7-2 record.  A lot of that has to do with the return of redshirt senior guard George Beamon, who came into the game averaging 20.7 points per game.   Beamon received a medical redshirt for his fifth season after he was injured for most of last season.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks had not played a game in eleven days since their twenty seven point drubbing on the road at the hands of Oklahoma State.   What made matters worse for Coach Frank Martin is that his young team, which consists of seven freshmen and three sophomores, had only played five games so far this season, the second fewest in Division I basketball.

The Gamecocks came out strong as they jumped out to an early 10-4 lead, as Bruce Ellington scored five quick points for South Carolina.  The Gamecocks didn't seem rusty at all at the beginning of the game, hitting four of their first five shots.

But the Jaspers responded with an 8-0 spurt, due in large part to forcing three Gamecocks' turnovers in that span. Rich Williams and Michael Alvarado each had three point plays to help put Manhattan up 12-10.  The Jaspers would extend the lead to four, 18-14 with about twelve and a half minutes left in the first half.

The Gamecocks would respond with a 7-0 run as guard Tyrone Johnson would score five of those points, including a free throw after an intentional foul was called on Emmy Andujar.  The Gamecocks would go up 21-18.   After Beamon tied the game with a three pointer, Johnson hit another two free throws to put South Carolina back up 23-21.

During this time, the fouls were mounting up for Manhattan.  In the first seven and a half minutes, the Jaspers already had eight fouls.  Rich Williams would pick up three fouls in the first half alone.  And with seven minutes left in the half, Beamon picked up his second foul and went to the bench with the game tied at twenty eight.

Just when Gamecock fans thought their team could take advantage of Beamon's absence on the court, the foul situation turned in favor of the Jaspers.   Manhattan would score their next eight points all on free throws; four from Donovan Kates and four from Alvarado.  Shane Richards would then bury a three pointer and Alvarado put the icing on a 11-2 run with a dunk to put the Jaspers up 41-30 with three and a half minutes left.

During this three and a half minute period, South Carolina went ice cold from the field as well as from the free throw line.  The Gamecocks only hit one of six field goal attempts and missed on three straight free throws before Tyrone Johnson hit the second of two free throws to cut the lead to ten 41-31.

Manhattan would actually extend the lead to thirteen before taking an eleven point lead into halftime, 45-34.  Alvarado picked up the scoring burden for the Jaspers with fourteen points, as well as adding three assists in the first half.  The Jaspers outscored the Gamecocks 17-6 over the last seven minutes of the first half with Beamon on the bench during that time.  Twelve of those seventeen Manhattan points came courtesy of the free throw line.

Rich Williams started the second half with a layup to put Manhattan up thirteen, 47-34.  South Carolina responded by scoring seven straight points to cut the lead to six, 47-41.  After Alvarado hit one of two free throws, Sindarius Thornwell hit two free throws to cut the deficit to five, 48-43.  The  Jaspers continued to be plagued by fouls, committing six in the first four and a half minutes into the second half, with Williams picking up his fourth foul during this time.  It looked like the Gamecocks were going to rally all the way back with help from the charity stripe.

But Manhattan was undeterred by their foul situation.  The Jaspers would score the next seven straight points as Alvarado buried a three, Andujar would add two free throws and an assist on Beamon's layup.  Masiello's club was back up twelve, 55-43 with 13:46 left.

South Carolina would not quit as Carrera and Thornwell combined to score all of South Carolina's points in a Gamecock 10-3 spurt to cut the deficit to five again, 58-53 with eleven and half minutes left in the game.  Carrera (10 points second half) and Thornwell (14 points second half) both came on strong in the second half after a quiet first half for each of them (Carrera and Thornwell combined for three points in the first half).

But two free throws by Kates and a three by Beamon put Manhattan back up by double digits, 63-53.  South Carolina would get within eight twice, the second time 65-57 with nine and a half minutes left in the game on a jumper by Carrera.

But what Carrera gave the Gamecocks, he would take away on the next possession, fouling Beamon on a three point field goal attempt.  Beamon calmly sank all three free throws to put the Jaspers back up by double digits, 68-57.  South Carolina would get no closer the rest of the contest, or more appropriately, the foul fest, as Manhattan won going away 86-68.

There were FIFTY THREE fouls called in the game, thirty on Manhattan, twenty three on South Carolina.  Two players fouled out; Ashton Pankey for the Jaspers, Mindaugas Kacinas for the Gamecocks.  A combined six other players on both sides had four fouls each.   Much of the eighteen point margin came from the free throw line.  Manhattan only had one more free throw attempt than South Carolina, 39 to 38.  But the Jaspers shot an excellent 34 of 39 from the line (eighty seven percent) while the Gamecocks were only 22 of 38 from the charity stripe (fifty eight percent).

The Jaspers excelled on the defensive end with eleven steals and nine blocks.  Beamon had four steals and Pankey and Rhamel Brown each had four blocks for Manhattan.  What helped the Jaspers deal with the fouls was their bench strength, as nine players were on the floor for at least eleven minutes.  In fact, starter Rich Williams only played seven minutes due to foul trouble.  He made the most of those seven minutes with nine points.

Beamon led all scorers with twenty five points.  He had eighteen points in the second half, two of which came on a really sweet floater that would have made Loren Stokes proud.  Beamon also had five rebounds to go with his twenty five points and four steals.  Alvarado made a great Pippen to Beamon's Jordan with twenty points and six assists.

Thornwell led the Gamecocks with seventeen points.  Johnson added twelve points, eleven of which came in the first half.  Carrera added ten points for South Carolina.  Brenton Williams, the team's leading scorer from last season, only played six minutes and was held scoreless.

Manhattan plays one more non conference game this Saturday vs. Buffalo at the Barclays Center before going back into MAAC conference play.  Meanwhile, South Carolina has a quick turnaround with a 4:00 PM game at home on Thursday at home before traveling to Hawaii to play three games in the Diamond Head Classic, with their first game against St Mary's on December 22.

Here's hoping that both teams start adjusting more to the free throw rules.  Fifty three fouls and fifty six points on free throws are two numbers that you don't often see in a basketball game.   And that's just too much stoppage in play for a game that prides itself on end to end action.

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