Tevon Saddler- SoCon freshman of the week!

Congratulations to UNCG freshman Tevon Saddler for being named SoCon freshman of the week!

Saddler leads all first year players in points with 19.7 per game and is fourth in the conference overall.  In the hard fought one point loss to ECU, Saddler offered up 34 points, beating Trevis Simpson’s 33 point record!  He added 15 points off the bench in UNCG’s win over Chowan.  He is shooting greater than 50%,  Saddler has ben to the line a league high 40 times this season with an average of 13.3 free throws per game (more than double his closest competition).  He has been improving at the line. (His percentage was woeful during UNCG’s trip to Spain!)  The line is always a place for improvement and if he is going to end up there he might as well capitalize.  Trevon- make sure you are practicing those free throws!

UNCG is back in action tomorrow night taking on The Pride of Greensboro College- Go Spartans!

Watching basketball on a Friday afternoon

One of the perks of being a graduate student is that I can go to a 2pm home game on campus.  Watching the UNCG women beat South Carolina State is a nice way to spend a fall afternoon, especially when my friend Lee Burgess joins me for the second half of the game!

The Lady Spartans jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead and led for the entire game against the Bulldogs of SC State, winning 72-63.  The Spartans were giving (and receiving) hard body checks for a game filled with physical play.  The on-court leaders, including Janea Stevenson and Lucy Mason, drove the plays and kept the energy high.  They were helped by 20 points from the bench (compared to SCSU’s 2).  When looking at the numbers:  SCSU had a disheartening 9% three point game, shot only 39% from the field, and contributed on 54.5% from the line.  It is hard to win games with those numbers, Bulldogs!  The Spartans, while better, have some room for improvement.  The offered 40% from behind the arc, 43% from the field, and 64% from the line.  That free throw number, at the collegiate level, needs to be up- higher than 7/10.

Then, I was subjected to the heart stopper that was the UNCHoly Cross game at 8pm.  I have been a Tar Heel fan long enough to know that watching them play basketball is sometimes an exercise in patience. It is often easier to watch games at home where you can pace, when needed.  They like to dawdle in the first half and come back in the second, but there were moments during this game that my doubts about them winning were high.  These Heels are a team without a leader and they have no focus on the court. Oh, if only Kendall Marshall had stayed- nonetheless, Marcus Paige is a great guard (but I want him at the point instead of Nate Britt- let’s be honest, I want it to be 2009 and have Ty Lawson back!), he tied his career high 23 last night.  This team needs a leader.  If PJ Hairston was on the floor he may be the one to assume that role (the NCAA has yet to weigh in on his return) and many are hoping that James Michael McAdoo will strengthen his leadership.  McAdoo is a great ball player, but I am not sure that they weight of leadership rests easily on his shoulders.  This is a good team (much better if Hairston and McDonald were on the court), but they need to get it together, find focus, and play ball like a team.

Roy Williams does not get a pass on that game last night, either.  I know that he wants players to play through frustrations and calls few time outs.  But last night at about the 16 minute mark of the second half, the Heels had not scored and players were showing their frustrations, fraying on the edges.  It would have been the perfect time for a “let’s get our heads on straight” time out.  That is what they are there for, coach!

I want to give Holy Cross their due.  The played a hard game last night.  The stats for both teams showed close numbers in the field goal, three point and free throw percentages.  I am a believer in close games to galvanize a strong team to find their potential, but a bit of me wants the Heels to flounder on December 7th….shhhh, don’t tell my mom!

Ups and downs of college basketball

Part of what I love about college basketball is the fast pace.   The ups and downs of the court can be mirrored by emotions on a night when plenty of ball is being played.

UNCG lost a heartbreaker to the Pirates of ECU.  After starting the game with a 10-0 lead and leading for most of the game, ECU pulled up close and on a foul won the game.  UNCG was up by two in the final seconds of the game and Nick Paulos fouled a Pirate three pointer.  The basket did not connect, but all three of the foul shots did.  ECU topped the Spartans 85-84 in a tough loss for the Spartans.  Kayel Locke looked strong under the basket.  He fouled out of the game, but left it all on the floor when he did.

The player of the night, however, was Tevon Saddler.  The first year player racked up 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.  In my last post, I wondered if he was going to grow or be a ball hog?  If this game is a suggestion, he is leaning toward growth.  His play against HPU was sloppy, but last night he had tightened up his movements and was making good shooting as well as passing decisions.  He was also a respectable 14-19 from the line (73%).  Another first year player, Tyrone Outlaw, was 5-6 from the line as well.  His foul shout has such a beautiful arc to it- he should be teaching lessons!

For the game, the Pirates shot 89% from the free throw line.  UNCG connected 74% of the time- good, but those extra points matter in a close game.  Overall, we would be good to remember that games can be won AND LOST on the foul line!

In other games from last night:

Michigan State topped Kentucky.  MSU was the only team in the top five that I wanted to win last night!  While I am always happy to report a L for DookKansas is not my favorite team either.  (My mom taught me to be suspicious of all teams that play basketball in the particular shade of blue favored by Dook/Kentucky/Kansas).  Wiggins and the Jayhawks outplayed hometown boy Parker and the Blue Devils in the second half.  But remember, the season is in its infancy, all of these teams are poised for a great year of basketball.

Does anyone else get distracted by Andrew Wiggins’ name?  I really hope that his parents were big sci fi fans because every time I hear it I think of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin from Orson Scott Card’s short story and novel Ender’s Game.  As a character, Ender is chosen because he is “one the enemy would never expect.”  With all of the hype around Wiggins, there are expectations, but will he grow into a leader like Ender?

It’s the hap-happiest season of all!


I did go to two exhibition games last week (UNCG- good hustle and strong team play dynamics and UNC- sloppy, still waiting for McAdoo to take on leadership mantle), but it was last night when the season really started.  And not a moment too soon because I love basketball! Contrary to the Christmas song, this is the most wonderful time of the year.  Teams are fresh, possibilities are open, we are waiting for the powerhouses to dominate and the underdogs to rise from nowhere.  Everyone is chasing the big dance and they just might get there!

UNCG’s home opener against the Panthers of High Point was a hard fought battle, but overall UNCG made a strong statement that they are here to play this season.  Kayel Locke has returned stronger under the basket and his new partnership with the former Sun Devil Kyle Cain is going to be a joy to watch.  Each of these big men got 21 points last night and an we are witnessing an evolving alliance that is sure to make Spartan ball fun to watch this season.  Tyrone Outlaw, oh my gosh what a fun name to cheer for, added 14 points.  While this is his first year and there are some weaknesses that need to be refined he is a smart ball player with a foul shout that has a near perfect arc, making 7-8 attempts at the line last night!  Tevon Saddler is another to watch.  He added 10 points last night, though a disappointing 4-10 from the free throw line.  I hope he did some practice shots this morning- at the Division I college level, 40% is a thing of shame.  I am encouraged, however, to see how he grows.  He favors a drive that is somewhat messy at the moment but has real potential and I think his basketball decision making skills are there.  My hope is he develops into a smart player and not a ball hog!

There was increased energy from the bench last night.  I could tell that Wes Miller and his staff were testing out some player combinations and substituting liberally throughout the game.  The energy from the bench was brought on to the court in ways that will only make Spartan basketball better.  The bench contributed 19 points, so no small feat!

HPU was 19-27 from the line for 70% free throws.  One glaring place they could not capitalize on was three point shots in the second half only connecting 1-14.

UNCG made 25-40 free throws for 62.5%.  That needs to be better.  Games are won and lost on the charity stripe!

Other games I watched last night:

UNC ran over Oakland 84-61.  McAdoo is fun to watch with 21 points and 9 rebounds for the night.  He is a player that is trying to decide if he is going to be great.  The new NCAA block charge rule, designed to favor offensive play, was most beneficial for JP Tokoto as he racked up points last night.  I did not see most of the first half of this game, but as they came back to the second I feel the Heels were playing a rushed game. They are young, but they are good- no need to rush.  They need to incorporate the new players into the game and find a way to settle into Carolina Basketball.

Oakland had a good night and this is the beginning of a month that has them playing one of the hardest road schedules going.  Before they return to their home court the play:

UCLA, California, Gonzaga, Louisiana, Coastal Carolina (I know this seems odd), and W. Michigan.  These boys will be tired, but they will have good game experience!

Oregon outran Georgetown Hoyas in South Korea 82-75.  The Duck’s quickness in the backcourt along with the combined 23-23 (100%) free throw shooting of Jason Calliste and Joseph Young was the highlight of this military themed game.

Colorado fell to Baylor 72-60.  This was the first time that CU had ever opened their season against a ranked opponent (Baylor #25).  The play started out fast and well matched, but they were outplayed in the end.