Monday, February 10, 2014

James Madison - The Happy Recap

Final:  Drexel 78, JMU 60
Player of the Game:  Rodney Williams
Key to the Game:  55% field goal shooting
Next Game:  Thursday Feb 13 @ College of Charleston

Matt Brady and his marginally fighting Dukes rolled into the DAC on Saturday without the assistance of one Andre Nation, being held back at school due to what has only been described as "personal reasons".  (NB:  Nation is due back today it appears, so the Dragons really dodged a bullet there).  Well the easy read on this game will be that it was tied at the half before Drexel pulled away in the second half, the truth is a bit deeper, and the news is all good for the Dragons.

On a home court that Drexel has looked awful on for the last two years, JMU came in and was down only one at the half while missing their best player.  While that looks like a disaster of a no show from DU, once you look deeper at the numbers you will see that the worst three point shooting team in the conference (and one of the worst in the country) needed to shoot 50% from deep in the first half (6/12, for 18 of their 35 points) in order to stay close, and even that didn't have them leading.  In the second half regression came at them and came hard, as they pulled an o-fer (0/6) from downtown.  Once they gave up on the deep ball it looked like they spent the rest of the half passing the ball trying to get it into the hands of Andre Nation, who as mentioned, was sitting in Harrisburg.  No one wanted to shoot, the possessions got longer and longer and it became Drexel's game more and more.  JMU was never going to shoot 50% from behind the line for the game and without Andre Nation they were never going to win this game, a clicking Drexel offense ensured that.

The player of the game goes to Rodney Williams.  Rodney wasn't perfect, and in fact was called out by his coaches at times for not working hard enough to post up, but we can't overlook a double double with four blocks (I think he should have gotten credit for a steal as well).  As you'll see below, his help defense continues to improve and he's starting to gain some discipline.  At a time of year when most freshman are hitting the wall, Rodney had been struggling for a couple games so seeing this kind of performance from him in front of the home fans was spectacular to see.

Lest we forget the seniors, Fouch, Massent and Ruffin combined for 50 points on 19/36 (53%) from the field, including 7/15 (47%) from distance, 5/5 (100%) from the line (all Fouch), 9 assists, 4 turnovers and 2 steals.  Just as importantly, when Canady and Bah made mistakes, we got to see pictures like this one:

Coaches can only do so much, and a player is much more likely to listen to a senior player than just about anyone else.  Having these guys step in and help out the underclassman, especially in a year that they need their underclassman badly, is invaluable.  That is supplemented by the recent dominance of Massenat and Fouch, with Massenat finding his forwards (two more assists to Williams in this game, now 65 assists and only 16 turnovers in conference play, a league leading... by almost double the guy in second... 4.1 assist/turnover ratio) and Fouch finding his stroke (28% three point shooting in out of conference play, up to 40% in conference play).  Fouch is hitting that rhythm where open threes look like layups (and JMU gave him plenty), and it's a beautiful sight to see for Drexel fans.

The one area that was highlighted in the pregame, concern about the JMU guards getting to the line, did prove a worthy concern.  As projected, Charles Cooke got to the line on a regular basis in front of his hometown fans as JMU took 30 free throw attempts to Drexel's 17.  Had Andre Nation played, this could have gotten really ugly and with the loss of Kazembe Abif the DU frontline really can't sustain foul trouble at this point.  While getting to the line is a strength of the JMU offense, it has also been a brutal liability for the Drexel defense, as they've given up more than one foul shot for every two field field goal attempts their opponents have taken this year in conference play, good for eighth in the league.  They're actually giving up 51 free throws for every 100 opponent field goal attempts, which would fit in around around 318th in the country.  If the Dragons were able to fix that, their defense would look a hell of a lot better.  As a result, I took a look at Charles Cooke's trips to the line in this game, and I anticipate looking at another game during the week this week as we try to figure out what is causing this issue.  In the case of Mr. Cooke, his five trips to the line appear to be caused by abject stupidity.

Here's the first trip:

See Tavon Allen in front of Cooke on the perimeter:

See Tavon Allen getting blown by, in a manner so bad that if this was a cartoon his pants would be down.  Also note Chris Fouch in position under the basket in both this screen and the one prior.  Once again, just like W+M, JMU brings their bigs out to the three point line and empties the Drexel forwards out of the paint.

Despite Chris Fouch having been under the basket for long enough to start and finish War and Peace, his feet are moving when he steps in to help out, thus the defensive foul.  There's no way Cooke should have been shooting, Bru and the fans are right, since Cooke lost the ball on his own, but it's Chris' own fault that this wasn't an easy charge.  Good block call by the official.

Here's Cooke's second trip:

This time it is Massenat defending him.

This is not called, as Bah attempts to reach in and Massenat hand checks Cooke on his way to the basket.

Frantz actually recovers and does a good job of being straight up and in front of Cooke when he releases.  This probably shouldn't have been a foul, but with friend of the program Andrew Marotta on scene, all bets are off and Cooke gets the call.  The biggest thing worth noting on this, is the clock.  JMU doesn't get this possession if Frantz doesn't drive the ball with the shot clock off and twenty seconds left in the half.  Without looking, this is the third time Drexel has done this this year, with Allen shooting early at least twice.  These are errors that don't happen in grade school.  Someone needs to step up and be accountable for that because a foul on one of Drexel's best players is a big price to pay for being stupid.

Cooke's fifth and sixth foul shots were a one and one situation after being fouled on a defensive rebound he was getting.  Bah missed a bunny of a shot, but that happens and we move on.

Cooke's fourth trip to the line was the result of Tavon Allen throwing a lob about five feet short of the man he was throwing it to, the lob being intercepted, and becuase Allen watched his lob instead of getting back, he was behind the play and force to foul on the ensuing JMU fastbreak.

Cooke's final trip to the line is shown here:

Fouch is on Cooke this time and follows him through AARP member Semenov's screen:

Freddie Wilson reads the drive and starts cheating in to help, which is somewhat foolish since he's guarding a three point shooter but given JMU's propensity to drive and be awful from three may have been a coaches call and is fine.

Fouch still is in great position (although a little crossed up) as Cooke turns the corner.  Wilson on the other hand has gotten so up close and personal with the unnecessary help that you can't even see him in this frame.

As Wilson is left standing there, Rodney Williams comes with good help and him and Fouch have played this perfectly.  Canady is sliding in to help on Williams man and deny the pass and Ruffin is in position to box out Semeov on the rebound.  It's close to textbook.

Williams is in prime position when Cooke goes to shoot and the shot goes harmlessly off the hands of Williams... but the whistle had already been blown on Fouch.  Fouch didn't do much wrong, maybe got a hand caught in there well after Wilson had initially caused contact but since it looked like Cooke had been mugged when Wilson came out of nowhere and got into him, it was an easy call for the officials to make even when it shouldn't have been one at all.  There was just no reason for Wilson to leave his man and get in there, and it cost Chris.

Little things like these have cost the Dragons all year long.  A lot of these are effort plays, Freddie is trying to give something extra on the defensive end a known liability of his.  Frantz see's a lane and shoots for it, irregardless of the clock.  Allen... well I've got nothing for Allen, that's just bad basketball, in one of his weaker efforts of the season.

It was a good game, and the strongest the Dragons have played at home in quite some time.  But as is the case of any game, there's still things to work on.  Some of them are simple fixes and with five days between games (and probably a lot of upcoming flight problems on Wednsday, they should be looking to leave on Tuesday) now is the time to fix them.  It's time for the Dragons to stop giving away free points, and start hitting a stride before Richmond (eat it CAA Commish) Baltimore.

And one last add on, but an important one:  Great crowd on Saturday, and after taking a snowday off, the DAC Pack was back in force.  Not only were they present, large and loud but over half of the frontrow was female.  I'm pretty sure that is a (by a lot) record.  Way to represent DAC Pack!

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