Happy New Year to all Blazer fans! I wish for you all to have a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous new year. We head into the New Year with a chance to get 10 wins out of our non-conference schedule when we take on Alabama State tomorrow night. We had hoped to win more of our pre-conference games and put ourselves in the national spotlight heading into C-USA play, but right now with the personnel losses we've had, 10 wins still keep us in a position to accomplish our goals as long as we handle our business. Since my last blog we have split a couple of games playing both without Walter Sharpe. Our road game at Wichita State had a little more drama than we had expected. We encountered a snowstorm while we were there. It caused an hour delay in the start of the game and for some guys it appeared to knock them off of their routine. We started sluggish and finally got our act together after falling behind by 16 points with about 10 minutes left. We promptly cut the lead to 3 and had a couple of good looks at 3-pointers that would have tied the game a completely shifted the momentum, but they didn't fall for us. What a terrific environment out there. They sell out every game (10,000+), and even with that blizzard they still put about 8,000 in the building. Our Achilles heel came back to bite us again as we missed 10 free throws. When you get to the line 20+ times on the road, you have to take advantage of that and convert. Had we done so we could have put more pressure on the home team and perhaps snuck out of there with a win. We only had ourselves to blame for that - even without Walter.
We did come back home to Bartow last Saturday night and pick up a big win against Old Dominion. We continue to protect our home floor which we said at the beginning of the season was key. It was nice to have Lawrence Kinnard fight his way out of a slump to give us another viable scoring option. That will be key for us the rest of the way. C-USA teams will begin to load up to stop Robert Vaden, so we will need a couple of other people to step up - and it might be different people each night - to share in the scoring load. But the key for this team could be seen in the first half of the ODU game. If you were there you saw some tremendous defensive energy and intensity that created some turnovers and missed shots that led to fast break opportunities. We held them to 19 points in the half while putting up 40 ourselves. That's the way we must play. You could see the difference in the second half when we lost our intensity and didn't play with the same level of energy. ODU scored a bunch of points in a short period of time to get back in the game. We'll correct that! What was nice to see (and hear) was a relatively small crowd being so vocal. That really helped our guys get off to that great start. We will need that each time out the rest of the way.
Let's start it with the first game of the New Year, Wednesday night at 7PM. I hope to see the arena packed the way Wichita State fills its arena regardless of the opponent. We expect ASU to come in and battle as they did against Auburn (losing by 3); at top 20 Miami (falling by 9); and at C-USA member Tulane (losing by 9). Help us secure that 10th win, 2nd straight and 7th home win without a loss. GO BLAZERS!
Assistant Head Coach