What a difference a three (3) game winning streak can make. We were on our heels following the Daytona Beach trip. We needed to re-group and regain a measure of confidence that we could close a team out without a very important piece of our team - Paul Delaney. After all we hadn't had to do that in 36 games. All of a sudden we have guys in roles that aren't completely familiar to them at this level and we needed them to respond in the heat of battle. We have guys adjusting to roles as we tried to end a three game losing streak. In steps Aaron Johnson & Ed Berrios at the point; Zisis Sarikopoulos & Howard Crawford in the post; and the unselfish veteran Frank Holmes in whatever role or situation we might need him. In addition Reggie Huffman has become a man on the glass at both ends when we need him. A 64-50 win over Eastern Kentucky in which Aaron dished out 10 assists without taking a single shot and Reggie recorded a double-double. We followed that up with an 84-72 win against Jacksonville that saw the return of Robert Vaden's shooting touch in-route to seven (7) threes - one short of his career best - and a solid effort from our two point guards who combined for 10 points, 9 assists and 3 turnovers. Howard Crawford chipped in with 9-10 from the line in his 16 minutes and Zisis was solid during his 8 minutes on the floor. Two home wins without PD3 shows signs of us coming together, but the real test comes on the road. Can we close a team out in their building? That was the big question heading to Louisiana Lafayette and we answered the call. It was not pretty! 27 turnovers! Absolutely a recipe for defeat, but our guys dug in and found a way to pull one out in overtime. The stats will show that Walter Sharpe carried us with his 23 points and 9 rebounds. What they won't show is the contribution we got defensively from Frank & Reggie on ULL's leading scorer & rebounder who we had trouble handling all night. They won't show a courageous block out by Aaron Johnson and a big-time rebound late in the game by Lawrence Kinnard. Frank & Reggie took over in a defensive adjustment from the 7:58 mark of the 2nd half until :40 seconds remained in regulation, and held their leading scorer to just one basket during that stretch. That allowed us to pull ahead and eventually get the game into overtime. In the 5 minute overtime period Millsap, the leading scorer for ULL, did not score! In fact he only got off 2 shots. I would say that was a huge reason why we were able to celebrate a big road victory. It will make the 7-hour trip back to Birmingham a lot more pleasant for everyone.
Now it's back to the friendly confines of Bartow Arena to face Cincinnati on Saturday in a television game. How nice it would be to see (and hear) a very large Blazer crowd for that game? It would help tremendously as we look to extend this winning streak to four (4) games. Will you be there? I'll be looking for you. GO BLAZERS!
Assistant Head Coach