NEC Daily Ball Screen: 12/10/21
Last night was a historic night for the Merrimack program, as Joe Gallo took his group out west to take on 2021 NCAA runners-up, Gonzaga (still #1 at Kenpom despite the two losses).
Gonzaga won 80-55, and yet Merrimack moved up two spots at Kenpom and covered the ~30 point line (and hit the under). Not bad! In fact, the Warriors held the nation's top offense to just 1.17ppp by forcing 17 turnovers (25%), and limiting the 'Zags to just 5 made three-pointers on 22 attempts. Unfortunately, Gallo had no answer for Drew Timme, who scored 22 points on a perfect 8 for 8 from the field.
Merrimack, which has now lost 4 straight, continues to struggle to score; they have the league's lowest Adjusted OE (excluding any pre-season bias) at 88.8 pts/100 possessions, and their eFG% is just 43.3%, which is 328th nationally. Last night was more of the same; the Warriors made just 6 of 25 from downtown, and just 14 of 38 from inside the arc. Given the opponent, that was expected, but it's continued a disturbing trend of MC really having trouble putting the ball in the basket.
Ziggy Reid, who made 4 of those 6 three-pointers (on 9 attempts), finished with 16 points, while Jordan Minor had 17 points and 7 boards. Sophomore point guard Malik Edmead got his 1st career start, scoring 8 points in 25 minutes.
Likely top 5 NBA Draft pick Chet Holmgren added 15 points and 16 boards for Gonzaga, and Julian Strawther scored 15 on 6 of 10 from the field. The 'Zags really dominated the offensive boards, grabbing 18 of their 31 opportunities (58%).
On their way back east, Merrimack stops in Bloomington, Indiana on Sunday to take on IU. Remember the last time Merrimack played a B1G opponent?
Fordham 73, Long Island 57
LIU continues to struggle to score the basketball as well, as they were outscored 34-24 in the 2nd half in a 73-67 loss at Rose Hill Gym.
Isaac Kante scored 16 points on 7 of 8 from the field, plus had 7 rebounds. However, he was the only efficient player for the Sharks last night. Eral Penn had 13 points on 13 field goal attempts, and also chipped in 7 rebounds (and 6 turnovers). Ty Flowers (8 points) was 2 of 9 from three.
Fordham big-man Chuba Ohams was dominant inside, scoring 20 points on 9 of 12 shooting, to go along with 11 boards. Antonio Daye (17 points on 7 field goal attempts) and Darius Quisenberry (14 points) were tough to handle as well.
Here's the telling stat for Long Island; in their lone win, a 99-65 beatdown of Delaware St., the Sharks scored 1.33ppp. In their 7 losses? Just 0.81ppp. Sure, they've played a difficult schedule with 7 road games, including trips to San Francisco, Fresno St., and UConn, among others. However, their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, excluding any pre-season bias, is just 92.8, which is well below last season's 95.2 mark (their Adjusted DE is essentially the same as it was last year). The two primary issues; turnovers (23.3%, 327th nationally), and 3-point shooting (28.5%, 310th).
What's odd is; despite all that size in the frontcourt (6'7" Eral Penn, 6'9" Ty Flowers' and 6'8" Isaac Kante, all of whom play at least 78% of available minutes), the Sharks take 44.3% of their shots from beyond the arc, which is 58th highest in the country.
Penn, who had a 58.4% eFG% last season, has seen his efficiency plummet as he's already taken 10 more three-pointers in 8 games than he did in 18 games a season ago (and he's made just 32% of them), plus his turnover rate of 14.9% is much higher than last season's 9.5 mark. Flowers has rebounded to shoot the ball well from the perimeter (34.4% from three), but he's just 3 of 16 from the mid-range and hasn't gotten to the rim nearly as much as he did a season ago. And Kante, who hadn't taken a shot from beyond the arc in three collegiate seasons prior to this year, has taken 13 this season, yet made just 1.
According to Shot Quality, LIU's Adjusted Offensive Shot Quality is just 0.92ppp, which is 334th nationally. And that jives with the eye test; there are a lot of forced three-pointers (and mid-range jumpers), and a severe lack of spacing as opponents are able to pack the middle and force Long Island to make jump shots.
As they head into NEC play, the big question will be; can they make shots on a consistent basis?
No games today. Enjoy your Friday night.