After last season’s debacle against Gardner-Webb, Niner faithful sure could have used a run away win against the NCCU Eagles Friday night in Halton Arena. While they didn’t quite get that, they did manage a 73-57 victory against a gritty, albeit thin NCCU squad. In the process we learned a great deal more about a squad that is long on talent and potential but still needs a lot of refining.
The Niners struggled early on, highlighted by a pair of Dominique Sutton dunks and 5 turnovers in 5 minutes by the Niners. Inconsistent ball handling, some open misses from long range and Sutton’s play in the post helped the Eagles run out to a 21-8 lead at the 11:18 mark in the first half.
From there the Niners began to work their way back in the game, on one end using strong half court defense to eliminate easy baskets for the Eagles. On the other end, Chris Braswell went to work in the post, getting two fouls on each defender who was guarding him before the half. DeMario Mayfield certainly also did his part, scoring 10 of the Niners’ first 12 points in his 49er debut. Some solid outside shooting by Jr. Javarris Barnett brought the Niners within 5 points with 5 minutes to go in the half and a 3 pointer by Sr. Derrio Green tied the game for the first time at 26-26. From there the Niners would take a 35-34 lead into the half.
The second half opened with a flurry, as a pair of steals led to a Mayfield dunk and another basket, resulting in a quick NC Central timeout. However, the run would continue out to 12-2 to start the second half as the Niners built a 47-36 lead. NCCU would hang in there to cut the lead to 8 points with just over 8 minutes to go, but strong defense by the Niners helped them push the lead to an insurmountable 16 point margin with two minutes to go. Some mental lapses late surely drew the ire of Alan Major though, as those turnovers lead to some highlight (*cough* scoreboard *cough*) dunks from Dominique Sutton -as a quick aside to Sutton, you went 1-11 from the line. That in and of itself is atrocious. Your team was also down by 16 points. Double clutch and reverse dunks come across as extremely lame. Perhaps it was his audition for the Globetrotters. Who knows.
In all, four Niners scored in double figures. Braswell led the way with 19 points and added 12 rebounds. Mayfield had the aforementioned 17 points and Derrio Green added 13 points on 4-7 shooting from the field. Javarris Barnett also had a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Pierria Henry added 5 assists, but was hampered by 5 turnovers, most of them early and late in the game, definitely something he will need to work on. He did show his knack for the ball, notching 3 steals. Off the bench Deuce Briscoe seemed to never quite find a rhythm, settling for 2 points on 1-5 shooting; however, to his credit he didn’t try to force his shot in a game where emotionally he might have been inclined to take it to his former team. Fr. E Victor Nickerson displayed his impressive ability to slash and get to the rim. He did miss a couple layups but those will likely fall in the future.
In summary, there was some good and some bad. But a win is always sweet, especially coming off last season’s painful 10-20 campaign.
- Pierria Henry is a force on defense. He took away three balls from NCCU. He also impressed with his willingness to follow shots and scored around the rim.
- DeMario Mayfield’s shooting. Yes we knew he could dunk, but his jumper looked smooth on his way to connecting on all three of his long-distance attempts.
- Chris Braswell. Last season the losing seemed to get to Braswell as evidenced by his body language. Tonight he did what he needed to do: dominate in the post against a team he should dominate. He also looked more engaged, hustling off the court when substituted for.
- Landon Clement. Niners perimeter defense limited to 7 points on 2-8 shooting -he was essentially a non-factor
- Turnovers. Against a better team, the early turnovers might result in an insurmountable deficit.
- KJ Sherrill. Maybe not so much bad, but certainly less effective than what would have been expected following some breakout performances last year. He seemed a little sluggish and less explosive than during his Sophomore campaign (and that coming off a knee injury).
- End of game execution. It ties in with turnovers above, but mental acuity is critical at the end of the game. A team that aspires to win needs to stay sharp throughout the game, lest it cost them in a tight one.
Well that’s all folks. Talk to you again soon. Let us know in the comments what you think of tonight’s game or anything else (especially stock tips).
Box Score (.pdf): Link