Balance leads Hall into tip-off tournament
Heading into the bracket part of the Hall of Fame Tip-off against Washington on Saturday, the Pirates hold a 2-0 record following wins against UMKC and Norfolk State.
The victories are in large part due to a complete team effort with 10 players seeing 10 plus minutes of playing time in the first game and eight in the second. Six players are averaging over seven points per contest.
“That’s what I love about this team, that’s what I envision for this team,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “Unlike last year if (Theodore) or (Pope) had a bad night, we were pretty much screwed. If one of those two guys is having a bad night now, we have someone who can pick them up and carry them. There’s a lot less pressure.”
With so much balance and depth on the team this season, Willard needs to find playing time for all of his players. Sophomore Aaron Cosby missed the first game due to injury, only played 16 minutes in his return against Norfolk State and is expected to see his minutes grow as he becomes more conditioned.
This hurts sophomore Freddie Wilson as he was expected to compete with Cosby and freshman Tom Maayan for the starting point guard spot but after being suspended for the first two games for a violation of team rules, he could see some difficulties seeing some court time, according to Willard.
“Freddie’s got to work hard to get back in the lineup,” Willard said. “That’s the tough thing about this roster.”
Part of that reasoning is the play of Maayan. Maayan has started both games at point guard and has held his own averaging 5.5 assists and 5.5 points per game.
“He’s going a little too much east and west and has to go a little more north, south,” Willard said. “I thought he got guys involved, he got guys good shots.”
The scoring has been spread out with junior Fuquan Edwin leading the way. Edwin put up 16 and 23 points through the first two games with junior transfer Eugene Teague averaging 15 points down low in though two contests. The bench is even providing the Pirates with quality points with graduate Kyle Smyth adding 14 points in Monday’s 78-65 win over Norfolk State.
“It’s good, not for the scoring, just being the captain is good,” Edwin said about being looked at as the guy to score. “Everyone can score the ball on our team. Some games I might be scoreless and it will just be my defense that will help the team win.”
That defense from the Hall has been suffocating this season. They have forced 18 steals and held the opposition to 31.7 percent shooting from the field while only allowing 50.5 points a game against.
However, things are probably going to be more difficult against Washington. The Huskies just missed out on making the 2012 NCAA Tournament after winning the PAC-12 regular season title. Returning two starters from that team, Washington holds a 1-1 record after a surprising 63-62 loss to Albany at home on Tuesday.
Three players average in double figures for the Huskies, led by senior Abdul Gaddy’s 16.5 points a game.
Down in the paint Washington is anchored by senior Aziz N’Diaye. The native of Senegal stands at 7-foot, 260 lbs. and will be a challenge for the Hall’s Teague. Through two games N’Diaye is averaging a team high 16.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game to go against Teague’s 15.0 points and 9.0 rebounds.
The Pirates might catch a break with the status of senior starter Scott Suggs remaining in question after leaving the game against the Great Danes with an apparent concussion just two minutes in. He scored 15 in the team’s 85-63 opening night win over Loyola (MD) and is a career 41.4 percent shooter from 3-point range.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., with Ohio State or Rhode Island on Sunday depending on how both games go.
Stephen Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.