Monday night Bruins fans were treated to another magical Belmont performance, led by our usual combination of 3 point shooting (10-25) and strong Center play by the Hedgepeth/Saunders duo (combined for 31 points). The thought I had leaving the Curb Event Center was, ‘they’re baaaaack.’
As I have mentioned in a previous article, the 2012 Bruins are not the 2011 Bruins. Granted, this team is still a solid mid-major team, but, we shouldn’t expect last year’s 30-win magic from this squad. However, I may stand corrected. The Bruins looked the best I have seen them all year and not just because they were playing one of the worst Austin Peay teams in recent memory.
There have been many games this year where the Bruins have had double digit wins, where we at the Byrd Cage have felt uneasy about team chemistry. The fast paced run and shoot team of Bruins past have been replaced by a team that has shown a lack of confidence with bad passing, poor shot selection, and an overall lack of fire in the belly. So what has changed? Brandon “The Bakery” Baker has been almost non-existent during this five-game win streak, playing an average of 6.8 minutes per game (as compared to his usual 15.2 minutes).
We have mentioned in earlier articles that one of the biggest differences in this squad from last year’s was the inadequate replacement of Jon House and Jordan Campbell. For most of the season Byrd has tried to make Baker that replacement but his 34% shooting and 3 rebounds per game are hardly the makings of a true starting Power Forward. Enter Blake Jenkins, whose “boomshockalocka” dunk Monday night set the building on fire, has been the x-factor during this win-streak. He is averaging 21.8 minutes a game (13.9 for the season), 12.6 points per game (compared to his usual 4.7 points per game), and 5 rebounds per game (doubling his season average), during this streak. Oh ya, he’s also shooting a whopping 64% from the field. If the Bruins are going to win it’s final A-Sun tournament it’s going to be done properly utilizing Blake Jenkins.
Granted, there have been other factors to this win-streak as well, namely Kerron Johnson finally getting his leadership role and shooting percentage under control, but Blake Jenkins has certainly been the unexpected gem that has put Belmont back in the NCAA tournament discussion.
The Deep Cut
Okay, so we have seen Blake Jenkins’ affect on the floor. We see the intensity, we see the hustle, the dunks, the scoop-ins, the rebounds, the overall defense, and finally, we have seen his impact on the team in wins, (5-0) when he is a starter. But what does this look like on paper, you ask? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
What you will see when you look at our Field Goal Percentage (FG%) pre-Blake Jenkins is a team ranked around 220th in the NCAA. Our 3-Point Percentage is around the 160th mark in the NCAA.
What about when Blake Jenkins starts?
Our FG% jumps to 53.2 and our 3P% jumps to 42.3.
This, by all accounts is huge.
Now, you can say the sampling size is smaller, and the opponents are easier, but a five game sampling with averages of that nature is still very impressive. It is the reason Belmont is now ranked 20th overall in the NCAA in Field Goal Percentage.
Blake has proven to be the X-Factor, as Drew Hanlen mentioned in our exclusive interview. His range of abilities has made opponents rethink the attack, has made them delve deeper into their reserves, and has left us more open on the perimeter.
And, we all know, an open Belmont perimeter is a good thing.
In Blake Jenkins we trust.