Posts Tagged ‘The Zone’
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 The fast paced run and shoot team of Bruins past have been replaced by a team that has shown a lack of confidence with bad passing, poor shot selection, and an overall lack of fire in the belly.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.
You may have seen this guy’s awful dunk on the Byrd Cage Facebook page or even here. I guess it doesn’t even count as a dunk, because it didn’t go in, but defining Jordan Burgason on that one clip alone is simply not fair, I hate to say.
Now understand this, I hate Lipscomb. As far as journalistic integrity goes, I post the truth- but you need to understand that the truth is going to be a bit biased here. This fact is unavoidable. I love the Bruins and I hate the Bisons.
All that being said, Jordan Burgason needs to be talked about. He is currently ranked fourth in the entire NCAA in 3-Point Field Goal % Per Game. He also averages 16.9 points per game.
So, it isn’t like he is just playing a few minutes and shoots a few threes. The guy is clutch, and the fact that we held to him four attempts (making two) is an admirable goal in and of itself.
So what went wrong last time?
PART ONE: LOSING AT HOME
Belmont’s defense allowed double-digit points from every starter and one bench player against Lipscomb on January 6 putting together a total of 85 points against us in total. We have only allowed three other teams to score 80 points or more against us this year, and those teams were; Memphis, MTSU, and Marshall. We even kept Duke below 80.
So what was the deal with Lipscomb? That always seems to be the question. Drew Hanlen, in our exclusive Byrd Cage interview, even said the same thing- and he didn’t have an answer. But to not look at last game as two separate halves drastically changes the story.
In the first half, Belmont and Lipscomb were evenly matched. Ian Clark had 14 by halftime, Drew Hanlen and Clark were a combined 6-9 from the three, and our bench even had five steals. We walked into the locker room at half-time up, 39-36, feeling hopeful about the outcome of the game. But things were going in for Lipscomb as well. Shooting over 50%, the Bisons obviously didn’t feel too bad about their position coming back out.
This is where things changed.
J.J. Mann made 1 out of 7 three-pointers. Kerron missed all four of his three-point attempts. In the second half we shot 5-19 at the 3 point arc. A miserable 26.3%. Of course they out-rebounded us in the second half. Our post players scored 7 total, with only 6 total rebounds.
We fell apart. They made 15 of 16 free throws.
I felt sick.
Lipscomb took the game 85-74 and proceeded to stand in the middle of our court in a huddle after the game.
“Get off the floor!” some yelled. ”Isn’t it curfew?” others screamed. Others stood silently, holding up 4 fingers. You may have won the battle, but we always win the war Bruin fans seemed to pronounce without words.
Defeat at home, in the worst way.
But now it is February, after-all, the Bruins favorite time of the year.
Tonight we will come in swinging.
PART TWO: THE THREE PART COMBO FOR WINNING AT ALLEN ARENA
1. Blake Jenkins. Blake has steadily risen to the top of the Bruins lineup, proving he can score below and stand tall as a strong arm defender in both the passing and shooting lanes. Jenkins’ success tonight will be a deciding factor in tonight’s game.
2. Controlling the ball. Drew Hanlen leads the tempo of the game in explosive bursts. His expert footwork, skilled ball-handling, speed, and minimal turnovers give Belmont the edge in the A-Sun when it comes to controlling games. But I would like to see what the Bruins can look like as a controlled, composed, and in-charge squad at the end of games. I haven’t seen that this year. Hanlen’s last minute lob down the court at the end of their last game against UNF gave Hanlen an ear-full from Coach Byrd when we were up and needed to control the clock. We’ll need to be focused down to the last-minute of tonight’s game with a quiet confidence to win at Allen Arena.
3. Shutting Down Jordan Burgason. The man has averaged 21.5 points a game since the first meeting with Belmont. He is, frankly stated, on fire and this must be squelched. While their team has only gone .500 since our last meeting, their inconsistency as a team cannot be counted upon at Allen Arena tonight. Hands must be in Burgason’s face during every shot attempt. An open Burgason equals a losing Belmont squad.
Now, if you will, a moment of silence for the last A-Sun conference rivalry game between these historic squads.
Tip-Off is at Allen Arena tonight at 6. Tickets may still be available here
Nashville Sports Talk Station 104.5 The Zone’s Kevin Ingram spoke with the Byrd Cage about the Lipscomb rivalry, expectations of this Belmont team, and his favorite memory of the Belmont squad.
Kevin Ingram joins the Bruin Sports Network for his 10th year as The Voice of the Bruins, and is co-host of 104.5 The Zone’s Wake Up Zone. He also does sideline reporting for Vanderbilt football and has play-by-play duties for the football radio broadcasts.
The Byrd Cage is grateful for the chance to interview Ingram as his experience with Belmont basketball is unparalleled in the profession.
Brett McReynolds: Thanks for agreeing to answer some of the Byrd Cage’s questions, Kevin. If you wouldn’t mind, tell us a little bit about your experience in the Belmont/Lipscomb rivalry.
Kevin Ingram: I think Friday will be my 17th game to call in the series, including the 2006 A-Sun final. It’s really an honor to be a part of, always a great atmosphere and a fun matchup. One of those games where it’s cool just to see the two teams on the same floor. Intense and hard-fought games, but typically cleanly played and with good sportsmanship. It is interesting to me how in many of the games Lipscomb’s won, the formula has been similiar…. Bruins open a first half lead, Bisons claw back and get within single figures by halftime… then Lipscomb locks things down defensively in the second half. The 2011 blowout by Belmont was stunning to watch, never thought I would see a Boulevard Battle that lopsided.
BM: What did you see specifically in our last match-up that really stood out?
KI: The first 2012 meeting at the Curb Center was especially disappointing for Belmont. It looked like the Bruins were in control with 8 or 9 minutes to play, but Lipscomb played great defense, made all the plays and hit everything down the stretch. I have a feeling Belmont is going to play well the second time around, especially with the emergence of Blake Jenkins. Allen Arena is a tough place to win… the crowd is right on top of the floor, and I would imagine the lighting can be a challenge for shooting if you’re not used to it.
BM: Do you think Belmont’s move to OVC will hurt the rivalry? Do you see Lipscomb taking the jump to the OVC soon?
KI: From my conversations with the coaches and others, it sounds like the rivalry will continue even with Belmont going to the OVC next season. Scheduling non-conference games is so difficult, a home-and-home would make a lot of sense. It will lose something with the teams no longer being in the same conference… that dynamic has certainly made it interesting. I do hope they will schedule the games when students are in, as the atmosphere loses something otherwise. Not sure about Lipscomb going to the OVC. I also hope Belmont can keep playing ETSU, they’ve been a good rival in the A-Sun.
BM: At the beginning of the season, some bracket experts had Belmont projected as high as an 11 seed in the tournament. The latest brackets project Mercer in the NCAA tournament. How do you see Belmont now versus your preseason expectations? What do you think has been Belmont’s greatest weakness?
KI: Belmont has lost more games this season than we might have expected, although last season spoiled us and raised expectations to ridiculous levels. Those one-point games are the ones that keep coaches up at night. If Belmont wins the conference tournament, they’ll likely have in the mid-20′s in wins… probably looking at about a 14. At least that would be my guess…. they’re better than a 15, but who knows when it comes to seeding.
BM: Give us one memory from the Belmont/Lipscomb rivalry that really stands out to you.
KI: As for a favorite memory in the Belmont-Lipscomb games I’ve been a part of… it’s hard to come up with anything better than the 2006 conference championship game. Every part of that day was intense… from the silence of breakfast with the team, to the hard-fought first 40 minutes and overtime… so many plays by different guys… Justin Hare’s 3-point play might have been the biggest in the program’s history, certainly in the NCAA era. In the end, everyone on the Belmont side was thrilled to win and make the Dance for the first time, but knew that it could have just as easily gone the other way, and the Bisons would be celebrating.
Belmont plays Lipscomb at Allen Arena on Friday. Kevin Ingram will be calling the game. Tip-off is at 6 p.m.