The Mocs may have lost by eleven points in Richmond on Tuesday night, and it's hard to be positive about such a defeat, but the Mocs have a lot of positives to take away from this game.
The Mocs easily won the battle on the boards, winning the battle of offensive rebounding (percentage wise). The Mocs shot 54% from the floor and 43% from three point range. The Mocs got to the free throw line a decent amount. The Mocs outshot the seventh best shooting team in the country in terms of eFG%. They held that team that had been shooting 56.4% from two point range (second best in the country) to 45.5% from two point range. They held the team that had been shooting 36.9% from three point range to 31.6% shooting from long range. Those are the positives.
The negatives are that the Mocs, playing against a team that is 6th best at forcing turnovers in the country, turned the ball over a shocking 24 times. They forced just five turnovers. That won't get the job done. They simply did not protect the ball tonight. Rico White turned the ball over seven times. Gee McGhee and Z Mason each turned it over five times. It was ugly. They simply did not protect the ball, especially in the second half. The Mocs defense played so well early in the second half- they just couldn't put the ball in the basket enough to take the lead and win the game.
So, all in all, the Mocs played OK. They were not as sharp as they sometimes are, and Will Wade seemed more emotional to me when watching the game. He picked up a technical. Someone may correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember him picking up one of those this year. His emotion earlier in the game may have been due to the Mocs not having quite as much edge or quite as much energy as usual.
Cut down on the turnovers and this could have been an easy win. Against a team ranked 20 spots higher than Davidson in Pomeroy's rankings, we could have won. Against a team that just set their school record for most consecutive home out of conference wins, we could have won. Is this good enough? No. In the future, I'd like to win games like this. But even when I sat around dreaming up ways for the Mocs to win 23 regular season games in the preseason (which I did do for a couple of hours in mid-September), this was a loss.
I think the Mocs can grow from this, but they proved to me that they can play with good mid-majors (which I think EKU is) tonight. I'm not completely disappointed. I've been wondering if the reason the Mocs are playing better is because the SoCon is weak or if it was real improvement. Against UAB, they played well. Against Grand Canyon and Maine, they played OK. Now, against Eastern Kentucky, they played pretty well. That means that in their last four out of conference games, there are a lot of positives to take away. The ten SoCon games in between also seem to show positives. The Mocs can play with mid-majors that don't crush them with height. That's what I'm gathering.
The Mocs are showing how much better they are than a 43 point loss to Davidson. That was the most important step for me tonight. It may not have been what everyone was hoping for, but it was what I wanted to see.
On to Samford- the far more important game for the Mocs this week. The Mocs really need a road win on Saturday night.