Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back to the Knott

You can bet that the ride home from New Britain Connecticut was a fun one for the Mt. St. Mary's Mountaineers yesterday evening. And with good reason. The Mount had just completed its first non-conference road win against a +.500 conference mate in over two years. The last one came in on January 15th 2011, when the Mounties won at St. Francis NY.

The Mount win avoided a four-game losing streak, the second such time the Mount has ended a streak in such fashion this year.

But it wasn't so much the win as the way the Mount got the win that impressed me.

We can poke our finger at the Mount defense as much as we want, were not likely to create many holes. But it was that defense that really slowed down the Central Connecticut offense. If you stuck around long enough on the NECFrontRow.com post-game show you heard CCSU assistant coach Sean Ryan say that the 1-3-1 defense is something that can make an immediate impact on a basketball game. But most of the time the offense becomes comfortable against it and it is ineffective.

However, the Mount coaching staff never let that happen. Primarily because they kept rotating guys at the top of the zone. At times 7-foot Taylor Danaher manned the top of the zone. At others, 5-10 Shivaughn Wiggins was the guy up top. And there were others there as well. Couple that with the fact that anytime the Devils did seem to get going offensively
the Mount gave them a different look and went back to the zone later on.

Howie Dickenman has made a career out of outcoaching people in the NEC. The Mount coaching staff had his number on Saturday afternoon.

Not only was the defense working but the Mount offense was executing at a high level. The offense has now scored better than a point a possession in four of its last five games after reaching that mark only three times in its first eleven games. And there was quite a balance to it as well.

Five players scored in double figures. Julian Norfleet and Xavier Owens led the way with 18. Owens had a monster game with 9 rebounds. The sophomore from Tampa has seen his minutes decrease in recent weeks, but he was more than ready to take advantage of positive matchups when his number was called.

Norfleet provided the dagger three to cap the performance. He knocked down 4-of-6 threes on the afternoon breaking out of the season-long shooting slump. Expect a big conclusion to the season from the junior.

So the Mount heads back to the friendly confines of Knott Arena for three home games in its next four. KenPom.com currently lists the Mount as favorites in all three of those games. But none will be easy.

Still its nice to be home and with a good road win to boot.

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