Turkey tastes a little better when you are coming off a win.

  • 27 Nov, 2016

Turkey tastes a little better when you are coming off a win.

We head into the Thanksgiving break with three straight wins, after beginning the season with back to back losses. We faced a talented James Madison team, which was looking for its’ first win of the season. I knew we would need to play hard from the opening tip and that’s the message they I conveyed to the team.

We jumped out to an early advantage and held an eight-point lead at the half. I was pleased with our effort in the final 20 minutes, as we led by double digits for most of the second half. It’s always good to get a road win against a good opponent and we had to do it without Johnathan Stove who didn’t dress out. Jay Wright had a career-high 27 points and Frank Bartley had another big game with 28 points. Frank’s good start to the season hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he got some national attention early this week.

The win improved our record to 3-2 on the season.

We opened the season with a hard-fought 86-74 loss at Minnesota. The Golden Gophers were coming off the worst season in 121 years so we knew they would be anxious to the season started. Things did not go well for us early, as Johnathan and Bryce Washington both picked up two fouls in the first five minutes. In the closing minutes of the first half both players picked up their third fouls and Minnesota responded with a 13-2 run to take a 22-point lead at halftime.

I was really proud of our effort in the second half. We competed and climbed back into the game before losing by 12. Freshman Justin Miller had 20 points.

We had a quick turnaround. 48 hours after playing in Minnesota we were in Bozeman, MT to face Montana State. I had a chance to catch up with an old friend, Stu Starner. He was a former assistant coach at the University of Minnesota when they had Kevin McHale, Trent Tucker and Randy Breuer. Those were some really good teams. A few years later Stu was the head coach at Montana State. I’ve known him for many years so it was nice to visit him at practice and shoot-around. I wish the actual game was as much fun.

The contest with MSU was a game of runs and it went back forth more most of the second half. Johnathan scored, with just over a minute remaining to cut the deficit to one, and his layup with 28 seconds left gave us the lead. We expected MSU’s Tyler Hall to take the last shot and he did. Our defense forced a tough shot, but they got the rebound and won it at the line with two free throws.

We returned home to face a Panhandle State team, which was shorthanded. They were without their point guard and best big man. All thirteen of our players, who were dressed for the game, scored at least two baskets and nobody played more than 20 minutes. The 117-47 win was the largest margin of victory on school history. Ironically, a few days later we had the slimmest of margins against Delaware State.

The Hornets scored the first eight points of the game, but we fought back to take a six-point lead into the locker room. We led the entire second half, but Delaware State kept coming at us. They were 13-for-25 from three-point range and they missed just one free throw. We came away with a one-point win. Frank had 25 and Bryce finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks.

On Sunday we will host a very good Texas Southern team, which won on the road at La Salle earlier this season. It will be the final game played at the historic Blackham Coliseum. On December 1 we are back in the revamped Cajundome, which had 21 million dollars in renovations in the offseason.

From our entire team, we would like to wish you a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!