So was the EMU Showcase a success? According to Jayson Gee and mild mannered fans like myself, it was certainly a success. Longwood went 2-2 (including the game vs Averett in Willett Hall) which Gee explained was the initial goal anyway. Now don’t get me wrong, once we beat UNCG in overtime on Friday, I hoped the Lancers could squeak out a win over Youngstown State the following day and although many casual fans haven’t heard of them, the Eastern Michigan Eagles are probably going to win 20 games this season. To expect a win against a 20 win team so early in the season would have been naive.
This tournament was basically a chance for Longwood to learn more about their team. It was an opportunity to get an idea of what this team is made of and what coach Jayson Gee and his staff need to do to improve going forward. When it comes to the wins and losses, you might as well just forget about that aspect. On the other hand, you can’t simply forget this is year two of a rebuild (or a build). On top of that, the roster is filled with players that have never donned the blue and white before this season. What i’m looking for is progress. Are these players getting better? Do they seem like they’re gelling? Are they all in? Yes. Yes. Yes.
This team is growing. Results aren’t always going to be there in the box score. The stats aren’t going to tell this Jayson Gee story. You have to watch this team to really get a grasp of it. You can’t look at a stat sheet and understand the intangibles that this Longwood team is developing. Coach Gee possesses very specific ideals and principles when it comes to this Longwood program. Good defense is a main staple and although opposing teams were able to expose some of Longwood’s vulnerabilities (i.e. the zone), the defense was still able to implement a degree of pressure.
Longwood showed some composure in the game against UNCG. Early on, the Lancers trailed the Spartans. In fact, the Lancers never held the lead during the first half. However, Longwood came out strong in the second half and claimed the lead on their first possession. The Lancers held the lead for a few minutes before UNCG made a run. The teams ping-ponged for a while before Longwood took a small lead around the 4 minute mark. From there, Longwood had as much as a 4 point advantage and would eventually allow a buzzer beating 3 to send the game into overtime. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure a team would be able to come back from that. Welp, this Lancers team was able to and they claimed the 2 point victory after one overtime period.
As for the Youngstown State game, I feel like if that game had taken place in Willett Hall, there’s no doubt Longwood would have won. Going into that game, I felt like the Lancers had a good shot. They made timely runs all throughout the game. The problem was they needed those runs to stay in the game because of a rash of turnovers throughout the contest. To give you an idea, Longwood had 17 TO’s and just 11 assists (on 31 made baskets). Contrarily, YSU had just 13 TO’s with 18 assists (on 30 made baskets). Also, the Lancers just failed to get to the charity stripe as YSU was 19-31 and Longwood was 2-8.
Finally, the Eastern Michigan blowout was a result of 4 games in 5 days combined with an uber athletic Eagles squad. Coach Gee even mentioned that the Lancers physically broke down. Looking at the number of minutes guys played, you can tell coach took that into consideration. For one, freshman Victor Dorsey registered 17 minutes (he tallied his first two points and registered 8 rebounds). On the opposite end, Damarion Geter registered just 13 minutes. It’s hard to excuse a 31 point defeat but the circumstance led to the result. Give the Lancers credit, they play hard and with a lot of energy. Doing that 4 times in 5 days was simply the breaking point. And unfortunately for the Lancers, they saved the best team of the stretch for last.
All in all, I think this was a valuable stretch for the Lancers. Nwogbo is really coming into his own. He was named to the All-Tournament team. Ryan Badowski is showing his ability each and every game. The freshman hasn’t missed a shot from inside the arc (he’s 6-6 from the field). I really appreciate the fact that he isn’t afraid of the limelight and doesn’t mind shooting the ball in tough situations. Quincy Taylor returned to the lineup. You’d have to believe the redshirt senior is hungry and eager to right the ship in Farmville. Shaq Johnson is showing that he can be a tough player as he battled through as illness this weekend. DJ Allen continues to impress although he went silent in the final game vs EMU. He’s a tough defender that simply wore down over the course of the past week. Finally, Kanayo Obi-Rapu showed he can respond as he hit a rough patch against UNCG but responded well against YSU.
Longwood will travel to George Washington and Iowa this coming week. It’s possible the Lancers will return to Willett Hall on December 3rd with a 2-5 record and that’s ok. GW will likely contend for a tournament spot this season and Iowa is an always tough Big 10 team. Once December rolls around though, look for this Longwood team to compete and really show growth on the hardwoods.