Let’s mix it up a little tonight, here’s the brief synopsis on the game tonight. Longwood played great in the first half and there was a lot of fire from not only the players but the coaching staff. The Lancers trailed 24-23 at the half.
High Point came out in the second half and decided to notch up the full court pressure. Longwood did not adjust and the Lancers were outscored 58-30 in the second half to lose 82-53. The end…same story as, basically, the fourteen games before the win at Winthrop.
Now the commentary…
After the game Mike Gillian went on the radio post game show and the consensus excuse tonight was Longwood being shorthanded and thus not being able to play their preferred up-tempo style of basketball.
Here are the facts when it comes to Longwood’s depth:
- Frank Holloway is out for the season after shoulder surgery about a month ago. Holloway was projected to be the starter at power forward but only played about a half of basketball this year. Holloway has been injury plagued in his collegiate career in Junior College and was an unknown coming in this season. Just because he was slated to be a starter doesn’t mean he’s an upgrade over Jeylani Dublin.
- Nik Brown has missed nine games this season. The eight most recent have been attributed to a mysterious ailment that some have speculated as a post concussion syndrome and others have claimed he’s suffering from vertigo. Brown was leading the Big South in turnovers when he was injured at Radford and was shooting just thirty-two percent from the field. Many would argue that Lucas Woodhouse should be your starter regardless.
Here’s the thing… INJURIES HAPPEN! High Point was missing, arguably, their best player tonight John Brown for the last 25 minutes of the game with a bicep injury. Winthrop’s Larry Brown is out for the year and they beat Charleston Southern tonight (o yea and they’re in a “rebuild”). Liberty’s most talented player, Antwan Burrus, has not played this year. Campbell’s Darren White, who is probably the most talented scorer in the conference, has been out most of the year. The list goes on and on…
If anyone should know the value of depth it should be Longwood and Mike Gillian, a team that was forced to play the last portion of last year with essentially six warm bodies. If there was a lesson to be learned, it was last year.
The notion that Longwood is currently shorthanded is a myth. NINE High Point players played double-digit minutes tonight while Mike Gillian has settled into a six man rotation. The six man rotation is not forced due to injury but rather a choice. Longwood has five players on their bench who simply are not used. These aren’t developmental freshman but rather scholarship players. One of those players is a senior, two more are juniors, then the last two are a sophomore and a freshman.
Mike Gillian chose these players. He recruited them, he gave them a scholarship, and he has them on his bench. How can you chalk this season up to injuries, when you have so many players that you believed in rotting on your bench? Can these guys not play? If not, why are they here? Why haven’t they been developed in the 13 years of combined experience that they have on campus?
Every Big South team has injuries and every team has a contingency plan. Why are we the only fan base that is force fed excuses preemptively before giving the notion of depth a chance? After the results and circumstances of last year that spawned from injury, suspension, and players simply quitting the team were quick fixes and band-aids thought to be the solution. Why does Longwood have the luxury of five “developmental” players who don’t see meaningful time or any time at all on the court?
Instead of finding solutions we are constantly fed excuses and problems. While other coaches are discussing their accountability in their teams performance, we are handed hurdles. Hurdles that are manufactured and we’d rather use as a crutch rather than finding away to jump over them.
This has nothing to do with those players on the bench. I’d love to see them play more and develop because of it. All five of those players are willing and able to give valuable minutes on the floor night in and night out.
You don’t lose eleven conference games by an average margin of 17 points because you’re shorthanded. Longwood isn’t shorthanded but their fans are being shortchanged. This team has talent and talent that can flourish, but they’re being out-coached week to week, game to game.
If an up-tempo style is your game then 1) establish depth, 2) PLAY IT. I’m sure many would agree that VCU is the blueprint for an up-tempo game. Has anyone ever noticed that the Rams have 11 players who play eight or more minutes per game? How can you start the season planning on playing an up-tempo style, not expecting any injury, and just moving forward with a core of eight players? It just doesn’t make sense.
I was exchanges texts with a former Longwood player, who played under Mike Gillian, in the second half. He was watching the game at home and I commented “in 9 years of watching this team have you ever seen Longwood come out and be the aggressor on defense?”. The answer? “Absolutely not”. If you watch basketball on a regular basis you’ll hear over and over the best way to play a pressing team is to press them right back.
Longwood isn’t losing because players are injured, they aren’t losing because they lack talent, they are losing because they are being out-coached and they are not matching the energy of opposing teams on the floor and on the sidelines. I couldn’t help but watch Scott Cherry continue to coach his team vocally with visual energy and encourage his players when the Panthers were up by 30 tonight. The same has been true for Duggar Baucom, Barclay Radebaugh, Gregg Nibbert, Robbie Laing, etc, etc… When your coaching staff can’t match the energy and excitement of that of the opposing team then you’ve already lost the battle no matter what your gameplan was.
This fan base deserves more than lame, manufactured excuses after every loss.