Army led by as many as 12 points at the Pope Center on Wednesday night, but a late run closed the gap for St. Francis Brooklyn and gave Brent Jones a decent look from three to tie the game. Unfortunately that attempt clanged off the left rim. Army moved to 3-0 on the young season, while the Terriers fell to 0-2.
Here are some thoughts about the game:
1) Army’s offense looks to be in midseason form: Zach Spiker’s team received contributions from all sorts of players against the Terriers. In the first half it was 6’10” forward Kevin Ferguson. SFC had no one who could match up with Ferguson’s size and he took advantage, scoring 15 points on 6-7 shooting. Another forward, Tanner Plomb, was also able to take advantage of his size advantage against the Terriers. Plomb scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting from the field in 26 minutes.
Really though the whole offense is keyed off Kyle Wilson. Wilson took 19 shots on Tuesday, but each seemed to have a purpose inside of the flow of the offense. SFC managed to speed the Cadets up a few times, but often those mad scrambles led to Wilson finding himself wide open for a corner three. The fact that he was only 3-10 from distance kept the Terriers in the game.
The other thing Spiker will probably look at is the fact that Dylan Cox had six turnovers in 29 minutes against heavy pressure from Brent Jones and Yunus Hopkinson. There are Patriot League teams with the ability to pressure, most notably Holy Cross, so Cox will need to take better care of the ball moving forward.
2) St. Francis Brooklyn needs to take care of the little things: Despite Jalen Cannon picking up two early fouls the Terriers managed to stay in this game until the end, but they’ll be kicking themselves about some of the points that were left on the court. SFC missed the front-end of two one-and-ones in the second half, plus a couple backends of potential three-point plays. Overall SFC shot 13-21 from the line (62%). Free throw shooting woes held the Terriers back during NEC play last year, as they were the second worst shooting team in the league during NEC play at 67%, and head coach Glenn Braica certainly doesn’t want to see that happen again.
The Terriers also need to be more careful with the ball. SFC turned the ball over on a quarter of their offensive possessions, including 10 by the front court of Cannon, Antonio Jenifer, and Chris Hooper. All three will have to be stronger with the ball come conference play, because they all can score when they hang onto the ball.
“We got to take care of the ball better and we’re a work in progress,” Braica said. “We’re not where we need to be. We’re nowhere near where we need to be. We’ve got to keep working every day to get better.”
Braica also experimented a bit with a two point guard lineup involving Jones and Hopkinson. It put the Terriers in some difficult defensive positions against some of the taller Army lineups, but the combination certainly showed potential on the offensive end. The duo gives St. Francis two dynamic playmakers on the ball and it led to both Hopkinson and Jones occasionally finding easier passing angles to get the ball into the paint.
“I think they did a good job and that’s a tough matchup,” Braica said. “I think in our league the match ups will be more conducive to that and I like it. I do like it. I like it with the ball handling and the breakdown ability.”
3) Antonio Jenifer can make an impact for the Terriers this season: Jenifer received some extra playing time on Tuesday night due to Cannon’s foul trouble and he made the most of it. The 6’7″ forward from Hillcrest, MD played 20 minutes and scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting from the field, including 2-3 from three. Most importantly, he looked confident shooting the three. Jenifer also had eight rebounds, mostly on the defensive end. There were some hiccups, including a few turnovers in transition, but overall the junior college transfer appears to a valuable piece of Braica’s rotation moving forward.
“He was terrific for his second game,” Braica said. “Early in practice he wasn’t playing hard enough. We got on him. Maybe he was thinking too much because we threw a lot at him. But he’s still a working in progress too. I think he can get better, but I thought he was terrific.”
Overall, the Terriers, who were picked first by the NEC coaches, are still a work in progress. The games don’t get any easier either. The Terriers head to Rutgers on Sunday to play the Scarlet Knights after they easily handled Fairleigh Dickinson. A tough game at La Salle follows the following Tuesday. Braica’s team might be 0-4 after that stretch, but they’re challenging themselves and learning a lot in the process that will be helpful, especially considering the team added seven new players this season.