BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Sometimes you need a good old fashioned blow out to right the ship. Unfortunately for the Troy Trojans, they were the sacrificial squad Thursday night.
I was very high on Troy coming in to Thursday’s game, and for good reason. They had who I think will be a first team all-Sun Belt player in Jordon Varnado, one of the country’s best sharp shooters in Wesley Person, and pretty solid pieces at every position.
The Blazers held Varnado scoreless in the first half and Hakeem Baxter suffocated Person the entire night. There were many improvements on the defensive end — most notably the close-outs on perimeter shooters.
The 23 point win should be attributed to an overall better collective performance from UAB, but it would be wrong to not point out Troy was ice cold for most of the night.
As I mentioned in the post-game from the Furman loss, the Blazers live off missed basket transition opportunities. Whether it’s from good defense or a stale night from the opponent, you seize the chances and take advantage. UAB did just that scoring 12 fastbreak points on the night.
Let’s have a look at the stats, and include KenPom.com‘s statistical MVP.
Chris Cokley is picking up right where he left off in non-conference play last season. The big man was awarded KenPom.com‘s MVP in 7 of the 13 games. After Thursday night he’ll have another imaginary trophy to put on the shelf.
Chris Cokley ¦ A
William Lee ¦ B+
Haha’s B grade is representative of his ridiculous blocks he had tonight. My only knock on his night is his reluctance to dribble drive an opponent from the perimeter to the basket. He’s a little too unselfish. Then again, that could be his marching orders from the staff. Nonetheless, he was straight Mutombo-ing dudes last night.
Hakeem Baxter ¦ B
Hak is playing like a senior, and that’s what the team will need of him every single game. He doesn’t have to pour in double-digit points like he did the first two games. He is defending at a very high level, and you can bet Wesley Person won’t be having many 1-of-8 3-point shooting nights against other teams.
Deion Lavender ¦ A+
Nearly pulling a triple-double the second night out as the new point guard is silly good. Sure, he had his moments where his hesitation resulted in some offensive confusion. But he fought through it and he put his teammates in positions to be successful, and that’s what he’ll be asked to do this season. His stingy defense is just icing on the cake at this point.
Dirk Williams ¦ C+
I have extremely high standards for Dirk. I asked Ehsan what he thought of his performance last night, and he had the same opinion I did. Coach said he emphasized to Dirk to be more selective and patient on offense, and going from a sixth man to more of a Robert Brown roll will take some time.
Tosin Mehinti ¦ B
Tosin had some really solid sequences on defense that won’t be seen on the stat sheet. That’s what this team will need out of him night in and night out. Ehsan mentioned in the presser that they’ll be looking to get not just Cokley, but Tosin the ball more in the paint. I’m not so sure I’m on board with that. I believe we’ve seen the ceiling of his offense. As usual though, I’ll leave that up to the people who see him practice.
Tyler Madison ¦ B+
Tyler is the ultimate spark plug. I’ll be happy with this type of contribution from him every night out.
Denzel Watts ¦ A
Denzel has always been there when we’ve needed him. He’s experienced, consistent, and most importantly he’s not going to screw things up when the ball is in his hands. Welcome back Mr. Watts.
Javien Williams ¦ C
The freshman is still learning how to make personal, in-game adjustments at this level. When he steps on the floor he has that Mamba mentality and that’s awesome. But, that might not be what’s needed in certain situations. I’ll always take great effort and he brings that the moment he takes the court. Let’s just hope he can dial it down and keep his fundamentals in check when needed.