Not really, but with no courtside internet connections, there will sadly be no live blog/chat for tonight's game with Wisconsin-Green Bay. I don't know how to do that one at home (maybe Mitch will run it), and it will return for the Arizona State game for sure. Let me know if you guys and girls want me to have Mitch (our G.A. run it for the home game with Utah State).
"Snowfall flirting with record pace," said the headline in today's Green Bay Press-Gazette. I must say, there are times when I'm glad I don't travel with the basketball team!
Nice job, Frank, on the game-day blog on the ISU web site. I also watched the game on the Big Ten Network. In between uttering oathes over missed opportunities (all those offensive rebounds and the missed free throws in the second half), I was admiring how tough the Bengals hung in their two-point loss to Wisconsin last night. As Bengal Coach Joe O'Brien noted after the game, "These close loses are getting old." Yes, they are. The announcers on the Big Ten Network kept noting last night that ISU has lost three overtime games this year, and now the two-pointer in regulation to the Badgers. Oh what might have been.
Watching the Bengals compete well on the road last night eases some of that frustration. But to really take the next step forward, Idaho State needs to beat a good Wisconsin-Green Bay team on Thursday night. The Phoenix have won five in a row, they are already 2-0 in conference play, and, like the Bengals, they are an experienced club, returning 90 percent of their production from last year's 15-15 team.
In looking at W-GB's statistics, a couple of things stand out. The Phoenix are good shooters. They hit 39 percent from three-point range, and you DO NOT want to foul them. Their top six scorers all shoot 81 percent or better from the free throw line. As a team, they are making 86 percent of their foul shots. Mike Schachnter, a 6-9 F (above), has hit 33 of 34 attempts (97 percent), and Troy Cotton, a 6-1 G, is just under 90 percent. Also, the Phoenix are not a big, physical team, as evidenced by their minus-3 rebounding margin. And they have a negative assist to turnover ratio, which may indicate the Bengals can create some opportunities in the transition game. (Another Stucki-to-Bay-to-Monroe wrap-around pass or two would be nice.)
Bengal fans will note a couple of familiar names associated with the Phoenix. Chop Tang, a 6-6 F who transferred from Eastern Arizona, is a starter for W-GB. The recruiting sites linked Tang briefly to Idaho State last spring, before he signed with the Phoenix. And Jesse Childs, a Borah High School graduate and son of former Boise State star Chris Childs, is listed on the W-GB roster, although he has not played this year after transferring from Mesa Community College. I'm trying to find out his status as I write this.
I saw a lot of mental toughness on the part of Idaho State last night in Badgerland. Now, they have to take another step and win one of these tough road games. Thursday is the next best opportunity.
And thanks for being a Bengal. It ain't always easy, but it's always fun.
Yes, the weather is pretty nasty in Wisconsin, and the winter advisory is for another 6 inches or so, which should impact the crowd, but since we are here, and the officials are here, it's game on tonight against the Badgers. Folks should remember to catch the game on the Big Ten Network (439 on DISH), and also the audio is on XM tonight on XM 198 (the Wisconsin audio anyways).
Some folks know I have a little bit of a man-crush on how Wisconsin athletics does things over there (which is easier to do with the 9,000 some odd people they have working over there), but still, somehow, and I'm not doing it this year, but I've got to incorporate a little GameDay spot into the ISU website...I think it just makes things easier for the fans, no? Here is what I mean...this is what Wisconsin has. Seems simple enough....maybe will bust that out for conference games. My biggest thing is I know I'd want to do it really nice, and I fear I'd screw up the coding. Of course, Wisconsin has an entire internet staff that handles stuff like this, so hey, there you go. And yes, I know Montana does something similar, but again, they have a staff that handles it. Really...they wore THROWBACK uniforms for the Brawl of the Wild...full new uniforms....they bought 80 helmets, 80 jerseys, 80 pants, and 80 socks, and 80 belts for ONE GAME. No, they don't have money issues there huh?
*Side note for the Wisconsin trip....so we had to really hustle to get from one end of the Minneapolis airport to the other to make our connection, so everyone ended up in different bathrooms, and all I could wonder was if I was in the Larry Craig bathroom. Seriously, and then this popped up today...to weird.
*I have to give Matt, an internet fan, credit for this, but someone in Pennsylvania has figured out how Idaho State is the BSC champion, if Montana wins on Friday night. I like his thinking....
I'm on my own private "road trip," visiting my parents in Collinsville, Illinois, which is still "Big 10" country. I'll be watching the Bengals and Badgers on Big 10 TV here Tuesday night, and I'd thought I'd pass on my thoughts about the big win over Utah and what ISU has to do to compete with Wisconsin while I observe the vestiges of last night's Midwestern ice storm melt away.
First: Stuffing the Utes
Above all else, I have to say that was fun! There is just nothing like watching the Bengals compete and perform at a very high level against a good basketball team. That first half was a thing of beauty, and it all started with the aggressiveness with which the Bengals attacked. They pushed the ball up the floor at every opportunity, and took the ball inside with abandon. Even the bigs -- David Busma and Lucas Steijn, in particular, were unintimidated by Utah's 7-2 Luke Neville. Those two guys won't always put up great offensive numbers, but for Idaho State to succeed, they have to be active and aggressive every night.
Demetrius Monroe, who does not create his own opportunities but ALWAYS takes advantage of those presented, was also terrific Saturday night. Another very quiet 11 points and 7 rebounds for Meets. And I like the way Felix Caspari is slipping in for a few minutes here and there, grabbing rebounds, getting physical and keeping the energy level high off the bench.
Offensively, we saw what I think we all learned last year about this ISU team, but maybe forgot early in the season this year: the Bengals play better in space. They are not great shooters, and they don't create well out of set offenses. They play much better when they run and attack the basket.
That suits guys like Matt Stucki (above), Donnie Carson and Amorrow Morgan, and all three played well Saturday night. Stucki--my oh my--that was as good an all-around performance by a Bengal against a quality opponent as I've seen in my 30 years of watching Idaho State basketball. I arrived in town a year late to see the last ISU triple double by Lawrence Butler, but Matt really put on a show.
Despite the high energy level and great first half production, the Bengals still slipped into one of those offensive comas in the second half. They went eight minutes without a basket, and on our post game show, Stucki said it was largely because ISU was starting to settle for jump shots, rather than going to the rim. I agree with that assessment, but after Utah took a very brief lead, Morgan made two huge driving shots that put Idaho State back up for good.
Defensively, I was very impressed with the Bengals' ability to play man defense. Utah came into the game hitting 42 percent of its threes, and even though Luka Durca went out early with a rolled ankle, the Bengals still had to honor those other 3-point shooters and play a lot of man defense. While Nevill sometimes made them pay for it with dunks down low, overall, I thought Idaho State did a good job matching up with the Utes.
And Now: The Badgers
Wisconsin will be smarting, coming off a 61-58 loss at Marquette in which the Golden Eagles simply lived at the free throw line. The Badgers are still nearly unbeatable in the Kohl Center, though, and they will have the insulation of Big 10 officials that will allow their many bigs -- Joe Krabbenhoff, Marcus Landry, Jon Leuer, etc. -- to play the physical brand of basketball they love with impunity.
The Bengals will have to respond the same way they did against Utah -- with aggression going to the hoop offensively (and occasionally getting beaten up without any payoff), and with a willingness to play tough man defense on the other end. Badger PG Travon Hughes will be a key matchup for the Bengals, he's a quick penetrator who likes to finish at the rim, rather than a distributor. Landry, meanwhile, will step outside and shoot the three, opening the inside for the 6-10 Leuer. The Badgers are not the most athletic or skilled team in the Big 10, but they play physically, especially at home. This will be another good test for the continued growth and maturity of the Bengals. Will they carry over that "attack attitude" they displayed on Saturday night?
And thanks for being Bengal fans -- it ain't always easy, but it's always fun (especially Saturday night!)