(Bristol RI) Senior Geoff Barranger tore through an assortment of Gordon defenses and defenders for 27 points and led Roger Williams past the Scots, 68-57, in Commonwealth Coast Conference play on Wednesday night.
No doubt RWU coach Mike Tully looked at the CCC preseason coaches poll (RWU picked 4th) and his own CCC schedule and realized that he would know early on how good his team was. Well, four games in the Hawks are looking awfully good. Why? For one thing, they’re the only team left undefeated in the CCC and the other thing is that they have already beaten the three teams picked to finish ahead of them, including your Gordon College Fighting Scots.
This game was all about Gordon’s inability, especially in the second half, to defend Geoff Barranger. The 6-10 senior has shot over 50% the last two seasons and has gotten even better this year clicking on 61% of his shots. We’re not talking long range here just short jumpers and spins to the basket. During the first half, Geoff was noticed but his impact was minimal (3 for 7 – 8 points). The second half? Nightmare City (8 for 12 – 19 points).
This game reminded me of the Scots loss to ENC on Saturday – in range at halftime but unable to find enough offense or defense in the second half to come away winners.
“Any time you beat a good team like Gordon you know that you have to play well to do it,” said Hawk coach Mike Tully afterwards. “I told Mike (Schauer) before the game that we hadn’t been defending real well but we sure did tonight.”
RWU’s tight man-to-man defense showed up on the stat sheet. The Hawks collected 12 steals which was the 2nd best against Gordon. They also defended the Scots into 20 turnovers which was a season-high for Gordon.
Therefore, you’ve got an inconsistent offense coupled with a defense that cannot stop the other team’s big guy inside. Seems like the ingredients for a blowout but sheer tenacity on the part of the Scots had them within one good run of points from making this one interesting at the end.
The Hawks took the lead for good (7- 6 after 3 ½ minutes) on Geoff Barranger’s short jumper. Later in the half RWU ran ten unanswered points featuring two 3’s by Michael Woolley and looked to be in complete control (27-14) with 6 ½ left. However, a Gordon timeout and some high-volume instructions drove the Scots to a strong finish and they trailed only 32-30 at halftime. Three’s from Aaron Trigg (sophomore-6′1″-Overland Park KS) (2), Jon Marstaller (senior-6′5″-Naples ME) and Justin Kaufman (senior-5′11″-Redding CT) (1 each) paced the 16-5 turnaround.
All that encouraging work at the end of the half was soon undone in the second half. The Scots started out with two missed shots and two turnovers while the Geoff Barranger Show began – first a jumper, then a layup, and then a converted rebound. This one-man spurt gave the Hawks some breathing room (38-30) and revealed the fact that RWU had money in the bank in close when needed.
“We didn’t try to go deliberately to Geoff,” explained Coach Tully afterwards. “We just got it to him at better times.”
Assistant Coach Jeremy Martin told me afterwards that the team was trying to give help defending Geoff Barranger. “We just didn’t get the help defending done.”
Gordon did get the lead down to five (44-39) when Aaron Trigg connected on his third three with less than nine minutes left but you-know-who answered with a layup and a foul shot and quickly the lead was eight again (47-39) with 8 ½ to go. The fouler was Ben Gaskill (sophomore-6′9″-Columbus OH) and it was his 5th. Ben’s early exit put the Scots in a real dilemma inside. They even tried a zone. Ultimately, undersized Jon Marstaller got the defensive assignment. Geoff scored his last points on a layup with 2:45 left.
A Justin Kaufman three narrowed the lead to, 61-55, with a little over a minute left but the Hawks converted enough free throws down the stretch to pull away, 68-57.
Gordon (11-4) must make a quick recovery. Those eleven wins are nice but their “real” record is 3-2 in the CCC. The wins at Schenectady and over defending champs Wentworth are a distant memory. Somehow, a two-game conference losing streak must be ended at the Bennett Center on Saturday afternoon against Curry. Fortunately the Blue Sea should be back in force. Unfortunately, Curry has the inside presence of Johnathan Bowers (6-10 and athletic). Can the Scots take better care of the ball? Can the Scots defend better on the inside? We’ll get the answers on Saturday afternoon and they better be, “Yes,” and “Yes,” if this is going to be the successful season many of us are hoping for.
The Scots were without Brady Bajema (sophomore-6′2″-Whitinsville MA). He told me before the game that he had hurt his elbow but expected to be ready for the Curry game.
I couldn’t help but look at the play of Geoff Barranger and wonder if Gordon’s Ben Gaskill might reach that level in two years. He’s already 6-9 and he has a shooting touch around the basket. He must get stronger and more confident. It would also help if he stayed out of foul trouble. Against RWU he had five fouls in eleven minutes all while covering Geoff Barranger. He did block one of Geoff’s shots.
While we’re talking individuals, let me mention Tim MacDonnell (sophomore-6′2″-Jericho VT). To opponents he’s the “guy with the goggles.” To the rest of us he’s the guy who literally launches himself after loose balls. Be on full alert on the perimeter if the basketball starts heading your way because Tim is more than likely to be on his way airborne. Against RWU he had four assists and none of the 20 turnovers the Scots had and picked up his most minutes (22) of the season. His energy level is a thing to behold.
Catching a view of the bigger picture: I read in Life Application regarding James 1:2 this morning, “Considering your troubles to be joy comes from seeing life with God’s perspective in mind. We may not be able to understand the specific reasons for God’s allowing certain experiences to crush us or wear us down, but we can be confident that his plan is for our good. What may look hopeless or impossible to us never looks that way to God!”