Game #1 – Gordon Wins Opener at ENC

(Quincy) – The Scots started the 2008-09 season off in fine fashion by winning their nonleague opener, 76-45, at Eastern Nazarene on Saturday night.

Both teams were hot; well actually, everyone in attendance was hot thanks to temps in the 60s outside and plenty of spectators inside the gymnasium. Those high temps had me recalling a visit to Bates last February where a game was played in a gym with temps reaching indoor nudist colony level.

Both teams struggled to make shots early – opening game jitters and tight man-to-man defense from both sides had a lot to do with it.

A converted rebound by Emmanuel Janvier and a three from the game’s top scorer, DeAngleo Alston (19 points) gave the Crusaders a 17-16, lead twelve minutes into the game.

Flashbacks to last January’s upset loss (82-69) in the same building started coming back. The home team rode a sizable crowd wave in that one. Tonight’s crowd was of similar size but had very little to cheer about the rest the last 28 minutes.

The Scots ran off ten straight points to begin pulling away with Jeff Derr dialing in from long distance twice in this stretch. Gordon closed out the last 1 ½ minutes of the half with six straight as Aaron Trigg made a layup and then set up Greg Walker for a another layup. Right at the end of the half, Gordon missed a three but somehow Greg Walker ended up with a layup at the buzzer. (I’m not sure whether he picked the Nazarene rebounder’s pocket or intercepted the rebounder’s pass.) Either way the Scots were up 37-25 at halftime.

There would be no Crusader comeback. The lead never got inside of ten in the second half instead Gordon used two runs of six straight to get to 45-29 after four minutes and to 58-35 with seven minutes left.

A three by newcomer Garrett Harden pushed the advantage to 69-39 with 3 ½ left.

There was plenty to like for the Gordon faithful. The ’08-’09 edition can get the ball up the court despite the graduation of four-year point guard Justin Kaufman. Aaron, Brady Bajema, and Timmy MacDonnell were all point guards in high school and appear able to take that important job on for the Scots.

Sophomore Austin Bentson (6-3) is going to be fun to watch. He not only has speed but a nose for defense. He nailed a couple of 3’s in the first half and ended up with 16 points. He only played in nine of Gordon’s 27 games last season but obviously will see plenty of action this year.

Another eye-catcher was Greg Walker (6-7). It took the sophomore a year to get 15 points while this year it only took one game. He showed a nice touch around the basket.

The overall defense was very good. Holding a team to 45 points on the road is terrific. It looks to me as if Gordon’s size inside (6-7,6-8,6-9, and 6-9) also has strength. ENC had all sorts of trouble getting inside position because of the Scots inside defense and I saw way too many fall away shots from the Crusader big men than ENC Coach Jon Yeh probably wanted.

I apologize to Jeff Derr for mentioning his making a remarkable 38 of 40 free throws last year. Sure enough, he missed his first two this year! Maybe he won’t miss the next 38?

Actually the free thrown shooting was pretty frightening (13 for 26) for the Scots. Some of us in the stands continue to wonder why players can make 3’s but not freebies. Could it be that they practice one a lot more than they do the other??

Members of The Pit graced the front row in uniform and in fine voice. ENC had students come in with letters across their shirtless chests spelling out C-R-U-S-A-D-E-R-S.

ENC supporters also had shirts on with “The Last Crusade” on the backs. Seems that they will be changing the school nickname in order to be politically correct. The same thing happened to Wheaton a few years ago. What the new ENC nickname will be is going to be decided in December.

DeAngleo Alston was a fun player to watch. Listed at 5-7 he showed plenty of speed and a willingness to take the ball inside. He also took a couple of hard spills and for a while was manning the dry mop to clean up a wet spot on the floor. He did not sell tickets or make popcorn, as far as I know.

The Scots face MIT on Wednesday (7PM). The Engineers won their opener as well this evening. They are one of the better teams Gordon will face this season. Playing them at The Bennett Center will help as long as the cheering section brings it’s A Game.

I was pleased to hear prayer offered before the game. I would be really impressed to see the players gather at center court after the game to pray. I remember it happening when Wheaton visited Gordon. I know they do it in the NFL after a game. Wouldn’t it seem like a natural thing for two Christian colleges to do after a game?

The home games can be seen using the Gordon website. I had little luck using that connection in previous years but this time around, it worked well. I know, because I watched some of the women’s game versus Suffolk before heading to Quincy.

I now have the game stats (posted below).  You never appreciate stats until you don’t have them.

Thanks to the stats, Brady’s seemingly quiet game becomes a whole lot louder.  Eight assists with just one turnover are excellent numbers for someone handling the ball a lot.  Seven rebounds are attention getters too.

47 total rebounds?  That’s more than in any game last season.  The Scots, in fact, were outrebounded in almost every game last year and usually have been in the 6+ years I’ve watched Gordon games.  This year’s team may take some getting used to.  Let’s see what they do against a strong MIT team Wednesday, however, before drawing too many rebounding conclusions.

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