Statesmen Rout Hawks In Season-Opener
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Nov 5, 2013, 10:53
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PETERSBURG — For a program that had not played a competitive basketball game since the 1993-94 season, Richard Bland College looked the part of a basketball powerhouse in their season-opener against the College of Southern Maryland.
While the Hawks recorded the game's first points via free throws and led the Statesmen 7-3 at the 16:39 mark of the first half, Richard Bland responded with a 17-to-2 run, en route to a thrilling 112-69 victory.
"I feel like our intensity really made a difference," head coach Chuck Moore said after the team's win. "We had some defensive lapses, but our intensity really made a big difference."
The intensity Moore spoke of was evident from the opening tip as the Statesmen pushed the ball up the court any chance they could. While nerves certainly played a part in Richard Bland missing their first five shot attempts, it wasn't long before it changed.
Taking advantage of his height in the paint, Melvin Gregory received a pass deep in the low-block before quickly pivoting his way into the green-colored lane for a baby-hook shot, marking the first points of the Statesmen's season at the 18:24 mark.
But Gregory was not done.
With his team struggling to hit the outside jumper or off-balance runners in the paint, the 6-foot-7 forward set high-screens for his guards before rolling to the basket for easy lay-ins en route to an 11-point effort. Gregory even brought the intensity to the defensive side of the ball, reading a telegraphed pass from the wing and took it coast-to-coast, forcing a Hawks' timeout.
It was a precursor to events about to unfold for a team yearning to bring excitement back to the Richard Bland campus.
"We've been waiting for this for a long time," Statesmen guard Micah Thomas said of his team. "We went real hard in the off-season with a lot of running, a lot of two-a-days. First game, we had to go hard."
That's exactly what the Statesmen did in their opening game.
Richard Bland's guards recognized a weakness in Southern Maryland's game and took advantage of it. With the Statesmen employing a four-out offense with everyone spreading the court with one forward in the block, the guards penetrated into the paint with ease.
Perhaps, no guard was able to accomplish this better than Trayvonte Brown.
The 5-foot-7 guard may be diminutive in stature, but he played above his height with his play, faking his way up for lay-ups while making nifty passes to Tavon Mealy and Avery Ugba in the paint.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
Brown's speed even caused havoc on the defensive end similar to the impact Briante Weber has with Virginia Commonwealth University. At the end of the night, his final stat-line fell just short of a double-double with 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go along with nine assists.
But the biggest beneficially of his play was Mealy who continually positioned himself well on the low-block and his ambidextrous ability to finish with either his left or right hand proved devastating.
"It came from my guards giving me the ball," Mealy said after his 21-point, 12-rebound effort. "I knew they were going to play off of me because of my height and I just tried to take advantage of it."
"Mealy is definitely a savvy ball-player who knows how to use his body," he said of the 6-foot-3 forward. "He knows where to be and once he catches it, he knows what to do. Double-double the way he had, he earned every bucket."
And it was Mealy's and Ugba's 12-point effort on 6-of-8 shooting which opened up the outside looks for the Statesmen.
With the Hawks' defense collapsing on the low-post players, Thomas created separation on the outside, nailing 5-of-8 3-pointers en route to a game-high 22-point performance. The 5-foot-9 guard also filled up the stat sheet with two assists and two steals, one of Richard Bland's 12 on the night.
"I started off a little anxious with them," Thomas said after the game. "But once I got going, it rolled from there. Like I said I worked hard during the off-season for that."
But in truth, Thomas even arrived two-and-a-half hours before game-time to work on his shooting, displaying the type of drive the Statesmen have to have success this season.
Once the final whistle blew, Richard Bland had shot a blistering 59.7 percent from the field, had five players in double-figures, 13 players cracked the score sheet and recorded a 43-point victory.
Yet, Moore knows his team is capable of more.
"We got to be better defensively," Moore said. "We can't let guys get into the lane. We have to stop trying to be shot-blockers and rotate quicker. Biggest thing is we should have held them to less than 69 points."
While there are improvements to be made, Moore's team has the ability to surprise teams with their intensity and desire to win all the individual battles, resulting in big spreads where it counts — the scoreboard.