Lack Of Energy Costs VSU
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Feb 12, 2014, 20:01
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
ETTRICK — It hasn't been the type of season Virginia State University players and coaches envisioned having prior to the beginning of the campaign. Yet, following a season-high six-game losing streak, the Trojans won four straight, seemingly righting the ship at the most critical time.
However, two-straight losses and a win over Saint Augustine University followed, making the Trojans match-up against Chowan University Wednesday evening all the more important. Virginia State sat just one game ahead of the Hawks for last place in the CIAA Northern Division and with a win could have found themselves in a four-way tie for second-place.
And for the first 10:52 of action, the Trojans did everything they could to accomplish their goal. Christopher Grier and Khalil Tate provided the outside shooting compliments, connecting on two 3-pointers while Allen Harris provided the craftiness to get into the paint for his only 4 points on the night during a 9-2 Trojans run to take a 19-12 lead.
However, the momentum would swiftly turn toward the end of the half as Chowan executed a 12-0 run on the strength of three 3-pointers to take a lead they would not relinquish in a 71-64 victory at Daniel Gymnasium.
"I don't think we had energy to start," Virginia State head coach Lonnie Blow said after the loss. "We didn't have a lot of that passion, energy or enthusiasm and we had to climb uphill pretty much all game long. We just didn't play very well."
While Virginia State (12-10, 5-7) did not play its best game of the season, what is more concerning to a head coach is the lack of energy Blow said he noticed throughout the contest.
It was obvious in the effort the Trojans players put forth on the court, looking lethargic at times. The missing energy is the very foundation of what cost Virginia State a chance to thrust themselves right into the middle of the pack in the Northern Division.
The Trojans were a step slow defensively in both identifying and adjusting to the screens being set by the Hawks, struggled to fight their way through them and even messed up on switches leaving shooters wide open. For the Chowan (10-12, 4-8) players, it was nothing more than warm-up jumpers as Kyree Bethel and Kortez Smith combined to shoot 7-of-9 from 3-point range while the team shot a still blistering 12-of-19 from beyond the arc for 63 percent.
"We talked about it all week with the fact they shoot a lot of 3-pointers," Blow said of his team's defensive preparation. "We talked about getting up on them and guarding the 3-point line all week long, but we didn't do a good job of communicating whether it was a switch or stay ... we had an advantage inside and we didn't take advantage of it."
And no where was the advantage more noticeable than in the battle on the boards where the Trojans dominated the match-up, 49 to 31, including 25 offensive rebounds.
However, that's where the advantage was laid to waste. While Larry Savage scored a team-high 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds — seven on the offensive glass — Greg Gant, Kevin Wiggins and Harris went a combined 3-of-11 from the field for 9 points.
Add in the inability for the guards to take advantage of the kick-outs after the offensive rebounds — Virginia State shot a chilly 35.7 percent from the field — and one can understand how the Trojans managed just 13 second-chance points, leaving as much as 37 points on the court.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
"We talked about it at halftime when we had nine rebounds and just one point," Blow said. "But we just didn't play. Tip your hat to them. They played well, hit the shots when they needed to and we just didn't do a good job."
Perhaps the only time Virginia State did play well was in the final 4:08 of action as Chowan finished off a 19-6 run to take their largest lead of the game, 67-50. However, Grier's long jumper for two of his 12 points on 4-of-12 shooting propelled the Trojans toward the home stretch.
Virginia State would go on a 12-0 run and cut the deficit to as little as five points after two Savage free throws, but by the time Lamar Kearse and Grier each missed desperation 3-pointers — Kearse was 0-for-7 on the game for just 3 points — the contest was out of hand.
"They got a little bit of desperation to make some plays and try to get back into the game, but you can't do that," Blow said. "You can't get that far behind and try to pick it up later. It just doesn't work."
For a Trojans squad which has now dropped three of its last four games, they need to figure out what works and fast as they reside in the basement of the Northern Division after a spiritless loss with just three games left to be played.