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Keys to the game

Published: March 6, 2009
Section: Sports


At times, watching the Brandeis Judges is a lot like watching the Sally Field character, Sybill. You don’t know which team you’re going to see on any given day. Even Coach Meehan is unsure of what kind of team will be taking the court for him tonight and in this tournament run.

“Well I scratch my head a lot more with this group,” Meehan said when asked to compare this squad to the other squads that went to the playoffs, “so I’m not really sure but time will tell. With this team you just have to wait and after every game, that’s when you find out what they were willing to bring on a certain night. Last year’s team was pretty good, this year’s team we’ll have to wait and see.”

A Colin Powell endorsement of strength, it certainly ain’t.

As of late they have been playing akin to a well-oiled machine, running the fast break, being borderline unstoppable from the three point arc, and doing a good job not to let the game get away from them.

However there have been quite a number of times when the team was two vowels short of clue. At their lowest point during their beginning struggles, they saw a double digit lead evaporate into an embarrassing home loss to Framingham State.

The ugly side to the team also made a brief reappearance when they traveled to Chicago and Washington University. Although the team was short handed against Washington due to internal team disputes, it was the Chicago loss that stung even more. Dropping it 90-81 as they proved unable to stop the three and only five days removed from demolishing the Maroons at Brandeis by 31.

However, the Judges were able to regroup, respond, and win when they needed to. Backs against the wall, they stood strong in probably the toughest division in Division III hoops and clawed their way to a second place finish.

With the talent and the inconsistencies in mind, here is my list of keys that need to happen for Brandeis to win this game.

1. STOP THE THREE

A glaring weakness at the beginning of the season was the Judges’ inability to guard the three. Although they were able to clamp down and improve as the season went along, they took a step back in the aforementioned loss to Chicago. The Maroons finished the Feb. 6 win, converting 17-26 of their three point attempts. That is a 65.4 percent success rate. The Judges didn’t win then against Chicago and they are certainly not going to advance if they trot out a similar performance against the seventh best three point shooting team in division III.

Brandeis finished the season with one of the worst three point defenses, ranked 318th in DIII allowing opponents to shoot from downtown at a 36.3 percent clip. Coach Meehan however expressed confidence that his team was up to the defensive task at hand. “I think we’ve really done a good job defensively the last third of the season and we expect it to continue.”

The player in particular that needs to be held in check is Ryan Fitzpatrick, the second best three point gunner in DIII, shooting at a 52.9 percent clip.

2. MAKE THE THREE

As pointed out before, Scranton has the seventh best three point shooting squad but take a guess who is number one from long range? The answer is Brandeis, who finished the season making it from long range 45.4 percent of the time. This stat is particularly pumped up by Kevin Olson ’09 who could easily be mistaken for “Terminator” when he spots up for the three. He is also just as deadly, making nearly 60 percent of them. It was clutch long range shooting from Joe Coppens that helped spark or slam the door on many a comeback opportunity. Getting Olson open looks and on fire opens up the lanes and in turn, means more easy baskets.

Aside from Olson, Steve DeLuca (GRAD) and Kenny Small ’10 have also proven to be sharp from long range. DeLuca and Small have each made over 40 percent of their three point attempts this season. Their success from long range is also vital in several respects, forcing Scranton to worry about someone other than Olson going for long range but as with Olson, drawing them outside to set up the easy play inside.

3. AVOID FOUL TROUBLE

Brandeis’s most physical players down low are Terrell Hollins ’10 and Christian Yemga ’11. When they are on track, they are physical, lock-down defenders who lock down the low post. Hollins and Yemga were second and third on the team in rebounds (behind DeLuca) averaging 6.0 and 3.1 boards per game. Although neither player has been a starter lately, their success ensures that Coach Meehan can keep Magee fresh and avoid having to throw rookies like Vytas Kriskus ’12 to the wolves. Especially considering the flu bag that is apparently going around on the team, Coach Meehan needs every body he can get and can ill afford losing more depth due to undisciplined fouls.

4. TEA AND VITAMIN C

This isn’t necessarily a basketball tip, just encouragement and advice on how to cope with a flu bug. Of course, as stated above, depth is vital and playoff time extends no mercy to the ill. It’s one and done so if Brandeis can’t get a healthy group against Scranton, they will need to play above and beyond what they originally could because there is no tomorrow. This is one and done.

Now that we’ve gotten the keys to the game aside, all that is left to do now is explore the Amish Country. And hopefully, I will be writing another one of these for next week.