Playtime Is Over
The Hoos easily dispatched the Morgan State Bears 83 to 45 (shot out to StLouHoo for his scary accurate 82 to 44 prediction). The middle of the road MEAC squad was of little challenge nor were they expected to be. The game served little purpose but for a glorified scrimmage and a nice check for the Bears. Every team has a few of these clunkers on the schedule each season and there are worse things in the world than helping to prop up the budget of an HBCU athletic department.
But even so, there were some highlights, lowlights, and things to work on.
Possibly the biggest event of the evening didn't happen between the lines during the actual game. But redshirt freshman Francesco Badocchi was with the team, dressed in uniform and warmups, participated in pregame warmups, and sat with the team on the bench during the game. There's still no word regarding a return from his leave of absence or ability to play soon, or even this season, but in a game such as this it was one of the more interesting developments.
Proof positive that the Bears were of little actual competition was that Jack Salt actually attempted a behind the back dribble during game play. It was such a surreal moment of basketball that I received an excited text from a friend celebrating the spectacle. Jack was fouled on the play and calmly sank both of his free throws. UVA fans see that about as often as the behind the back dribble attempt from Salt, so it was reason for celebration. Salt followed his hero turn against Maryland with a solid effort in only 13 minutes against a fellow institution from the Old Line State.
Jack Salt's running mate in the Down Under Hoos Club, Kody Stattmann, turned in a career high in minutes and points against Morgan State. In 12 minutes of action, Kody scored 9 points. included in the tally was his first career three point basket as a Hoo. Kody also showed a deft stroke from the free throw line going 4 for 4. On the season, Stattmann is now 8 for 8 from the charity stripe. All eight attempts have come against MEAC competition but perhaps there is some hidden value there.
Kody also picked up a hockey assist on the game's most exciting and biggest feel good moment. With the outcome long decided, Stattmann found Austin Katstra on the left block in transition. Katstra saw fellow Green Team member Grant Kersey cutting to the rim down the lane and fed him with a nice pass. Kersey converted the layup through contact for the hoop and harm and converted the free throw to cap the old fashioned three point play.
The first time Kersey and Katstra connected during the game was equally as special. Facing full court pressure from the Bears, Marco Anthony found Kersey over top of the pressure with his inbounds pass. Kersey received the pass in stride to set up a 2 on 1 break. He found Katstra with a textbook bounce pass from the foul line. And Katstra converted it with what is believed to be his first career dunk during college game action.
The thing with Morgan State, and really any sub 300 KenPom ranked team, is that you get an inflated result on the scoreboard and you get to leave JPJ with a big smile on your face thanks to the Green Team's efforts. In the middle, there was hyper efficient offense displayed by Kyle Guy and De'Andre Hunter. Ty Jerome hit a couple howitzer blasts. And Kihei did Mong00se things.
And despite all of that, there were still a couple head scratching items found during the game.
First, where in the world is Mamadi Diakite? For a player many predicted to be a breakout star for the Hoos in 2018, Mamadi has served more questions than answers to date. He only found 13 minutes on the court with a good chunk coming late in the second half. His stat line looks okay too: 3 points on 1-3 from the field and 1-1 from the line, 3 boards, 1 assist, and 1 block. But there were 2 turnovers, another 2 fouls, and play that left most with a confused look on their face. Three of Diakite's last four games (Morgan State, Maryland, and Dayton) have shown a player that seems to be regressing. Mamadi has all the physical gifts in the world so the assumption that it's a mental hangup impacting his play. Perhaps it's a concentration issue. Perhaps it's tentativeness from fear of a quick whistle. But for his sake and the team's, Mamadi needs to bust forth from this mini slump.
A second half slump on offense would be our other head scratcher. But perhaps it wasn't that surprising. The second half against both Maryland and Wisconsin (the Hoos' last two games) saw extended dry spells as well.
Against the Bears, the Hoos missed 8 consecutive shots after De'Andre Hunter's layup with 16:50 remaining extended the score to 53-25. UVA would not score again for nearly five minutes until Hunter made another layup with 11:51 left on the clock. During that offensive lull Hunter missed a three, Guy missed a three, Hunter missed a layup, Guy missed a layup, Kihei Clark missed a three, Guy missed another three, Jerome added his own missed three, and Braxton Key missed a layup.
Is a pattern emerging or did the Hoos leave that issue behind in the win over Morgan State? They should hope for the latter as the level of competition only increases from here. Playtime is over. It's time to go to work.