Monday, December 13, 2010 many assists?

So, the CMU men's basketball team lost again, this time 59-55 to a usually-tough LSU squad on Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.

What to take from this one? Well, again, CMU lost a late lead. It was 53-52 CMU lead as late as 1:05 remaining in the game before two free throws from LSU's Andre Stringer. Then PG Amir Rashid and Jalin Thomas turned the ball over on successive possessions and LSU solidified the game at the line. Coach Ernie Zeigler blames it on a lack of "poise." You also could blame it on shooting 35.4 percent and totaling....

2 assists.

First, let me say I haven't watched these recent losses. I'm going off what I can read from the box score.

But....2? Through eight games, CMU is averaging 9.6 assists per game. That's good for 326th nationally out of 336 teams. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's probably not leading to much success.

The national leaders? Kansas and Sam Houston State. Their combined records? 14-3. CMU sits at 2-6 and for as much fanfare as the new arrivals have brought to the program, they're actually worse than last year's team through eight games in every major category:

CMU stat20092010

Now, this is a younger team and in no way the time to push the panic button. But things need to improve. Things usually do for CMU as it enters its conference schedule against foes who have the same issues against non-conference foes.

CMU made 17 field goals. It had assists on two of those (11.8 percent). LSU made 20, 12 of which came off assists (60 percent). What does the assist tell us in a box score? Obviously, for one, it says a team is sharing the ball on the offensive end and finding each other for open looks.

The lack of assists might indicate a team is relying too heavily on one or two individuals to make plays. Saturday, that was Jalin Thomas once again. He scored a game-high 21 points, 11 of which came from the free-throw line. Thomas, at 17 points per game, now is the team's leading scorer, with Trey Zeigler coming in second at 15.9. Without seeing the game, it's tough to analyze what sort of offense CMU was running. Was it the "Jalin drives and gets fouled" offense? The "Trey gets double-teamed and passes to Jalin, who then drives and gets fouled" offense?

Zeigler had one of the assists, and Antonio Weary had the other Saturday. The point guard, a position that is built for distributing, ended up with 0, with Amir Rashid playing 35 minutes. How? Rashid only had three points on 1-for-6 shooting and turned the ball over three times. His freshman backup Derek Jackson only played 15 minutes, shot 2-of-6 and also had no assists.

The silver lining is that non-conference games really are just a practice run to coach Ernie Zeigler and staff. It's all about the MAC season and tournament, since that's the only way you'll get into the Big Dance in this conference.

Can CMU get it together? It starts Tuesday at home against Wright State, which beat CMU 69-53 on Nov. 24 of last season and has Horizon League title aspirations this year after getting blown out 70-45 by national runner-up Butler in the conference's title game. It's the Chippewas' second game in the new McGuirk Arena.

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