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Rams In The Zone As They Roll To 92-67 Win Over Arkansas – Pine Bluff

November 11, 2018

With about 5 minutes remaining in the game, my wife turned to me and explained that she preferred close games against stronger opponents. While I agree with her in principle I have no problem with blowouts against weaker opponents when my team so obviously executes a game plan flawlessly.

And that’s what the Rams did in front of a small but energized Saturday matinee crown.

They knew that Arkansas-Pine Bluff would throw a 2-3 zone against them that got especially active when the ball was passed in the corner. And so they constructed an attack that attacked the Golden Lions from the high post and an attack that threw aggressive skip passes to open shooters when the traps came.

The main culprit in the high post attack was senior JD Paige who was returning to the lineup after serving a suspension in the opener. Paige was repeatedly fed exquisite passes and then he went to work patiently slicing and dicing the interior of the zone. He found Center Nico Carvacho trolling the baseline for easy finishes at the rim. When Pine Bluff sagged the the paint, he found open shooters like Anthony Bonner and Doobie Jenkins who were burying their three-balls.

At the same time, the Rams were playing solid man-to-man D and Carvacho was finishing off the defensive possessions on the glass, allowing them to kick their offense into gear.

The Rams ended the first half leading 47-28. They had 11 assists on 15 made baskets (Paige had 5 of them). Carvacho had 8 rebounds leading his team to a 21-14 margin on the glass. And the team had shot over 50% from the field, including 7-13 from beyond the arc.

But the best stat of all was 0 turnovers.

Let that sink in.

Pine Bluff has been 8th and 5th in the nation in Defensive Turnover Percentage over the past two seasons. They thrive on turnovers.

And the Rams put up a goose egg in the first stanza.

The home side began the second half much the same as they had played the first and before you knew it they had doubled up the visitor’s at 62-31. The game was in the bag and some comfort led to a touch of sloppy play where the focus changed to trying to stop Pine Bluff’s stud guard Martaveous McKnight. JD Paige had done a decent job on him in the first half but others including Bonner and frosh Kendle Moore got their opportunities and McKnight was having his way.

The bench started clearing in the final minutes and the final margin certainly flattered the visitor’s.

Carvacho led 6 Rams in double figures with 18 points and produced his second straight double-double with 11 rebounds. Paige and frosh Adam Thistlewood finished with 14 each, Paige’s mostly from the perimeter and Thistlewood from the charity stripe. Bonner finished with 13 and both Jenkins and Moore scored 10. The offense is flowing and characterized by unselfish play and features very few bad shots.

McKnight would finish with 41 of his team’s 67 points as he put on a show in the final half. Fun to watch but nowhere near enough as the Rams held the rest of the team to 9-31 shooting.

Once again the Rams had played unselfish, high energy ball and had left their faithful fans buzzing with joy and looking forward to games against stronger opponents.

Other Stuff

Freshmen Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood are playing big important minutes. And they are playing well. Moore is fast, a skilled ball handler, and possesses the ability to get all the way to the rim and accuracy from the perimeter. Thistlewood is smooth, a skilled shooter, and solid rebounder. But what stands out for both of them is their maturity. Sometimes freshmen have trouble executing a game plan. Not these two. They play with the savvy of upperclassmen. It’s reminiscent of Dorian Green and Pierce Hornung.

It was really good to have JD Paige back on the floor.

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