Interesting things happen in Union’s basketball games that often go unnoticed. To help see these games more clearly, some of our writers (Michael Chapman, Caleb Lay and Ted Kluck) put together their thoughts on Union’s last games.
Wire-to-wire to wire-to-wire by Michael Chapman
There’s something about Bulldogs and never trailing lately. The Gonzaga Bulldogs didn’t trail in a game for over 266 game-minutes until Saturday, and the Union Bulldogs saw an 81 minute streak of the same nature come to an end on the same day.
In fact, Union led two games in a row wire-to-wire. The Bulldogs never trailed to Shorter or West Alabama and are clicking on all cylinders right now, having won their last four games and put themselves right back in the postseason conversation.
People cheer for people they know by Ted Kluck
“From the kneecaps down, Nick Velasquez looks like an old man mowing the lawn.” This was something I texted to a friend, and then I texted something similar to Nick Velasquez himself, knowing full-well that he wouldn’t see the chop-busting text until after the game was over. The text was in reference to Nick’s sock/shoe combo which looked like something “Where’s Waldo” would wear in a pickup basketball game at the “Y.” I’m able to text this, and to a large degree able to enjoy the Union games, because I know Nick. He’s been in my classroom and in my home. Therefore, I feel like I have a “stake” in how he does (and I know he can handle some good-natured sock-related chop busting).
That said, we had a real college basketball crowd at the Fred Delay Gymnasium on Saturday, largely as a result of some intentional cajoling and promotion which included a t-shirt gun and free bobblehead dolls. It was a blast to hear real crowd noise. I think, in general, people cheer for people they know. It’s why the gym fills up for poorly-played intramural games and is sometimes nearly empty for expertly-played intercollegiate basketball. My exhortation is this: get to know our players. One way to do that is through the excellent Layup Lines Podcast, hosted by our very own Caleb Lay (who once scored 16 points in an intramural game) and Velasquez.
Jarad Scott feels automatic by Caleb Lay
Jarad Scott is second in the conference in field goal percentage at 57.1 percent. He also shoots 51 percent from three and buries over two threes a game. That means every time Scott pulls up from behind the arc it is most likely going in.
He’s able to shoot at this clip because of his shot selection. His strange, slow, but wildly effective shooting stroke gives him time in the windup to decide if he should drive or pull up. While his handles aren’t great they are good enough for him to beat his man that’s closing out so he can get inside or collapse the defense. It’s that kind of stingy shot selection and impressive marksmanship that makes it legitimately shocking when he doesn’t make a three.
It’s way too hard to find ancient Union stats… by Michael Chapman
On Saturday afternoon, Charlie Wilson became the rim protector Union hoped he would be by denying six shots around the rim. Being the record-obsessed guy that I am, I wondered if that might be a school record. So, I decided to do some digging.
Admittedly, I assumed that digging would be going to Union’s athletic website and finding the school record for blocks in a game. That stat wasn’t available, but I’m way too stubborn so I wasn’t going to give up. I took it about seven steps further and decided to study every box score in the history of Union basketball.
At 2 a.m. and the middle of the 2009-10 season, I realized that the archives only go back to 1995, well after the team was founded.
So, Wilson has the most blocks in a game by a Bulldog since at least 2009. It might be a school record. We just aren’t sure.
Editor’s Note: In the 2001-2002 season Union’s Robert Joseph recorded 12 blocks against Philander Smith College on November 3, 2001. Joseph holds the Union record (and broke the all-time college record) for most blocks in a season with 242 blocks in 35 games. That’s an average of 6.9 blocks a game. To be fair to Michael, I have a roommate (Eric Leisey) who played for Union and studied all of the records, so I didn’t know either…
The Lady Bulldogs are taking way too many threes by Michael Chapman
The Lady Bulldogs have struggled on offense lately, but that may be due more to game plan and less to execution. Union has attempted a lot of three pointers recently, and the results haven’t been great. As a team, the Lady Bulldogs hit less than a third of their three point shots.
They have three tragically underused post players. Bria Gaines has been absolutely dominant in her 14 games this season, averaging 30 points for every 40 minutes she plays, yet she only has four starts and averages just 22 minutes per game.
Fredi Neilson might be the most consistent player on the team. Her 53 percent mark from the floor is good for second on the team, and she hauls in over 7 rebounds per contest. She also plays just 22 minutes per game.
Sara Lytle has been a streaky player this year, but she has the ability to take over a game single-handedly perhaps more than anyone on this roster. She did this in the third quarter of the team’s 74-71 win over West Alabama on Thursday, scoring 13 points and willing her team back into the game. She also only plays 22 minutes per game.
Perhaps that 22 minute mark should look more like 32 minutes for the Lady Bulldogs’ top three bigs.
People cheer against people they know by Ted Kluck
One of the things that’s tough about our situation, crowd-wise, is that for the most part we don’t really know who we’re playing. For example, we play three “Wests” (Alabama, Georgia and Florida) and one “North” (Alabama). We play a University of Alabama-Hunstville. There’s nothing wrong with any of these schools, per se, except that for the casual fan, they’re hard to cheer against because they’re hard to even know. They’re honestly not a whole like us, in either geography or culture. For example, in 2001 we played Freed-Hardeman (right down the road), Trevecca Nazarene (a little further down the road in Nashville, but a lot like us, culturally), Lambuth (in town, no longer a thing) and three schools with “Baptist” in their name (Central, Williams and Arkansas – all like us).
We were playing against schools who had kids that our kids probably grew up with, went to church with and competed against in high school. Natural rivalries occurred because of geography (Freed), shared values (all the “Baptists”) or similar-but-slightly-different values (Trevecca). It wasn’t out of the question to hop in the car, drive a couple of hours and attend a road game because of these natural rivalries.
I’m sure the move to Division II was a good idea. It’s certainly above my pay grade to speculate about such things. But it has made the fan experience more challenging.