A Bulldogs squad with a ton of new faces played its first game of the season on Saturday and picked up an 83-76 exibition win over former TranSouth rivals Freed-Hardeman. The win showcased some of the Bulldogs’ exciting new talent, but also showed that the team does have room for improvement. Cardinal and Cream sports editor Michael Chapman compiled some of his thoughts on the game.
I see you, Tyree Boykin
Tyree Boykin is a freshman from Clarksville, TN, and he was red-hot in the game against Freed. I didn’t know what to expect out of Boykin this season (mostly because I couldn’t find any highlights when I searched his name on Youtube), but he showed his abilities from deep and proved he will get his share of minutes on Saturday. He hit five three-pointers in the first half (including four in a three-and-a-half minute stretch) and led all scorers with 18 points off the bench. Here are all five of Boykin’s threes in under 30 seconds:
Tevin Florent can pass?
Tevin Florent is another freshman who could shine for the Bulldogs. He’s already one of the most athletic players on the team and his senior mixtape is chock-full of offensive rebounds, strong finishes, and insane dunks. While he made his presence felt inside on Saturday, Florent also showed off his passing abilities with a pair couple of flashy assists. In the first play, Florent delivers a pinpoint pass to a cutting Alex Keel, who finishes with a crafty layup. In the second play, Florent shows off his basketball IQ by recognizing that the defense collapsed trying to defend himself and Pedro Da Silva in the post and got off an accurate skip-pass through contact to open sharpshooter Nick Velasquez in the corner.
Can KC Goodwin become an accurate shooter?
Senior starting point guard KC Goodwin did everything he was asked to do a season ago, leading the Bulldogs in both steals and assists. However, the only downside to his game was his shooting; at just a tick under 33% from deep last year, Goodwin ranked dead last among Bulldogs who took at least one three-pointer. Goodwin put the team on his back offensively down the stretch against the Lions, though. He was second on the team with 13 points, and he drilled an NBA-range three-pointer to erase Freed’s last lead of the game with four minutes left. If Goodwin can carry that type of shooting into the regular season, the ceiling seems extremely high for the senior from Memphis.
Interior defense will be a major strength
Union’s two big men, Charlie Wilson and Da Silva, each blocked the Lions four times, and Florent contributed two rejections of his own. Wilson played on a bad ankle for the better portion of last season, but when he was healthy, he was the Bulldogs best rim-protector. At his best, Wilson recorded six blocks in an overtime victory over West Georgia. Da Silva led Cowley College in blocks each of the last two years, averaging well over two blocks per 40 minutes played. While no one will likely approach Robert Joseph’s school record of 6.9 blocks per game anytime soon, this interior defense has the potential to shut down opposing frontcourts all season long.
The perimeter defense could be better
Union struggled to defend the three-point shot all of last season, and head coach David Niven hopes they can fix those problems this year. They didn’t get off to a great start against the Lions (giving up 47% from deep), but most of the issues had to do with communication and chemistry, not effort or skill. That fact ought to encourage Bulldogs fans, since communication will only come with time for a team with this many new faces. Here are a couple of examples of communication issues leading to quality opportunities for Freed-Hardeman (even if they missed the shot):
The Bulldogs still have a ton of talent
The departures of Tray Boyd, Ashanti Day, Jarad Scott and others left many, including myself, wondering about the talent on Union’s roster. But Niven and the rest of the coaching staff did a great job getting not only a lot of players, but a lot of good players to come to Union. Guys like Florent and Da Silva will provide added strength on the inside, while players like Boykin and JC Hawkins have a chance to stretch the floor with their sharpshooting abilities. The play perhaps most indicative of Union’s newfound talent, though, is this one:
This was an absolutely terrible possession for Union offensively. They held the ball for nearly the entire shot clock, never got it inside the three-point line, and didn’t get a good look. Todd Barnes is a good shooter, though, and he bailed Union out of a wasted possession. Niven will no doubt hate this play in the film room, but it is encouraging for fans to see pure talent shine through early in the year. The ball movement will only get better as the players get used to each other, and possessions with this little ball movement will be few and far between once the season is in full swing.
Video footage provided by EPlusTV6.