St. Rita turned up the defense in the third quarter and blew past Catholic League South foe Hales Franciscan on the way to a 59-45 victory before a packed house Friday at Hales.
The biggest beneficiary of the defensive pressure was Tony Hicks. The senior guard scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the second half.
St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare didnt chew us out at halftime," Hicks said. He just let us know what we were doing wrong. We werent playing defense like we can and we were taking too many jump shots.
The Mustangs (5-3, 3-0) trailed 24-22 at half and were shooting just 26 percent from the floor. On top of that, Rita produced just five turnovers in the first half. All of that changed from the very start of the third quarter. Freshman Charles Matthews got it started by forcing two turnovers and scoring layups off of them. That spurt was the start of a quarter that saw the Mustangs outscore Hales 18-3 and take a 40-27 lead.
Charles did it with his defense, DeCesare said. He got a couple of steals and some easy baskets off of that and that got us going.
Hicks scored 12 points in the third quarter with all but two of them coming on layups from fast breaks. Those opportunities came off of steals or Hales missed shots. The Spartans (3-5, 0-3) made only one basket in the third quarter.
They were focusing on stopping Tony in the first half, DeCesare said. I just told him to relax and the shots will fall.
One of the more unusual moments of the game came late in the game with Cullen Foulks at the line for Rita. He missed the front end of a one-and-one and nobody moved except for Hicks who slammed home the rebound for his final points of the game.
My guy was so busy talking trash to me that he forgot to box me out, Hicks said.
Jordan Watson came off the bench to lead Hales with 13 points and Shaquon Alexander chipped in 12.
NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall
NFL Power Rankings Week 8: Jags, Eagles, Bears all see stock fall
Take a look over the NFC landscape and try to find me a team that can compete with the Rams.
Packers? Held back by Rodgers' knee and Rodgers' coach. Saints? Might not even win their own division. Washington? Does Alex Smith really scare anyone in the playoffs?
The Rams have one of the easier paths to the Championship Round/Super Bowl that we've seen in some time. Will it likely stay that way? Probably not. But there's a difference between parity and mediocrity and right now the NFC is toeing the line HARD.
Outside the NFC's "elite", how did your team do this week?
At 6-foot, 4-inches and with a long wingspan, Harrison would step in and likely be at least the second-best perimeter defender on the team behind Kris Dunn. And he is the type of player, when combined with a talent like Wendell Carter Jr. and/or Dunn, could help form the type of lineup that could have a transformative effect on the overall team defense.
Last season Harrison had a defensive rating of 109, this despite the fact that the Sun—as a team—had a defensive rating of 113.51, over four points worse than when Harrison was on the floor.
His best skill is his ability to “get skinny” around a screener, meaning that on defense, Harrison is adept at angling his body to get around players trying to screen him off his man:
The Bulls need more players who show Harrison’s effort level when navigating screens on defense, not just because it will make life easier on their rim protectors, but because they also need to make sure they continue adding players who lead by example on that end of the floor. A team as young as the Bulls needs to collect young talent who pride themselves on defense, and Harrison fits the part.
When it comes to offense, Harrison doesn’t have the most impressive profile, but his play on that end of the floor is similar to former Bull David Nwaba. Harrison is not even an average 3-point shooter (23.1 percent from 3-point range), but he makes up for it in other ways.
His rebounding is an area of strength, and fitting in with his preference to bring physicality to his matchup, he is adept at getting to the free throw line.
Last year Harrison’s 30.6 percent free throw attempt rate would’ve been a top-five mark on the Bulls. But his low usage rate (18 percent) will likely be lower in Chicago, so the free throw numbers may fall. But with so many score-first players on the roster, Harrison will still be able to crash the glass against the many guards who forget to box out their man.
Offensive rebounding will be less of a focus for a Bulls team that wants to preach getting back on transition defense, but Harrison gives Fred Hoiberg a special player that can do both. Harrison will run back on defense to help create the “shell” that the best teams create to cut off easy forays to the rim, and then when his team gets the ball back and is on the fastbreak, he brings value as the “trailer” (trailing man on a fastbreak) even without shooting ability:
This signing could end up being a big one for the Bulls, however small it may seem now.
Around the league, more and more teams are starting to invest resources in multiple ball-handler offenses that negate the differences between point guard and shooting guard, making versatile back court defenders a must.
This will be evident when the Bulls take on the Dallas Mavericks in game No. 3 of the regular season, as Rick Carlisle's Mavericks feature Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic in an explosive offense that doesn't have a defined "lead" guard.
The Bulls will continue to attempt to curtail offense with a high-scoring back court duo when they take on the Charlotte Hornets in a back-to-back on October 26 and 27. If Harrison is worked into the rotation by then, expect to see Harrison and Dunn on the floor together to match up with Doncic and Smith respectively, but have the flexibility to switch defensive assignments on the fly. If Chicago's perimeter defense starts to offer significantly more resistance, it will allow quicker improvement from Carter and the rest of the Bulls bigs on the interior.
With Zach LaVine currently in the top-five in the NBA in points per game, Dunn returning and Lauri Markkanen getting healthy, the Bulls front office is slowly approaching the point where their team has enough players who are considered possible focal points of an offense.
To become a championship contender, you need to have that one player who is unequivocally a superstar capable of a heavy workload, and only time will tell if the Bulls already have that player or need to acquire him. But the other important factor in building a championship roster is having the elite-level role players who do the little things that make life easier for their teammates in all phases of the game, and Shaq Harrison is excellent prospect who fits that exact mold.