A 2 point win after being down with 16 points with 9 minutes to go and a 5 point win in an always close game is a pretty stressful way to pick up your first two conference wins, but the Mavs are 2-0 and that is all that matters (to me). It was as stressful as being a Kansas City Royals fan and watching them be down 0-1 going into the 7th inning. Both IUPUI and Western Illinois are going to be tough to beat on the road later in the season, and Omaha plays IUPUI after a fun filled weekend of North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Also, the Mavs are currently on their longest winning streak over division one teams…so eat that up.
Last year, the worst thing about the Mavs was their perimeter defense. Wing players consistently had great games against their perimeter defense. Now, after 2 games, the Mavs held Garret Covington of Western Illinois to 4-13 from the floor and Darell Combs of IUPUI to 8 points on 3-11 shooting. IUPUI was just 1 of 15 from three point range, but they really are not that great of a three point shooting team to begin with…they are 8th in the Summit League and Omaha is 9th. JC Fuller of Western Illinois had 10 points for Western Illinois in the first 8 minutes of the game, and the Mavs were able to contain him to just 7 points for the rest of the game.
The three point shooting for the Mavs is still a concern, but Tim Smallwood was able to hit some big time shots against Western Illinois to help fuel the comeback. Tre’Shawn Thurman and Tra-Deon Hollins were both in foul trouble for a good portion of the Western Illinois win. Hollins was really able to help spark the comeback in the final 9 minutes of the game with his stealing and passing abilities, he might not be the best player for the Mavericks, but he could be the most important player for the Mavericks this season. If you’re a complete dork, you should remember the old Marvel trading cards that had ratings on the back for each characters abilities of strength and shooting lasers out their eyes abilities. Hollins would have the highest rating for passing and stealing. You can make a highlight film of guards thinking they can pass around or above Hollins, and he just jumps up in the air and takes the ball.
My wife and I could see that Jalen Morgan of Western Illinois was a complete head case for the Leathernecks, I look forward to the hockey style fight he gets in at some point with his own teammate. I watched JC Fuller get away twice in the game with putting his elbow on the chest of a Maverick and pushing them off of him. I am also 90% sure that I saw Jabari Sandifer kiss his own bicep after making a three point shot, which is something only cool dudes do. I did feel bad for Mike Miklusak hurting himself toward the end of the first half, he was in the shoot around at half time, but he has had a career filled with injuries. He did miss the Leathernecks’ game against South Dakota State, I could look up to see if there is any specific injury, but I hate typing “Western Illinois” into the Google Machine.
The win over IUPUI has to shake your brain that Devin Patterson and Tre’Shawn Thurman were not selected any preseason Summit League teams. The Jaguars are a gritty team, they had more steals than the Mavericks. Yeah, that is weird, isn’t it? Evan Hall is going to be a great player in the Summit, and you have to like the future of the Jaguars. Maybe even a top 3 team in the conference next season.
A random note to mention: Tra-Deon Hollins has 64 steals on the season, which is already the most steals by any Maverick in a season since transition. Granted, it has not been that long of a history since transition, but we’re only half way through the season so far…
The Mavs are off to as good of a start that you could ask for in the Summit League at 2-0, but a two game road trip at North Dakota State and South Dakota is going to be difficult. The Mavericks have been a better three point shooting team on the road for some reason, so hopefully that can help because they are going to need it against those two teams that force you to shoot from the outside.