The top-ranked Vincennes University men see the end of their five games in eight days to start the basketball season. That comes this weekend when Kankakee (Ill.) and Columbia State (Tenn.) provide the opposition in the Sodexo Classic.
The Trailblazers (3-0) play the 7 p.m. nightcap both today and Saturday at the P.E. Complex, with Kankakee (2-0) being tonight's opposition. The fourth team in the field, No. 4 John A. Logan (1-2), has 5 p.m. games today and Saturday against Columbia State (3-0) and Kankakee.
VU has been up to the task so far to protect its lofty ranking, with wins over Southwest Tennessee, No. 19 Harcum (Pa.) and Danville Area (Ill.). But the Blazers probably are coming off their worst half of the season Monday against Danville. The Jaguars scored 43 second-half points against VU, burning the hosts with 13-of-30 shooting from the 3-point line in turning a 19-point deficit into single digits.
"We took a step backward in intensity and focus on Monday. I give credit to Danville too. They had some quickness, and if they're going to hit shots like that along with playing hard and committed, they're dangerous," Franklin said. "We got up 19 with seven to go and all of the sudden we didn't defend or execute offensively and that's disappointing.
"We rounded back into shape once it became a game, but I didn't like our reaction or response before then," he said. "We'll see if this weekend is better. We're playing good enough teams that we're going to get exposed if we're not right. That's a good thing if we learn from it."
The Blazers projected starters are 6-6 sophomore Kevin Osawe (18 points, 10.7 rebounds per game), 6-2 sophomore Colton Sandage (12.7 points), 6-7 sophomore Chinedu Okanu (12.3), 6-1 sophomore Craig Porter (8.3) and 6-4 freshman Randy Tucker (7.7). Others who have worked in are 6-9 sophomore Kevin Kone (6.0), 6-5 freshman Christian Wells (6.0), 6-0 sophomore Chuka Mekkam (4.0) and 6-6 John Ukomadu (1.3).
Franklin said he's been pleased with his centers, particiularly Okanu, who is also averaging 8.7 rebounds per game. But he said he wanted one of his freshmen, mainly Wells or Ukomadu, to fill in at the power forward spot. A third choice is 6-5 Milo Sigmund-Gordon, but the coach said he wanted to stay with the plan to red-shirt the freshman.
"We need one of them to step up and get us 20-24 minutes a game at the 4 when we can play bigger. I want to split Osawe about 16 minutes each at the 3 and 4, and I don't want to put Kone in there with Okanu. The 5 is starting to develop into a strength with those guys working as a tandem," Franklin said.
"Christian did some decent things last weekend, but took a step back Monday. John we've been waiting on. He showed some more life in practice and tried hard Saturday. He gave us a little more Monday," he said. "I want one of them to take on that challenge and give us those minutes, so we can play bigger at times, give us a different look and make us harder to defend."
Kankakee and Columbia State offer differing styles this weekend.
The Cavaliers have defeated Wilbur Wright (Ill.), 87-69, and Olivet Nazarene JV (Ill.), 78-67. They have been paced by Jonte Coleman (15.0) and Pierce Coleman (14.0). Starting point guard Vashawn Sims was suspended for the first two games, but is eligible tonight. The 6-0 sophomore, along with Jonte Coleman, were double-figure scorers on last year's 15-17 team.
The Chargers cleared 100 points in their first two wins, 105-70 over Tennessee Valley Prep and 103-56 against Fisk (Tenn.) JV. They had seven different players score in double figures in those wins.
"Kankakee has a big international kid (6-7 Michael Moshkovitz), who plays on the perimeter and they go through him at the high post. That's a different look than we've seen so far," Franklin said. "Columbia State is going to be similar to what we saw from them last year. They're athletic, they press, trap and are aggressive. If we don't deal with those things well, it's going to be a problem."
VU defeated Columbia State in last year's Kiwanis Classic, 86-65, and took out Kankakee, 109-76, in the 2017 Kiwanis Classic.
At P.E. Complex - Today's games
5 — Columbia State (3-0) vs. John A. Logan (1-2)
7 — Kankakee (2-0) at Vincennes (3-0)
5 — John A. Logan vs. Kankakee
7 — Vincennes vs. Columbia State