Rare slow start plummets VU to 24th in poll
It's common for the Vincennes University men's basketball team to have a winning record and reside in the weekly NJCAA poll.
But what isn't normal for the Trailblazers is to be looking up at almost all of the Region 24 teams. The combination of VU (5-3, 1-3 Region 24) still trying to form a lineup with 12 new players and a rugged early slate has put the reigning NJCAA champions in a unfamiliar position, tied for eighth in the 10-team region.
The schedule eases up this week with today's 7 p.m. home game with Shawnee (1-3, 1-2) and Saturday's game at Lewis & Clark (0-4, 0-4). But the Blazers have shown through four region games, even though they are ranked 24th in the poll (a 16-spot drop from a week ago), that they are currently living in those teams' neighborhood.
VU coach Todd Franklin has a lot more on his mind than Shawnee's personnel. Even though the Blazers have experienced losses to ranked John A. Logan, Olney and Lincoln Trail, they have their own puzzle to figure out. The Volunteers embarrassed VU last Thursday, holding the hosts to 41 points in a double-figure win.
"We have to find a group that we can trust. Right now I can't find five guys who are going to be competitive and locked into what they're supposed to be doing," Franklin said. "When one of them shows me they're one of those guys, I'll play them. But we're still trying to figure who is consistently going to do things hard and right.
"This team doesn't have that one guy who is going to explode and carry us. So we have to have everybody responsible for their jobs. We're keeping it simple, and what we're asking of them is realistic," he said. "If we are dedicated enough to do the simple things right, I think that moves us over the needle in a lot of these games."
What started as a promising four-game winning streak to start the year, led by 6-7 freshman Justin Archer (12.4 points per game), has dissolved into defensive and offensive lapses. VU, which led the NJCAA with a defensive average of 60 per game last year, allowed 79, 73 and 82 in consecutive games. The Blazers followed that with their lowest scoring game in four decades.
Archer hasn't kept up his early production, and with nobody else averaging in double figures, the offense hasn't found anybody else to count on. VU is shooting 41 percent, 30 percent from three and 67 percent from the free-throw line. All three numbers are mediocre, which adds up to the Blazers' so-so record.
Franklin said he hasn't come up with a starting five for tonight. If he went by scoring averages, it would be Archer, 6-4 freshman Brandon Muntu (9.5), 6-1 freshman Brevin Jefferson (8.3), 6-3 sophomore DJ Brewton (7.9) and either 6-4 sophomore Randy Tucker or 6-5 sophomore Christian Wells (7.0 each).
The Saints are off to a bad start, but do have four double-figure scorers: 6-2 sophomore Keon Jones (14.0), 6-3 freshman Adrian Cohen (11.7), 5-11 sophomore Tyreek Montgomery (10.7) and 6-3 freshman Akyrahn Hazley (10.5).
"Shawnee is quick, athletic and they play hard. If we don't play right, they'll beat us," Franklin said. "They just won at Lake Land (77-70), and we had a hard time with Lake Land here (80-73), so it's easy doing the math.
"I believe we're getting better, but we need guys on game days being active participants in their own and team success," he said. "We just finished as tough a stretch as we're going to see. You look over the next week and we have three games we can be competitive in and win. If we can go one play, one game, one win, building as you go, understanding why we're winning and doing it together, then you have something. If not, the losing will continue. That is where we are."
It's a women's-men's doubleheader with the 22nd-ranked Lady Blazers (5-1, 3-0 Region 24) taking on Shawnee (1-3, 1-1) at 5 p.m. VU, on a five-game winning streak, is paced by four double-figure scoring sophomores: 5-5 Amani Brown (15.5), 5-6 Shaila Beeler (11.5), 5-7 Reeva Hammelman (11.3) and 6-0 Alexis Radcliff (10.0).
REGION 24 MEN'S STANDINGS
(Courtesy of Dave Hunter - WVUB radio)
John A. Logan|4-0|6-1
Lewis & Clark|0-4|0-4
Last Monday's results
Lincoln Trail 82, Vincennes 79
Shawnee 77, Lake Land 70
John A. Logan 68, Southwestern Illinois 63
Olney Central 81, Lewis & Clark 60
Last Wednesday's result
Lake Land 90, Lewis & Clark 87
Last Thursday's result
John A. Logan 53, Vincennes 41
Last Saturday's result
Southwestern Illinois 81, Kaskaskia 76
Shawnee at Vincennes
Wabash Valley at John A. Logan
Lake Land at Kaskaskia
Lewis & Clark at Lincoln Trail
Olney Central at Southwestern Illinois
NJCAA MEN'S POLL
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
1. South Plains, Texas (15)|7-0|399|1
2. Pearl River, Miss. (1)|5-0|373|5
3. Coffeyville, Kan.|8-0|362|5
4. John A. Logan, Ill.|6-1|341|6
5. Odessa, Texas|8-0|330|7
6. Mineral Area, Mo.|8-0|307|9
7. Tallahassee, Fla.|8-1|296|2
9. Indian Hills, Iowa|7-1|265|11
10. Shelton St., Ala.|8-0|246|13
11. Salt Lake, Utah|9-1|235|3
12. Southern Idaho|9-1|234|18
13. Florida SW St.|6-1|210|15
14. Panola, Texas|7-1|143|22
15. Triton, Ill.|9-1|133|23
16. Georgia Highlands|4-0|123|21
17. Gulf Coast St., Fla.|5-2|98|12
18. Arizona Western|6-1|92|24
19. Snow, Utah|8-2|86|25
20. Lincoln Trail, Ill.|5-1|82
21. McLennan, Texas|9-0|73
22. Dodge City, Kan.6-1|65|14
23. Cowley County, Kan.|5-3|5-3
25. Blinn, Texas|5-2|39|17
Others receiving votes: Olney Central, Ill.; Northeast Mississippi; Indian Ricer State, Fla.; Otero, Colo.; Cape Fear, N.C.; Central Georgia Tech; Columbia State, Tenn.; Harcum, Pa.; Three Rivers, Mo.; Trinity Valley, Texas; Southeastern Iowa; South Georgia State; Connors State, Okla.; Marshalltown, Iowa; Dawson, Mont.; Grayson, Texas; Moberly Area, Mo.; Murray State, Okla.; Walters State, Tenn.
NJCAA WOMEN'S POLL
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Northwest Florida St. (7) |7-0|175|2
2. South Georgia Tech|11-0|168|4
3. South Plains, Texas|7-1|161|5
4. Chipola, Fla.|5-1|154|3
5. Jones, Miss.|6-0|147|7
6. Trinity Valley, Texas|5-1|140|1
7. Casper, Wyo.|9-0|133|8
8. Shelton St. Ala.|8-2|126|10
9. Florida SW State|3-0|119|12
10. Gulf Coast St., Fla.|4-2|112|9
11. Moberly Area, Mo.|5-1|105|14
12. Salt Lake, Utah|8-0|98|14
13. Butler, Kan.|6-0|91|16
14. Tyler, Texas|5-2|84|19
15. Central Arizona|0-1|77|6
16. Midland, Texas|2-1|70|20
17. Southern Idaho|8-2|63|15
18. Chattanooga St. Tenn.|3-1|56|11
19. Western Nebraska|8-2|49|22
20. Blinn, Texas|5-3|42|18
21. Three Rivers, Mo.|4-0|35|21
23. Wabash Valley, Ill.|5-2|21|15
24. Hutchinson, Kan.|5-2|14|17
25. Indian River St., Fla.|6-2|7|25
Others receiving votes: Grayson, Texas; Seward County, Kan.; Wallace State-Hanceville, Ala.; Georgia Highlands, Walters State, Tenn.