SienaSaintsBlog: Dylon Cormier currently leads the team with 16.3 PPG, how much better does he look?
Patrick Stevens / Washington Times: Quite a bit better than a year ago. The sophomore guard knows what coach Jimmy Patsos wants, and he also doesn’t have to think about every last detail of what he needs to do on the floor. He’s choosing his shots better, and he remains a capable rebounder for a 6’2″ guy.
I’m not sure there was a time in Thursday’s victory over Marist where it felt like Cormier was dominant. But he was always relevant when he was on the floor, doing something at one end or the other to influence the course of the game. That’s the sort of guy whose total value can add up in a hurry.
SSB: What are the Greyhounds biggest strengths and weaknesses that you saw?
Patrick Stevens: The thing I liked the most was Loyola’s offensive rebounding. When you snag 56.8 percent of your own misses, 25 offensive boards compared to Marist’s 19 defensive boards, the team is both collecting second chances and maximizing opportunities. Loyola hasn’t been quite that good in that area all season, but a 45.3 offensive rebounding percentage is still exceptional. There are tougher tests ahead than the likes of UMBC and Coppin State and New Hampshire, but Loyola’s penchant for extending possessions has lead to many more second-chance points than its opponents in every game so far.
Nonetheless, turnovers are going to be an issue against better competition. Marist managed only nine points off Loyola’s 18 miscues, which is the sort of inefficiency you’d expect from a team picked to finish last in the conference. Better opposition is going to punish the Greyhounds if they maintain their high rate of 16 turnovers per game.
SSB: Last time these two teams played, Erik Etherly gave Siena a fit, scoring 15 points and leading Loyola to a 76-69 win at Siena last February 7th. How has Erik’s game improved this season?
Patrick Stevens: Etherly was a solid rebounder last year, but it just seemed like he was everywhere in the first half on Thursday. Had eight rebounds in 12 minutes before foul trouble sent him to the bench for a while.
As a scorer, he’s better because Cormier is better and because Justin Drummond’s a year older and more accustomed to the college level. The personnel of this team is mostly the same in the backcourt, the differences being that Brian Rudolph is gone, and freshman R.J. Williams has started the last three games. However, this group is much more capable of working it inside whenever the Greyhounds get into a halfcourt game.
SSB: Looking at the Assist to Turnover rate (74 A: 96 TO) looks like a big issue – how much did that let Marist back into the game last night?
Patrick Stevens: In short, Loyola saw a press and didn’t really know what to do with it. The old saying “press a pressing team” doesn’t hold true nearly as often as coaches believe it does; sometimes when you press a pressing team, they simply throw a long outlet to a faster wing player for an easy layup. But it certainly was valid Thursday in the Loyola-Marist game.
Without the turnovers, Loyola probably puts the game away a lot earlier than the final five minutes.
SSB: How deep are the Greyhounds and will Loyola be able to capitalize on Siena’s lack of depth?
Patrick Stevens: It’s easy to think of Loyola as having a revolving door of substitutions given Patsos’ preferred style, but the Greyhounds used a mostly eight-man rotation against Marist. Julius Brooks got a four-minute nod in the first half because of foul trouble, and Pierson Williams made a cameo in the last minute with Loyola in control.
The question might not be depth so much as it is pace. The game against Marist was a 66 possession-per-team game that seemed more frenetic because of the Red Foxes’ pressure and Loyola’s tendancy to either (a) commit a turnover, (b) miss an open shot, or (c) have a decent look rim out after breaking the press. With reduced personnel options, Siena probably doesn’t take the same approach that Marist did last night.
Loyola could easily look to run to wear down the Saints a bit.