Not to be confused with "The Weak Ender". Pretty slow weekend as far as sports that I care about are concerned. Slow starts doomed one team, and almost doomed two more.
This game wasn't on TV in my part of the country, but from the looks of things, the Bruins didn't get things going until late in the first half. The big scorers were the guys you expect to be the big scorers, Afflalo, Shipp, and Collison. For one of the few times this season, the Bruins didn't enjoy a large turnover margin (they only forced 16 while turning it over 14 times). Especially discouraging was the rebounding margin. They were outrebounded by the Golden Grizzlies 35-31. That has to improve. Weird stat of the game: Mike Roll scored 8 points on 4-8 shooting, which means he made four two point baskets, and no three pointers. I would not have expected a stat like that in his entire career.
Positive: They held their opponent to 32% shooting while making 51% of their own shots. On the year, they haven't been a great field goal percentage defense, making up for that with forced turnovers. Negative: 55% from the free throw line. At some point this season, that's going to kill them if it doesn't get better. Altough, I should point our that four of their eight misses were from Josh Shipp (3-7), who is really not a bad free throw shooter. Still, it's been a team issue all season.
Oh well, first game in a week, and they were sluggish, as is to be expected. They still coasted in the second half, and found minutes for Keefe, Wright, and Westbrook. Still, a game against an opponent like this should have featured a lot more garbage time.
Another slow start. Back and forth game for the first half. Belmont (who faced UCLA in the first round of last year's tournament) is a three point shooting team and it seemed in the first half like every time the Illini opened a six or eight point lead, Belmont would hit a couple of threes and get back in the game. The second half was another story, though, as the Illini went on a big run to start the half that essentially put the game away.
Warren Carter, who's been absolutely outstanding this season, led the way with 21 points, despite only going 4-9 from the free throw line and turning the ball over six times. He's not a bad free throw shooter, so hopefully that was an abberation. Sean Pruitt added 13, and Brian Randle had 10 to give the Illini frontcourt a big advantage over their opponents. Both teams hit eight three pointer, but Belmont needed seven more shots to get there, and their second half shooting was awful. Chester Frazier had a surprising 11 rebounds, and six assists against three turnovers. Turnovers were a problem, with the Illini giving it away 22 times. That's not a very Bruce Weber-like statistic, and it will have to get better in Big 10 play for the Illini to have a respectable season. Again, like UCLA, they had a week off, and it's not surprising to see them come out flat in the first half.
Bragging Rights Game against Missouri is Tuesday night. The Illini are riding a Bragging Rights Game winning streak that goes back to my second year in law school, but it actually looks to be in jeopardy this season. Should be a good game.
They didn't do anything this weekend....slackers.
A poor first period was a little too much to overcome on Saturday against Dallas, despite a terrific second period and a solid third. Still, they pulled a point against a team that has completely owned them this season. The last couple weeks, they've looked like they really belong in the NHL, which is a nice change. Ironically, they've been getting their most consistent goaltending ever since they all started getting hurt. Brust has looked pretty darn good in his two starts. They showed a lot of resilience coming back from a two goal deficit, despite blowing a late lead before going to overtime. The shootout kind of sucked, though.
I really shouldn't be surprised at the success they've had the last month or so on the power play. They have a lot of offensive talent, and they've got a ton of skill and experience on the blue line for those situations. But they've been so inexplicably bad with the extra man the last couple of years that I'd pretty much given up hope. Of course, the PK is still pathetic.
The good news is that they've played most of their games scheduled against the Ducks, Sharks, and Stars, so the schedule should get a little easier in the second half.