Snider had a lot of answers required of them on Tuesday night as they bounced back from a disappointing SAC opener last week to top East Noble 70-52.
It was the home opener that the Panthers needed because it happened so soon after their upset loss to Wayne stole the headlines last Friday. It was equally important because Snider showed flashes of a complete team against East Noble, but also showed that they are a team with plenty of work to do.
Step one was getting back in the gym. The Panthers didn’t have much of a turnaround, getting in one practice after their Wayne loss. Getting into the gym was critical for them to be able to gauge and showcase advancement as a now veteran group with a lot of seniors and quite frankly, different expectations in ways than a season ago.
“In a way, you are kind of humbled and in a way you have to credit Wayne, they out battled us for a good part of it. But at the same time, I feel like we were in a good place and that is a credit to the maturity of the guys this year that we just have to get back to work,” Snider coach Jeremy Rauch said. “Next game, next practice. We have three games this week, so you’ve got to get in a get refocused.”
And refocused the Panthers did get, but it took them a while. After Michael Eley and Jon Barnes knocked down early three pointers, the Panther struggled a bit to score. They did lead 9-2 but didn’t score a basket inside the three point arc for over five minutes to start the game. Early turnover issues let a rebuilding East Noble team stay in the game, tied at 14 after the first quarter. Snider finished the game with 18 turnovers.
The Knights kept the game within two points for the first 90 seconds of the second quarter before Snider started to distance themselves. East Noble even trailed by just four with 3:18 left in the opening half, but a lot of effort was put into the closing minutes including good ball movement for a pair of Isaac Farnsworth three pointers. That lead ballooned from four to 12 points in the final three minutes before the break.
Snider finished the game hitting 8-of-27 from three point range against East Noble.
“I think we got settled in a little bit. We hit our first couple shots and that was nice. Maybe it was a little bit fool’s gold in the way that it is not always going to be that easy. We are not always going to hit wide open threes off one or two passes,” Rauch said.
The Panthers, in those minutes ,showcased some areas where they will need continued growth and an uncapped sense of patience. Getting used to having to work a little bit like they did against a smart East Noble defense is going to have to be a hallmark for the Panthers if they want to contend in the SAC or postseason. When they were swinging the ball and reversing it, taking advantage of mismatches and not stuck in iso mode on offense, they had the Knights’ number rather easily.
That will also allow Snider to go deeper into their bench the right way. Rauch went 9 to 10 guys deep last year, but told me before the season he wanted guys to warrant that use more in practice this year. He is still capable of going deeper, which lends to a comfort level with guys who haven’t been in major roles before. Aiden Lambert, Karson Jenkins and Elijah Wimby were all part of an expanded and, at times, patient offensive structure that lends to how Snider wants to play. And senior Alonzo Derrick added an extra punch defensively in the second half with his footwork taking East Noble’s Hayden Jones off balance several times.
“He’s just a hound on defense,” Rauch said of Derrick with a little laugh. “Those guys are battling and I think the biggest difference is there is an identity for what we want to do and they fit in to good spots.”
The mixture of good and bad for Snider, even in the big win Tuesday, is critical. It will keep them humble and keep them on their toes. At least it should. Their offense needs cleaned up a little more, yet good court vision plays that led to a pair Dillon Duff to Eley lobs – including one off the backboard – or Duff’s own 360 slam, say that they are more than capable of big moments from top to bottom. Those previously mentioned players off the bench, the Duff/Eley star power duo and the steady hands of defenders and movers like Barnes, Isaac Farnsworth and Jayshawn Underwood all played a role on Tuesday.
They have to keep knowing, playing and praising those roles if there is a chance to add any championship hardware to the Snider trophy cases this season.
They were also a team on Tuesday that hounded the glass well. Snider allowed just 18 East Noble rebounds while grabbing 38 of their own, led by 11 each from Duff and Eley.
“I was happy how we rebounded,” Rauch said, noting that they have out rebounded opponents by 20 or more in their wins, but only out rebounded Wayne by four points last Friday. “That is a big part of who we are. In part, it is a little bit of effort, it is a little bit of physicality and is a microcosm of the system that we want to run.”
Duff and Eley also led the Panthers in scoring with 19 and 18 respectively and Farnsworth had 11. Eight of the nine Panther players scored, with that one outlier being Underwood, who has never been shy about passing up a good shot to dish as a true point guard to a teammate for better shot.
The system is clearly in place, as it was in many ways during last season where the Panthers were highly hyped, including by yours truly. The question remains: does this lineup have the patience to make the system successful? Tuesday was a step that way, just getting back into the gym quickly. But it was also a step to show how good they could be. We probably saw Snider at 80 percent, in my estimation, on Tuesday in their win over East Noble.
Take that for whatever it is worth to you. But to me, that means there is a lot more the Panthers can accomplish. So a day later, they will just have to get back to work again and prepare for the next one.
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