Head coach Mike Gillespie said after the game that he was satisfied for the most part with his team’s huge 90-54 exhibition win Saturday over St. Leo, a Division II university.
“It probably didn’t look like it,” said Gillespie, who reacted in a frustrated manner each and every time the Rattlers committed one of their 15 turnovers.
One of those reactions came with 17:34 left in the second half. The Rattlers were up by 20 points (43-23), and senior center Jermaine Hill threw an errant pass that landed in the hands of Gillespie. The coach then slammed the ball on the ground and put his head down, obviously furious that his team had turned the ball over for the 12th time.
But the Rattlers did do some good things. As a matter of fact, the Rattlers played well in every other facet of the game.
They shot an incredible 61.4 percent from the field, 52.2 percent from long range and 77.4 percent from the foul line in Gaither Gymnasium.
The Rattlers also put on a defensive clinic for those watching, especially in the first half in which they forced 10 Lion turnovers.
Four of those turnovers occurred during a Rattler 14-0 run that stretched four minutes and 56 seconds, beginning with sophomore forward Michael Ayodele’s second three-pointer in as many possessions with 10:14 left in the first half. When the Lions’ scoreless streak finally ended with a three-pointer by senior guard Frank Craig, so did their hopes of winning as the Rattlers lead had been stretched from six to 20.
Despite all of the intense on-the-ball pressure exhibited by the home team, the Lions didn’t attempt a single free throw in the first half. The Lions simply had no answer for the Rattlers tenacious defense.
“We cannot replicate that pressure everyday (in practice) like those guys played; we are not as athletic, we are not as deep and we are not as big,” said St. Leo head coach Mike Madagan.
One player on St. Leo may be as athletic. Sophomore Larry Henderson rattled the Rattler crowd with two explosive dunks. The 6’4 forward dunked on 6’10 center Jermaine Hill on a fast-break early in the first half. Towards the end of the second half, Henderson caught a pass off the glass from sophomore guard Narada Caldwell and slammed it with two hands on two Rattler defenders.
“I would trade those two dunks for 20 or 30 points and have it been a competitive game at the end,” commented Madagan, as Hendersron’s second dunk didn’t count because Caldwell was fouled on the pass.
Gillespie added, “The dunk is a nice play but I think more devastating than a dunk is the three-point shot and I think we made a few more three-point shots than they did.”
The Rattlers made 12 three-pointers to the Lions six.
Junior point guard Demarcus Wilkins was tied with sophomore shooting sensation Dominique Jackson for the most three-pointers with three. Wilkins also led the Rattlers’ balanced attack (eight scored eight or more points) with 13 points and was one of five Rattlers that drained a three-pointer.
“We have a whole lot of guys that can shoot,” Wilkins said. “If one man is off, we have five more guys that can step in and shoot the three.”
Most of these three-pointers made up the Rattlers 38 points off of the Lions 21 turnovers.
The Rattlers played excellent defense and shot the ball very well in the blowout, but Gillespie still feels that his team has a long way to go.
“This was not Xavier, this was not Cincinnati, who we play next Sunday and Tuesday (respectively), but it was a nice way to finish our exhibition season,” Gillespie said.