For the Sprit of Nelson in All of Us
The Toros continued their March road trip with three games this week, sandwiching a win against Fort Wayne between losses to Erie and Rio Grande Valley. After struggling in his first week since coming to the Toros, guard DeMarcus Nelson stepped up his game, scoring 27 points on 20 shots to go with 7 rebounds and 2 blocks against Erie, 20 points on 16 shots and 8 rebounds against Fort Wayne and an impressive 39 points on 18 shots against RGV.
Wednesday's game against Erie was a low-possession affair, and the Toros turn the ball over too much in general for them to succeed in that kind of game. Marcus Williams "led" the team with six turnovers, and Nelson and DerMarr Johnson each had three of their own. The Bayhawks, on the other hand, only had nine as a team. They were led by Erik Daniels, who had 22 points and 12 assists, and Maureece Rice, who finished with 26 points and seven assists.
Against Fort Wayne, the Toros were running again and able to keep Chris Hunter in check, holding him to six points on 12 shots in 19 and a half minutes. I'm not sure what the full story is on this, as there's no recap on the D-League site and Hunter didn't have any fouls, so I'm just going to assume it was some combination of stout defense (Dwayne Jones had three blocks) and shots just not falling. Austin's backup center Serge Angounou had a solid game (for him), finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and two steals in a little over 20 minutes.
Other than Nelson, the Toros were fairly inefficient against the Vipers. Williams and Squeaky Johnson each had more shot attempts than they had points, and DerMarr Johnson was scoreless in 24 minutes off the bench. Rio Grande Valley's Kurt Looby continues to be a defensive force, finishing with five blocks and 16 rebounds to go with 14 points. Jawad Williams threw in 28 points and Jared Jordan had 15 assists.
Who Guards the Guards?
After talking about Dwayne Jones a few weeks ago and Squeaky Johnson last week, I've decided to devote this section of the wrap-up to talking about a different unheralded Toro. This week: Stanley Burrell. As I noted in those game notes, Burrell is an aggressive man defender, and he doesn't really do much else. He's an inefficient shooter, though he's shown occasional flashes recently of other abilities – he collected five rebounds in 15 minutes on March 7, and had 7 assists on the 13th.
For all of his aggressiveness, though, Burrell really doesn't foul a lot. The contest against Tulsa on the 13th is the only game since he joined the team in mid-February that he's had more than two fouls. He averages about 17 minutes a game, and the Austin starters tend to play a lot of minutes so I don't think he'll see much more than that this year (especially now that DeMarcus Nelson has joined the team), but I also don't think it will take much more work for Burrell to become a lockdown defender.
Going Home, Eventually
The Toros only have one game in the next seven days, so I'm probably going to skip a full wrap-up next week and lump it in with the next. Austin's road trip finally comes to an end with games at Sioux Falls and Reno, before coming back to Texas to play Tulsa and Iowa. It's nearing the home-stretch of the D-League regular season, and Austin is fighting with the Colorado 14ers not just for the top spot in the Southwest Division, but for the best record in the league. Whoever comes out on top, of course, gets to pick their first-round playoff opponent.