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Game Notes: Reno 124, Austin 118

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Really, AP?  You can't find photos of anyone I mentioned in here?  Anyway, I initially opened this recap with a big long paragraph about Marcus Williams getting called up, but there's already a great post about it below, and believe me, I wrote enough here.  I'll just say that this is a great move for the Spurs and great for Williams.

As for the game itself, Williams' absence was definitely felt, as the Toros sometimes struggled in their offensive sets and never had one guy who really stepped up when they needed it at the end.  All credit to Reno for playing hard the entire game and taking advantage of some mismatches where they could, and keeping their slim playoff chances alive.  The loss of Williams also meant the return of Eric Dawson, and the Toros fielded a starting lineup of Nelson-Burrell-Hairston-Dawson-Jones.

It should also be noted that this was a Marat Kogut game, with all that entails.  Austin coach Quin Snyder spent a few minutes jawing at Kogut at the end of the first quarter, and Rod Benson, David Noel and Reno coach Jay Humphries were all visibly frustrated at times.  Here's a fun example: Malik Hairston was called for a foul on Russell Robinson in the first quarter, only the referee standing two feet in front of the play, Kristina Denson, didn't call it.  Instead, Kogut apparently saw something from the other side of the court, with the players' backs to him, and blew the whistle.  I was surprised, though, to look at the boxscore and see that a.) there were fewer fouls called than in the last game I saw, and b.) the fouls were called pretty evenly.  30 free throws for Reno and 27 for Austin, but it really seemed like the Bighorns were parading to the line at one point.

All that aside, some player notes below:

We start with Reno and Rod Benson.  Boom Tho had a nice block right as I sat down.  It was his only one of the game, but he played decently, scoring 27 points on 16 shots and pulling in 8 rebounds.  He fouled out, though, and got a tech in the second quarter when, frustrated with a foul call he yelled in frustration and slammed the ball down.  Benson has a lot of quickness inside and when going after rebounds; there were at least two instances where he missed a shot (one turnaround and one free throw) but got to the ball before Dwayne Jones could react.  He also had several taken away from him and/or bobbled them on the way down (perhaps a result from whatever was bothering his left hand?); the word is he's working out more now, and if he adds a little upper body strength he's going to be a real force.  He also had a nice up-and-under move and a solid turnaround hook, and generally played good defense in the post.  Still, there were several touch calls against him that seemed to bother him for most of the game, which ultimately limited his effectiveness.

David Noel had a frustrating night.  He guarded Malik Hairston pretty much the entire time, and did it well, but Hairston just had his shot going early on.  Noel had a solid offensive game himself, finishing with 23 points and hitting three of his six threes.  The fact that he's got a nice shot interests me, since he really doesn't look to shoot a lot of the time.  There were many possessions where he got the ball and immediately passed it off again.  He also has a decent handle, but again, didn't really show it off much tonight.

As for the other Bighorns, Richie Frahm can really shoot, hitting six of his nine three-pointers, but he's not really that effective when he has to dribble more than once.  Austin kept leaving him open, though, or at least as open as he needed to be.  Defensively, he's a bit handsy with guys coming through the lane, and he had a nice block against Eric Dawson.  Majic Dorsey is really, really quick, and the Toros didn't really have anyone who could keep up with him.  He was able to get down the floor ahead of his man and also penetrated the lane effectively.  Cezary Trybanski did some decent things, and finished with five blocks in 20 and a half minutes, but he also did some Trybanski-like things, like missing an alley-oop dunk.

Malik Hairston finished with a game-high 31 points, and is a decent rebounder for his size, finishing with seven.  He has a really nice shot, and was also able to get inside quite a few times.  He also finished with a paiir of blocks, and handled the ball a little bit.  While Hairston had a good game, he never really seemed to take over the game when he could've.  He'd have a big shot, then not get another one for several possessions.

DeMarcus Nelson took over primary ballhandling duties for the Toros, and did a decent job of it.  I'm still not certain he can be a top-notch point guard in the NBA, at least not yet, and he finished with as many turnovers as assists (six).  His outside shot looked better in this game, though, and he did a lot fewer ball fakes.  He was guarded by Richie Frahm for significant stretches of the game, and didn't really take as much advantage as he could've.  He also couldn't really keep up with either Dorsey or Russell Robinson defensively.  Still, he penetrates well and ended up shooting 11-17.

Dwayne Jones had a rough night offensively, shooting 6-14.  At one point Reno had both Benson and Trybanski on the floor, and Jones had a particularly hard time against that front.  He did show good focus and form on his free throws, and while he missed several late in the game, it's obvious that the work he's been doing has paid off.  He finished with 17 rebounds, though, and was able to use his strength to take several away from Benson.  He could also stand to improve his timing on blocks, as there were several shots he could've sent into the third row that he got late jumps on.

This was the first time I've seen Eric Dawson play in a while.  He finished with 18 and 12, but I remain unimpressed.  He needed 20 shots to get those 18 points, and while he has good quickness inside, he's really more of an undersized center than a forward.  Whenever he's paired up with a pivot (like Jones) and gets pushed outside, he doesn't really have the shot or the moves to play out there.  Defensively his first instinct is to take up the inside position, and on several plays he had to be pointed towards his man near the perimeter.  His quickness doesn't really translate out there either, and he was taken off the dribble a few times.

I didn't talk much about Ryan Bright last time because I was saving it for the next Toros wrap-up (about that...) so I'll combine his comments here.  He actually started against Tulsa, though his main purpose then seemed to be to inbound the ball.  He generally made good decisions with the ball, occasionally passing up threes in order to drive to the basket.  Defensively he used his hands to poke the ball away on several plays, and he also knew when to double the ball at the right time.  He wasn't really much of a factor last night, though he did hit some key shots.  I think Reno's front line was just too big for him to adequately handle, but he's also not that quick, either.  Against Tulsa, he had problems when they drove right at him, and Ryan Humphrey was able to get by him fairly quickly.

Stanley Burrell had a pretty good game, holding Russell Robinson to only five points on 1-10 shooting, though he had a tougher time against Dorsey.  Burrell also penetrated well on offense and scored 18 points on 11 shots.