Rio Grande Valley Vipers 110, Reno Bighorns 94 (Box Score)
Both of these teams looked like they hadn't played in a week, which they hadn't. Reno shot just 14 percent on three-pointers, and while RGV eventually got their percentage up to 36.4, they were stone cold to begin the game. The passing wasn't exactly crisp, either, at least for Reno. The Vipers' starting trio of guards (Will Conroy, Antonio Anderson and Jonathan Wallace) eventually settled down and played pretty well, much, much better than Reno's backcourt. But now I'm getting ahead of myself. Here are the stars of the game:
- As if there was ever any doubt, Rod Benson dominated inside. He finished with 22 points on 11 shots and 20 rebounds, and that's even with only playing about a minute of the second quarter due to foul trouble. Benson also had six turnovers, but most of those weren't his fault - one was a bogus offensive foul call early on, and Reno's passing was bad throughout the game, sailing over his head and tipping off his fingers to go out of bounds or into RGV's hands. Benson also played very good post defense, played with energy throughout the game, and generally had an excellent all-around day (missed free-throws aside, but that's not changing any time soon).
- Doug Thomas also played very well for the Bighorns, making all five of his field goals and all four of his free throws to finish with 14 points along with seven rebounds in 25 minutes. He should've played more than that, but coach Jay Humphries inexplicably went with Yaroslav Korolev at PF for long stretches even though he missed a bunch of shots and wasn't playing any defense. But this is about Thomas, who showed more of an offensive game than I remembered driving to the basket, and was a tough cover for Ernest Scott.
- Jonathan Wallace tied Benson with a game-high of 22 points (on seven shots), and added seven rebounds, six assists and two steals for the Vipers. I'm naming him rather than Conroy or Anderson here because he provided good three-point shooting when his teammates weren't, and generally played a solid game. I will note, though, that Anderson did a good job of driving to the rim for layups when Benson was on the bench and Conroy kept the offense moving when it easily could've broken down.
- The bad Desmon Farmer showed up for this game. He missed his first five shots, all three-pointers. He started to drive to the rim but then got called for an offensive foul doing so (which, in his defense, shouldn't have been a charge), and it turned his whole attitude downward. He then started overdribbling, forcing shots, and playing either lackadaisical or needlessly risky defense. I had figured on Farmer getting frustrated at some point in this series, I just didn't expect it to be game one.
- Will Blalock also was pretty bad. He finished with seven assists to just two turnovers in 35 minutes, but as the Reno announcers pointed out, other Bighorns were credited with turnovers that he really was responsible for (like Benson). He also took even more shots than Farmer, finishing 2-12. As the game went on he kept settling for outside shots, and the Bighorns offense didn't have much flow in the second half.
- Congratulations, Rio Grande Valley big men, you got out-rebounded by shooting guard Craig Winder. The latter finished with nine boards, while Julian Sensley, Ernest Scott, Stanley Asumnu, Mickell Gladness and Rich Melzer (all forwards or centers) combined for seven. Other players in this game who had seven or more rebounds include Conroy, Anderson and Farmer. Those three guys are guards, FYI. It may not be entirely fair to put the RGV frontcourt here since this kind of output isn't unusual, but Rod Benson had more offensive rebounds than all those guys had total boards. They'll need to pick it up if the Vipers are to get deep into the playoffs.