Newton faced its toughest competition of the season on Friday since beating Butler in an exhibition match before the regular season and it showed as Newton got blowed out 67-42 against Tucker.
“I just thought we ran into a buzzsaw. We really did. They wore it out and then we didn’t trust our offense. It was half us and it was half them. So next time we gotta improve in both areas and then we can make a game of it,” Rams’ head coach Rick Rasmussen said. “That was a learning experience for our team. I challenge them to find out what they’re made of. What are you going to do about it? Are you gonna mope or you gonna blame each other and look for things to blame? Or is everybody going to look in the mirror and say we got to be tougher and we gotta trust each other more and we got to fight through it.”
The Tigers are packed with talent. Their best player Bryce Brown verbally committed to the University of Charlotte, a D-I school in Conference USA. Brown scored seven of Tucker’s 18 points in the first quarter. Of which, the Tigers hit four threes in the opening period.
When asked how he wants his team to get better between now and the next time Newton plays Tucker, Rasmussen said, “Well I hope they don’t shoot the ball like that. It seemed like no matter who it was they were making 50 percent of their three-pointers. They shot seven for 16 in the first half. We really, I thought battled pretty hard to get back in it and we were down like 12 or something at the half. I thought that was pretty good, considering seven for 16 from three. They just came out and like four different guys hit those threes.”
A lot of those threes came on fast breaks off Newton turnovers, an unusual characteristic for the Rams was the amount of turnovers they had.
“What they did was jump the passing lanes,” Rasmussen said. “We didn’t do a good job of reading that and backdooring them. We’ve talked about it a lot, but I think that was the first time we played a team that fully committed to jumping the passing lanes the entire night. So we paid for it repeatedly. We didn’t make adjustments. We talked about it, but I didn’t think we trusted each other to backdoor them and to v-cut. We rushed off our screens and we didn’t use our screens and curl and cut out with the body to create the space to catch the ball.”
Newton’s usual patent offense wasn’t so patient against Tucker. Tucker played suffocating defense and even the shots Newton got off were heavily contested.
“I thought we rushed. You have to actually slow down to realize you’re not using screens. We just ran to a spot instead of waiting for a screen, getting open, curling and cutting off screens. We didn’t use our screens and so then we weren’t open. Then the jumping the passing lane was obvious,” Rasmussen said. “When we got into our offense and when we took the second and third option instead of the first one they jumped, when we got into the second, third and fourth option of our offense we actually got shots.”
Rasmussen said that not having usual starting center Josh Tukes played a factor in the Rams’ lackluster offense.
“He screens really, really well. Our motion offense starts with a big screen by him on top and it really gets us going,” Rasmussen said.
“We really missed Josh with the running of our offense and the constant screening. He’s very smart about it and he screens really well so that really hurt us,” Rasmussen said.
You couldn’t tell Donovan Grubb that Newton was down by double digits and getting ran off the court. Grubb played hard, like it was a two-point game with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. He played with a level of intensity unmatched by his teammates or any of Tucker’s player.
“Donovan Grubb is a bull in a China shop. He’s a bruiser,” Rasmussen said. “Donovan is maybe 6-foot-1 power forward, but he’s as tough as anybody in our region.”
The biggest loss for Newton came when sophomore guard Darvin Jones went down after going up for a putback dunk and falling over one of his teammates hitting the ground hard. Rasmussen said he injured his back, and he should be OK.