Alabama State had to get a sneaking suspicion very quickly it could be in for a rough night against the University of Akron in a nonleague men's basketball game Wednesday at Rhodes Arena.
The Zips (5-2) held the Hornets without a field goal for the game’s first 10:10 of the game. By then UA held a 17-5 lead — which should have been much larger — en route to an 86-54 victory.
Led by guard Tyler Cheese's game-high 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, five Zips scored in double figures. That included guard Jimond Ivey, who had 13 points to go with a game-high nine rebounds. Cheese added five assists to go with four rebounds.
After the slow start, the Hornets (2-4) had to feel fortunate to go into the locker room trailing just 29-21. They were the beneficiaries of sloppy offense by the Zips, who seemed to have left their offensive game in the Cayman Islands and committed 10 first-half turnovers that led to 10 Alabama State points.
UA also shot an anemic 3 of 16 on 3-pointers after converting 30 percent in their three Cayman Islands Classic games.
So rust and a lack of focus caused the Zips' first-half woes, but it couldn’t last, right? Coach John Groce, for one, wasn’t going to allow what he was seeing to continue.
So he delivered a simple message to guard Jimond Ivey: “Pick it up.”
“We had to change our focus offensively,” Groce said.
That change came in form of taking care of the ball. They still had seven turnovers, but woke up offensively.
“We missed shots [in the first half],” Groce said. “The second half we made shots. That was the big difference.”
The Zips displayed some resolve and emerged from the break with their offensive game in tow. Things that didn’t happen in the first half — like ball movement to get open shots — appeared immediately to start the second and resulted in a 16-5 run as UA started to pull away for good.
While outscoring the Hornets 57-33 in the second half, the Zips shot a blistering 70 percent (23 of 33) from the floor. For the game, they made 57 percent (34 of 60) and held the Hornets to 33 percent shooting, which included 23 percent in the first half.
"We had a couple of bad practices and I think it carried over," Ivey said of the team's performance.
Groce echoed that assessment.
"We're not going to apologize for winning," Groce said before citing the Zips' litany of shortcomings in the game, "but I thought we were awful."
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByGeorgeThomas.