Sunday, December 13, 2015

Little Rock's defense answers the challenge again on the road

                                  Photo Credit: Geno Green

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

It is not Shakespeare, but more like Rodney Dangerfield as the Little Rock Trojans are fine with playing the underdog role despite moving to 8-0 with a 66-44 win over the DePaul Blue Demons (5-4) at McGrath-Phillips Arena in Chicago, Ill., Saturday.

Little Rock's stifling defense made DePaul unorganized at best, forceing 20 turnovers.

"[DePaul] has such good drivers, so we wanted to put a good emphasis on guarding people with more than one person," Trojans coach Chris Beard said. "We talked a lot this week in practice about DePaul being very talented in all positions, so we didn't think we could guard them one-on-one and really tried to get in the gaps."

Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao offered up a different perspective on the turnovers committed.

"I like stats, but you can look to anything and we tried to drive the basketball without moving the defense and that is why we committed the turnovers," Leitao said.

The Trojans took advantage of the mistakes by converting 27 points off the errors of the Blue Demons.

"The identity of our team on offense is our depth and not really having a starting five," Beard said. 

"We have 12 players that we think can play and can trust at any given time. The many things I learned from coach Knight is the value of the sixth man and we really take the same philosophy with our team. We are playing for each other right now and the unselfishness of our team is something I have enjoyed as a coach."

Little Rock's bench came through with 27 points, compared to DePaul's two.

DePaul's decision-making on offense contributed to Little Rock's ability to force tough shots mostly from the perimeter going 1-for-8. 

With road wins at San Diego State, Tulsa and now DePaul, Little Rock's potential as a Top 25 team could be reached by the start of Sun Belt conference play, if it stays undefeated.

"I don't think we are better than anyone else," Beard said. "I have so much respect for everybody in college basketball and coach Leitao said a few words to me after the game that meant a lot to me and it is just a matter of time until DePaul is back on the map."

However, Beard wants to keep the focus on taking things one game at a time.

"It kind of sounds like a coaching cliche', but is the truth because we talk a lot about the process and we never talk about anything but the next game coming up," Beard said. "I have always thought when you do that, the by-product can be winning and that's what our guys are doing."

As one of eight undefeated teams remaining in Division I play, only time will tell to see whether the Trojans are the real deal.

In the meantime, always approach each game as its own entity and wins will take care itself in the curious case of college hoops.