Tippecanoe used speed and quickness on defense, some timely three point shooting, and the surprising contribution of a freshman to thump Troy for its first win of the season.
Tipp City – Joel Visser wouldn’t admit that he knew it was coming.
“You are never sure until you get the first one,” the second year Tippecanoe head coach said with a laugh after watching his Red Devils snap a four-game season-opening losing streak with an impressive 70-56 win over Troy. “We have been in every game. We talked about Troy being just down the road. Our kids came out and played well tonight.”
“There is not a whole lot to say,” said Troy head coach Paul Bremigan. “We just didn’t play very well. We didn’t rebound, we didn’t defend and we had way too many turnovers. We didn’t get out on their three-point shooters and they knocked them down.”
Freshman Ben Sauls nailed two three-pointers and scored 8 points in the opening quarter as the Red Devils took a 17-12 lead. Then Troy, which was coming off its first win of the season last Friday at Butler, collapsed in the second quarter.
The Trojans made just 3 of 8 shots from the floor and committed 10 turnovers in the quarter as Tippecanoe opened up a 36-19 halftime lead. Troy then turned the ball over on its first three possessions of the second half as the lead swelled to 21 at 45-24.
“We had 6 turnovers in the third quarter and kinda got off track after getting the big lead,” Visser explained. “Made some shots in the fourth and knocked down free throws. We still showed some signs of being young, but we showed that we are growing up fast. I thought we played three good quarters of basketball tonight, so we are getting closer to where we want to be”
Behind Ryan McClurg, who finished with a game high 23 points, the Trojans rallied to within 9 points late in the fourth quarter but could get no closer as the Red Devils made 6 in a row from the line down the stretch.
Caiden Smith more than doubled his scoring average, hitting three treys on his way to a 23-point night. Zach Bonifas scored 12 of his 15 points in the second half, Sauls had 12 of his 14 in the first half, and Adam Grieshop added 11.
“It’s a relief to get our first win,” said Smith, a 6-1 junior who averaged 11 points a game through the four-game losing streak. “And to beat a team like Troy makes it even better.
“This will really help our confidence. We knew that we weren’t that far away, and tonight we just kept playing. A lot of guys contributed, and that’s what we need to be good.”
Besides McClurg, junior Zach Reichelderfer had 14 for the Trojans, now 1-3 overall and 1-3 in the GWOC North.
The Red Devils were on fire all night, finishing 25 of 51 from the floor for 49% Tipp was 8-17 from the arc for 47%, and finished 11 of 17 from the line despite not attempting a free throw until the 4:50 mark of the fourth quarter.
“We shot the ball well, which covered up some of our mistakes,” Visser went on. “It’s good to get that first one, especially against a good team like Troy, who is one of our GWOC North rivals. We are just excited to finally get on the board with a win.”
Troy finished at 39% from the floor, 31% behind the arc and 58% at the line. The Trojans had a 25-24 advantage of the glass, but could not overcome 24 turnovers compared to 18 for Tipp.
“We just didn’t take care of the ball tonight,” Bremigan said, shaking his head. “I thought we played pretty well against Vandalia, but we just didn’t do the things we have to do tonight. We need to go back and try to get things fixed and move on.”
Despite the winless start, Visser has liked what he has seen from his team.
“We’ve been in games. We got back to within 6 against Versailles, cut a 19-point deficit against Sidney to 3, lost by 4 and 6 points. We are right there. We are playing without Aaron Hughes, who is one of our leaders. We started two weeks late because of the football playoffs. We got some great minutes out of a freshman tonight. We have been talking about turning the corner, and I think tonight we finally did.”
This Tippecanoe team plays a totally different style than the team that beat Troy 50-41 last year and barely averaged 50 points a game..
“Last year we had size, this year we don’t,” Visser explained. “This year, we have had to become more creative and find ways to increase the tempo and play to our strengths. We are still trying to figure out who we are and playing to that level. I thought we did that tonight.
“This group of guys has zero ego. Our practices have been solid, there has been no wavering, no attitudes. We have been ready to play every game, we just hadn’t gotten over the hump yet. We did tonight, but our guys always play hard.”
Bremigan knows his team has little time to think about the loss.
“We’re learning, but you don’t have time for that. You have a game every three days. You don’t have time to work on something for a week. We have two days to get ready for Piqua (at the Trojan Activity Center Friday night).”
Finally, Visser believes that the win signals brighter days are head for his team.
“We are a totally different team in terms of style of play than we were last year. That and our schedule is a lot tougher. That’s not an excuse. We are going to compete and we expect to win every time we take the floor. Our goals are to win the GWOC North and win a sectional title. Those aren’t going away. Just because we lost a few games early does not change those goals. We got one tonight, and hopefully that will get us going.”