The Tippecanoe Red Devils smothered the Troy offense, and Jackson Smith went to work in the post in a 47-34 road win at Troy. The Tipp moves to a perfect 3-0 on the young season while Troy falls to 1-2.
Troy, Oh – If a Troy Trojan wanted a bucket, he had to score it with a Red Devil hand six inches from his face. No freebies, no exceptions.
Troy has talent, but that’s a tough way to make a consistent living on the basketball court for 32 minutes.
Maybe that’s a bit oversimplified as the sole explanation Tipp’s 47-34 victory, but open looks at the basket are the name of the game on offense. To their credit, Troy didn’t give up many, but Tipp didn’t give up any.
“That’s about communication and chemistry,” senior Red Devil Jackson Smith said. “That’s just something that we have. Everyone knows where everyone’s gonna be at all times.”
Troy Head Coach Mark Hess thought their offensive struggles came down to a combination of Tipp’s great defense and a failure to execute the game plan.
“We wanted to reverse the basketball and make them guard,” Hess said. “We knew with more movement they would struggle. I think what I’m frustrated with most is that we just didn’t do it. We settled for early shots and quick possessions and didn’t make them guard us much.”
Tipp’s longer possessions took a physical toll in the second half as Troy started to run out of steam, not a rare ailment in early December before lungs are in midseason form.
Troy’s Kellen Miller entered the game averaging 19.5 points per game, but the Red Devils came ready for that challenge.
“We wanted to take Miller away,” Tipp Head Coach Brock Moon said. “He’s a really good player that can shoot. And that was our gameplan, to make his life difficult … Taking him away was the main ingredient.”
They barely allowed Miller to touch the rock in the first half, conceding just five points to him. Miller finished the night with 12 points, a below-average outing for him, but good enough to lead the team on a night where nothing came easy..
The first quarter bore a resemblance to the rivals’ 13-12 rock fight during football season – it featured everything except an abundance of points. Swat blocks, steals, fast breaks, hotly contested rebounds, dives for loose balls – It would’ve been a thrilling quarter of basketball, had it not ended in just an 8-4 Tipp lead, which they captured by adjusting to the pace effectively.
“We were winning those 50/50 balls, getting on the ground and pushing the floor,” Smith said. “It’s tiring, but we were conditioned well, so we can get it done.
Despite the defensive slugfest on the scoreboard, the pace of play continued at full tilt for nearly the whole quarter. Troy pushed the ball up the court on every rebound and steal, and Tipp took advantage of numerous takeaways to get out on the break.
Tipp settled into their offense first and started to work the ball down low to Smith, the 6’5” forward on the block.
“We made them speed up and then we slowed down,” senior forward Maddox Sivon said. “We knew they were a fast-paced team, and with this crowd so loud and active tonight it really gets your nerves going. But we settled down a little bit and got it inside which was our gameplan knowing we got #45 [Smith] down low.”
Smith found plenty of rim and backboard in the first half, but not much net thanks to Troy’s effective double teams. That changed for him after they emerged from the locker room with a 16-12 lead.
“Turning offense into defense was my challenge for them at halftime,” Moon said. “It just seemed like we were holding everything up.”
Smith scored eight in the third quarter, a solid period in any game, but practically a scoring extravaganza in this one. Smith led all players in scoring with 16 points, 14 from the low post and two free throws.
“We knew going into this we had the size advantage,” Smith said. “Even our point guards are bigger than theirs, so that’s so something we harped on in practice was to get the ball inside.”
As Smith’s gravity started pulling extra defenders his way, lanes opened up for players like Maddox Sivon to slice to the basket.
“When Jackson works, it’s scary,” Sivon said. Sivon finished the night with eight points, which against Troy’s stout defense, is more of an accomplishment in this game than most.
Still, the pesky Trojans wouldn’t go down without a fight. Despite their continued offensive struggles, they whittled an 11-point lead down to six with three minutes left.
Two missed Red Devil free throws gave Troy even more hope, but an offensive rebound turned into a CJ Bailey 3-pointer, which sucked the life right back out of the Trojans.
“We gotta find ways to win,” Hess said about that moment. “We gotta come up and make the big plays.”
After a quiet first three quarters, that 3-ball sparked CJ Bailey to 11 points in the last three minutes alone, including a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line.
The Red Devils claimed an early lead in the race for the Miami Valley League with a win. It’s early to be thinking about that, but last year Tipp’s loss on the road at Troy made all the difference for the conference title. This year they have the upper hand, however slight it may be. Just take a look at the three-way tie atop the football standings and you’ll remember even a small lead is a whole lot better than no lead at all.
Troy exits the night at 1-2 but should have an unusually optimistic outlook for a 1-2 team. They lost their top four scorers from last year, any offense will take some time to find its identity after that much turnover. The defense played rock solid more often than not against what is already and will continue to be a top MVL team.
Only these two teams have ever won the Miami division in the MVL, Troy last year, and Tipp the three years before that. Making predictions before Christmas Break feels too presumptive, but I don’t think it would shock anyone if these two are back in the mix for the division and conference titles in February.
Troy gets their shot for redemption while Tipp looks to bring out the brooms when they meet again in Red Devil country on January 16.