Blue-White Hoops Scrimmage Draws Mixed Reaction From Davis

October 30, 2004 · MT Media Relations
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - The Middle Tennessee men's basketball team held a 30-minute Blue-White scrimmage Saturday that left Head Coach Kermit Davis both pleased and concerned about areas of his squad two weeks into preseason practice.

The first 20 minutes of the scrimmage were highly competitive but the last 10 minutes, which were played with different combinations than at the outset, were not as pleasing to Davis because players started showing signs of fatigue.

The Blue Raiders were shorthanded for the scrimmage with only 12 players - six on each team. Mike Dean is nursing a toe injury and was unavailable, and forwards Alex Weekes, Keith Christmas and Brian Lake also did not play.

"I thought the first 20 minutes was a competitive scrimmage but the last 10 minutes we go tired," Davis said. "Steve Thomas got tired, Marcus Morrison got tired, and I just think this is what these things are for - to give our staff a better understanding of exactly where we are and our players a better understanding. We have to do a better job of playing through fatigue and hopefully it's something we can get done."

Four walk-ons to the Blue Raider program - Brandon Carter, Wes Durrant, Clint Feher, and L.T. Lockett all played extensively in the scrimmage.

"There were distractions," Davis said. "We had Dean out, and Weekes, Christmas and Lake couldn't play so there wasn't a lot of substituting. A lot of guys had to play a lot of minutes and they fought through it. I thought (Feher, Carter, Durrant and Lockett) did a good job trying to add to the quality of the scrimmage, and I wasn't disappointed in those guys at all."

The two teams ended the first 20 minutes tied and played a one-minute overtime. Following the additional minute the teams were still tied at 37-37 and different combinations were utilized for the final 10 minutes.

"Things were a little competitive in the beginning but then fatigue set in and players started getting tired," Cuffee said. "That's where conditioning comes in and you have to condition well. You can never be pleased because there's always room for improvement and right now I think we have a whole lot of room for improvement, myself included. We are OK, but we are not where we are supposed to be."

Newcomer Marcus Morrison and Cuffee each scored 18 points to lead all scorers, while Darrio Scott finished with 15 points. Fats Cuyler totaled 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, and Steve Thomas finished 10. Cuffee also pulled 12 rebounds, while Thomas yanked six.

"There were some bright spots, but we have a lot of work to do," Davis said. "We have our work cut out for us and we have a long way to go."

Sophomore point guard Bryan Smithson had a solid all-around game with five assists, five steals and just two turnovers, which is key because Davis wants to see Smithson become more of a playmaker and improve his assist-turnover ratio in his second season.

"I felt like I did OK, but we all can do better," Smithson said. "We have a lot of work to do but these scrimmages show us where we need to improve and what we need to do better. We know what we need to do and it's a matter of focusing, continuing to work hard and having quality practices."

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Middle Tennessee was strong defensively last season, particularly in the second half, but the Blue Raiders have been somewhat disappointing where Davis is concerned at the start of preseason practice.

"Defensively, last year we were so much better in our three-quarter court press, but we are giving up way to many baskets right now," Davis said. "You can really name every area of the team. We don't take care of the ball well enough and it goes on and on. We are a work in progress and we have a long way to go. The main thing is we have to get guys back on the floor and get our team whole again and move from there."

LOE DRAWS PRAISE: Jonathan Loe had four assists, one turnover and six points in the Blue-White scrimmage, but the junior guard has been much better for the Blue Raiders in recent practices.

Loe had a solid week of workouts last week and drew praise from Davis for his steady improvement.

"Loe had had a real good week of practice and has done some good things, but he wasn't as good today in the scrimmage," Davis said. "I thought he made great progress throughout the week and was having solid practices until the scrimmage."

Loe was 2-of-7 from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range.

GETTING FAT(S):Blue Raider newcomer Fats Cuyler, a junior college transfer, turned in a solid showing in the Blue-White scrimmage Saturday.

Cuyler was 5-of-8 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range, pulled four rebounds, collected three steals and had 12 total points.

"I thought Fats was solid," Davis said. "I'm pleased with his progress and he and Bryan give us a good combination at the point, plus we can do some different things with Fats because of his shooting ability."


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