“Obviously, a terrific player,” Stetson coach Donnie Jones said. “He’s a senior, he understands what it takes. Obviously, a big part of what they’re trying to do is going to start with him.”
Forward Jordan Usher added 14 on 7-for-10 shooting and also gathered a career-high 11 rebounds along with five assists as he infused the Jackets with his crackling energy. Usher was aggressive in going to the glass and was committed to rocketing up the floor in transition after defensive rebounds.
“Coach railed on me (for a lower energy level in the Miami game), and I took it and 100% deserved it,” Usher said. “Because I didn’t play at the par I need to for my team or myself.”
In front of an announced crowd of 4,082, the Jackets were active on the defensive end, playing out of their 1-3-1 zone defense and also man-to-man. Deflecting passes and challenging the ball, Tech forced 17 turnovers, 11 of them steals. The Hatters shot 21-for-60 (35%) from the field, including 6-for-26 (23.1%) from 3-point range.
“They were able to create some loose-ball situations – deflections, steals – to be able to get some easy buckets in transition,” Jones said. “That’s where the lead got built.”
“(Friday), we were much better defensively,” Pastner said. “Defense is all about energy. Energy first, then you can go to scheme and strategy.”
The comfortable lead enabled Pastner to be more liberal in spreading minutes than he had in the Miami game, a matter he sought to be intentional in rectifying. Devoe was down from 38 minutes against the RedHawks to 30 on Friday. Freshman guard Deebo Coleman earned 24 minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points on four 3-pointers out of six attempts. He and freshman guard Miles Kelly (seven points and one turnover in 14 minutes) continued their bids to be a part of the rotation. Midway through the second half, Coleman was playing with four other backups when Pastner subbed four of his starters back in but kept Coleman in, such was his scoring touch.
“It’s sort of like Devoe,” Pastner said. “If you’re open, shoot it. Don’t try to get closer. Closer’s not better when you can shoot it like those guys can.”
Forward Jordan Meka got his first action since playing in the second game of last season, after which he didn’t play again following season-ending back surgery. He had one rebound in four minutes. Freshman forward Jalon Moore also got the first playing time of his career, scoring four points with two rebounds in four minutes.
“I don’t want to give him too high praise because this is a high praise, but I honestly see him as a small forward version of Moses Wright,” Usher said of Moore. “Kind of on the same path.”
The Jackets did turn the ball over 16 times (against 22 assists), continuing a pattern of largesse exhibited in their preseason contests and also the game against Miami. Pastner called it “a real issue” and said that players are giving the ball away when they’re getting caught in the air trying to make a pass, making bad passes in transition and playing too fast.
“He plays at such a high speed that he gets a little impulsive and he’s trying to thread the needle,” Pastner said of Usher, who had four turnovers. “His mind’s going so fast, and he’s got to learn to be able to slow down.”
Said Devoe, “For us, we’ve got to maintain just hitting singles and make the easy read. Sometimes we might try to overdo things, and we’ve just got to keep it simple.”