If there was one thing to be taken away from Sacred Heart Cathedral’s season-opening 66-43 win on the road against Hillsdale, it’s that the Irish frontcourt will not be short on athleticism this season.
The combination of junior forwards Taylor Johns and Joshua Fox were dominant on the offensive boards and led a high-pressure Irish defense in the win. Johns, a 6-foot-5 dynamic scoring threat, had a game-high 18 points and Fox would total nine, but the pair was removed midway through the third quarter along with the rest of the Irish starters.
“The thing I like about both of them is that they’re versatile,” said Sacred Heart coach Darrell Barbour. “They can step out and make shots from the perimeter and they can put the ball on the floor, which will keep you honest.”
The Irish played sloppy at times during the first half and allowed Hillsdale (2-2) to hang around, but still carried a 40-27 lead into the half.
But it was the Sacred Heart defensive effort, coupled with an extended Hillsdale cold streak, that allowed the Irish to pull away late.
The Knights shot just 2-of-22 from the floor in the second half and committed 13 turnovers, but their offensive struggles could easily be attributed to being outsized and outmatched by Sacred Heart at every position.
“If you play them, you’ve got to be ready for full-court, man-to-man pressure for 32 minutes, so we knew what we were in for,” said Hillsdale co-coach Tim Williams. “We were challenged at every position, obviously, but we were proud of the fact that they took it in the jaw and were coming back for more.”
Even though the Irish cruised to the victory, in many aspects of the game, they showed room for much improvement. The most glaring issues were difficulties converting free throws and 3-point attempts, as well as inopportune fouls. The Irish converted just 10 of 22 free throw attempts and shot 2-of-21 from 3-point range.
“To be honest, the guys who were shooting [the 3-pointers] were the guys we want shooting them,” Barbour said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well tonight, but those guys are quite capable. As long as we have the right guys shooting them, I can live with the result.”
Fouls were an issue for both teams, as the game stalled many times due to 56 combined free throw attempts. Free throws provided most of the offense for the Knights, as 26 of their 43 points came from the charity stripe.
“We’ve been practicing for so long, it’s just good to start playing,” Barbour said. “We definitely need to work on being more disciplined and some of the foul calls were because of that. But I like my team and we’re going to try to build on what we did today.”
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