By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
On Friday night, the Cats experienced a tale of two halves against Mount. St. Mary’s at Rupp. In the first half, the Cats allowed a clearly inferior opponent to stay in the game, matching the Cats nearly basket for basket, point for point until the Cats eased out to a fragile 5-point lead, 39-34, in the final 3 minutes of the first half.
In the second half, the Cats opened with a 10-2 run on their way to a 43-28 margin in the second half. The first half was akin to the way these Cats played against Evansville and Utah Valley while the second half was akin to the way these Cats played against EKU.
For the first time this season, the game ANE against Mount St. Mary’s was sufficiently higher than the previous game to increase the season average ANE for the team, thus halting the 4 game slide that marks the beginning of the 2019-20 season. However, the average ANE improvement was marginal. While the Cats managed to stop the plummeting ANE of the first 4 games, the evidence is not yet enough to conclude that this team is ready to play at the substantially higher game ANE levels to return to the conversation about a deep March run. This evening, these young Cats can make such a statement on this point when they face Lamar.
Yes, the Cats now stand at 4-1 with an Adjusted Net Efficiency (ANE) of 0.14 points per possession (ppp) against a schedule strength of -0.051 ppp. The Cats’ average tempo remains about 71 possessions per game.
#117 Lamar has played five games, three against D1 opposition with a 2-1 record in those games. The Cardinals lost at #96 Duquense by 10, beat the same Mount St. Mary’s team at home by 15, and won at #197 Utah Valley by 6. These games produced an ANE of 0.071 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.016 ppp. Lamar will bring the highest ANE into this game against the Cats since Michigan State.
Based on this early season data for these teams, an ANE analysis indicates this game will have a tempo of 72 possessions with the Cats prevailing by 9 points, 74-65.