Chicago State needed an opponent to work Jonathan Montgomery into the lineup after the second-semester transfer was able to play, so the Cougars deftly schedule Olivet Nazarene, an NAIA school, for December 17.
Little did the Cougars know that by the time these two teams played Olivet Nazarene would be a legitimate Top 25 contender in NAIA and Chicago State would be struggling to stay out of the bottom of NCAA Division I.
And then Chicago State lost 75-68.
There is no way to sugarcoat this. It is a bad loss. There are a few things I do like when I look at the box score. Things that give me hope as the season progresses and Montgomery plays more than 17 minutes and finds his shot. (He went 0-8 from the field.)
- The Cougars played fast. 72 possessions is a lot for any team, but it's right around the area where Chicago State played last season. Of course, allowing over a point per possession on defense doesn't really help.
- Carl Montgomery (above) dominated this game - at least as far as I can tell from the statistics. He finished with 27 points in 29 minutes on 12-17 shooting. He also grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. The four fouls worry me a bit, but this is more of what I've been expecting from him this season.
- Jonathan Montgomery returned and played 17 minutes. Yes, he did go 0-8 from the field and commit 3 turnovers, but this was his first game action since playing 11 minutes for Northern Iowa against North Dakota on Dec. 6, 2008. That's over a year without playing a game. It's going to take him some time to adjust.
Now here are three things I really didn't like from the box score:
- The Cougars had 16 turnovers as a team. That's too many. You can't turn the ball over on 22% of your possessions and expect to win the basketball game. It's too many empty trips.
- Christian Wall went 4-16 from the floor. In Chicago State games I've watched I've been impressed by Wall's playmaking ability. It showed again as he had 4 assists, but he's not knocking down shots consistently enough to keep defenses honest. While Wall doesn't have to be David Holston, he needs to hit some shots to keep defenders from swarming Carl Montgomery and Damian Windham (4-8, 12 points, 9 boards) in the paint.
- Olivet Nazarene shot 42.9% from the field. That's just too high. Chicago State has to contest more shots and play stronger defense if it wants to win games.
This loss doesn't end Chicago State's season. The Cougars can still make some noise in the Great West, but things have to change quickly.