Drew Burrows did not need the stat sheet to know what went wrong with his Mississippi University for Women men’s basketball team on Tuesday.
But it was hard not to stare.
Sitting outside of the Owls’ locker room after a 73-52 loss to Centenary dropped them to 0-6, the first-year coach noted the worst of the numbers: an almost-unthinkable 1-of-10 effort from the free throw line and the Gents’ 32 points off of 20 Owls turnovers.
“We had been doing a better job,” Burrows said. “We need to flip our turnovers and assists. Right now, we’re selfish. That’s the bottom line.”
The way the Gents were shooting early on, it looked as if that wouldn’t even matter. Centenary was on fire from long range during the first half, hitting five 3-pointers during the first 9 minutes of the game and ending the half 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.
It took less than 12 minutes for the visitors to build a 20-point lead, and it was 43-23 at halftime.
But, in a sequence that was both encouraging and frustrating for Burrows, the Owls put together a 10-0 run over a 2 minute, 20 second stretch. Trey Jackson drove for a basket after an offensive rebound was tapped his way, Milos Zeradjanin nailed a 3-pointer after some good in-and-out ball movement, Jaquan Hines blocked a shot down low on the other end, a steal in the backcourt led to a Zeradjanin basket, Causey deflected a pass to start a break the other way that ended in another 3; in short, the Owls showed what they can do and made it a 47-37 game with 13:41 left.
“We’ve seen glimpses,” Burrows said. “When can we put it together for longer stretches, and then after longer stretches when can we put it together for a whole game?”
That answer didn’t come Tuesday. A corner 3 from Centenary’s AJ Hall — who was 5 of 6 from long range and 8 of 10 overall from the floor and finished with a game-high 21 points — started a sequence that included The W getting called for an illegal screen and traveling on back-to-back possessions. Within 2 minutes, it was back to a 15-point bulge.
Still, the Owls weren’t done, and when Causey drove to the basket to score with 8:07 left, they were back to within 10. Again, they could get no closer, scoring just 7 points over the final 8 minutes as the Gents again pulled away.
“We cut the lead down to 10 twice with open looks or at the free throw line,” Burrows said wistfully. “It’s how we start, and that’s on me.”
But there were bright spots. Although the Owls often had trouble getting the ball inside, when they did, Terry Coleman Jr. knew what to do with it. The 6-foot-5 freshman forward from Olive Branch came off the bench to score 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grab 5 rebounds and record 2 assists.
“Terry Coleman’s been coming on,” Burrows said. “We know what he’s capable of. He’s a load inside, and he’s just getting better and better.”
Burrows also noted the play of Dariun Doss, a sophomore from Pickens County High School in Alabama.
“We plug him in the second half, and his stat line doesn’t jump at you — 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers — but he played hard,” Burrows said. “He came in and gave us some momentum. That kid doesn’t play much, but he stayed ready.”
And make no mistake about it: Burrows is looking for that kind of quality. In a way, this entire season is an extended tryout.
“I’m an evaluator right now, not only now but for the future,” he said. “Every day is an opportunity, and I’m watching everything. We played 13 guys, and that’s the most I’ve ever played, trying to find the right rotation.”
Coleman and Zeradjanin’s 10 points apiece led the Owls, while Jackson and Hines led with 5 rebounds apiece. The Owls shot 41.5 percent from the floor (the Gents shot 52 percent) and 7 of 21 from 3-point range (the Gents were 12 of 25 for 48 percent).
The Owls have two weeks before they hit the floor again Dec. 7 at home against Rhodes. Since their strongest game of the year against Belhaven, they have been beaten soundly by Sewanee (82-57), Birmingham-Southern (99-60) and now Centenary, and Burrows will have a lot to think about as he travels back and forth to see his family in Delaware for Thanksgiving.
“We get this one opportunity to dig and lay the foundation, and we can’t skip steps in the process,” he said. “We’re trying to build from the foundation up. Right now, it’s all of those little things, making sure they’re aware of off the court and on the court. We can’t go backwards.
“We might be 0-6, and that’s how people ultimately judge us. We get that. But little by little, we’re digging and laying the foundation for what’s to come, not only in the future but this year as well.”