Photo by Nick Gerhardt
As first-year players on this Tiger team develop a feel for the fastest 40 minutes in basketball, players with years of experience in the system like Justin Safford, Kim English, and Michael Dixon have, on occasion, seen their starting spots slip away. Counter-intuitive as it seems, not starting seems to benefit their game and performance the most.
In the past five games, Kim English scored ten points, four, 21, six and six. English’s slump-busting explosion came off the bench, the first time English did not start at home since a Nov. 28 victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff (in which he shot 60 percent from the floor and scored a game-high eighteen points).
Coach Mike Anderson tweaks his starting rotation often, but recently has given the starting nod more frequently to the Pressey brothers and Ricardo Ratliffe. All three joined the team this year, though Matt Pressey and Ratliffe played two stellar years of junior college basketball elsewhere.
Anderson harps on the meaninglessness of who starts and who does not on this team, where an ideal night means no Tiger plays more than 24 minutes. Still, he acknowledged the bench effect after the rout over Oklahoma.
“I think that’s been typical of our bench all season long. We’ve had different guys coming off the bench and different starters…It’s good to see those other guys really starting to play well but it’s one game so lets see if we can get some consistency.”
Justin Safford’s demotion to the bench to make room for juniors Laurence Bowers—a bench star in his own right at times—and Ricardo Ratliffe seemed to jumpstart the lone senior’s game against Oklahoma. He hit 63 percent from the floor and grabbed four offensive rebounds.
And of course Michael Dixon, Saturday’s leading scorer with 16, brought his game from the pine too.
On the road, however, the bench seems to have the opposite effect. Anderson may have been trying to build on the success of English’s 21 points performance against Colorado by putting in the guard after the first time out against Kansas. English responded with a paltry four points in defeat.
Similar bench woes have struck Safford and Dixon on the road off and on all season, but this Tiger team struggles away from Columbia regardless of who plays when.
Keep an eye on Anderson’s starting rotation Tuesday. The natural chemistry between the Brothers Pressey, with Denmon, Laurence Bowers and Ricardo Ratliffe seems like a starting lineup worth duplicating.
Marcus Denmon OK for Texas Tech
Photo by Nick Gerhardt
After suffering a stitch-requiring Laurence Bowers elbow to the face in the second half Saturday, Marcus Denmon should be available to play Tuesday against Texas Tech.
“He’s got one of those war wounds, but I think he’s going to be okay,” coach Mike Anderson said.
No word yet on whether or not Denmon would consider a Rip Hamilton-style face shield.