Ask any Coach and they will tell you the profession rapidly ages them. Most experience Balding, Greying, High Blood Pressure, and Weight Gain. I would bet Kansas City’s Men’s Basketball Coach, Billy Donlan, experienced all of those in this past week alone. While gearing up for the Roos return to Summit League play after an 8-year absence, Donlan would receive notice on Monday that his star player, Brandon McKissic, would be entering the Transfer Portal. Then two days later after a Player/Coach Heart to Heart conversation, the Senior Guard announced he would be staying with the team. In a conference like the Summit League, McKissic, is the caliber of player that can lead this Roos squad to a Top 4-Seed in Sioux Falls. Without him, Donlan’s squad is fighting Denver for the 8th and Final Spot for the Conference Tournament.
Entering this weekend’s Back to Back games versus UND there would be a lot of speculation on how this past week’s saga would play out on the court. Most likely in response to McKissic’s actions, Donlan rolled out a different looking starting lineup that did not include his Star Player. I am unsure how the saga played out in this week’s practice or how much #3 practiced with his team as he was quite off in Game 1 which netted a loss before finding his rhythm in Game 2 which lead to a blowout win.
Game 1 – Roos 45 x UND 52
Amongst the week of chaos surrounding #3 and his status with the team, the Roos would receive good news as Marvin Nesbitt Jr. returned to the lineup following a concussion that kept him out of multiple games and his return could not have come at a better time. Thin on the depth chart and in the post, Nesbitt Jr. provides another physical defender to help Josiah Allick against a much bigger Fighting Hawks squad. The Hawks boast 4 post players that are 6’7” or taller that play regular minutes so I was curious to see if the Roos Small Ball or Hawks Physical Bigs would have the edge in this match up of two defensive minded teams.
While the Pace of Play nor the Scoring was quick, one would quickly realize this would be a physical slugfest between both teams. Scoring came at a premium as the Roos On-Ball Defense harassed UND’s guards and posts all game while on the flip side UND’s Bigs prevented UMKC to get any easy scores at the basket. In fact, the defensive efforts by both teams lead to a 10-All deadlock at the Under 8 Media Timeout. Even after the media the defense continued both ways for the rest of half. The Fighting Hawks would gain a slight edge in scoring on the backs of Tyree Ihenacho, Ethan Igbanugo, and Filip Rebraca to take a 5-Point lead into the locker rooms. Josiah Allick would pace the Roos at 6pts & 7rebs. Neither team eclipsed the 30% shooting mark.
End of Half: Roos 16 x Fighting Hawks 21
While it may not show in the box score, the Roos came out with great energy on both ends of the floor including a couple of quick buckets by Nesbitt Jr. and Zion Williams. The promising start to the half would not last long as UND would take control because of poor ball control and foul trouble by the Roos lead to a 35-27 lead by UND. However as soon as it looked like the game was falling apart, Marvin Nesbitt Jr. came up clutch with a couple of 3’s along with a couple of layups by Allick knotted the game at 37 with 7:56 remaining. Continued defensive efforts by all would keep the game close, but Billy Donlan’s squad would never take the lead the rest of the way. Behind clutch shooting and a dagger 35+ FT 3 by Ihenacho to be the Shot Clock, UND would claim a 52-45 victory. Rebraca led the Hawks with 16pts and 5rebs. Allick and Nesbitt Jr. had 14 and 13, respectively. While McKissic reached double figures (12pts) it came on 4-16 shooting.
Game 2: Roos 77 x Fighting Hawks 53
Entering Sunday’s game, I could not help but think the Roos out played the Fight Hawks the day before but just could not get the ball to drop. So, could they figure out their scoring woes, particularly their star player who shot a porous 25% from the field? Additionally, which team would be better suited for another physical game, the quicker Small Ball Roos or the bigger stronger Fight Hawks? After the final buzzer sounded, I had my answers for questions. Continuing their ball hawking defense that is borderline harassment of the opposing team, the Roos once again were not going to make the game easy for Paul Sather’s squad, the problem for the Black and Green was that McKissic and Company found their rhythm and made the same type of bucket they blanked on the day before.
Game 2 would start a bit slow over the first couple minutes before Roos Big Man, Josiah Allick, went on a tear scoring the team’s first 10 points. In fact, he out scored UND 10-3 over the first 8 minutes of the game. Over the next six minutes the Roos would push their lead to 14 leading the game 20-6 from a balanced scoring attack. While the Hawks found their offensive footing in the last 6 minutes of the half with multiple scores by Rebrace, Ihenacho, and DeSean Allen-Eikens they were never able to get the lead under 8 as the first half ended. Most of that was due to their inability to stop Allick in the post who ended the half with 16 points. While McKissic and others experienced foul trouble putting the Hawks at the line 16 times, the Home Team was only able to cash in on 6 of those freebies.
End of Half: Roos 28 x Fighting Hawks 20
As the teams reconvened after the half, UND would get a nice quick score from Rebraca, cutting the lead to six. Unfortunately for them, that would be the closest they would get as the Roos would go on an absolute tear starting with a McKissic And-1 conversion that started a run of 9 consecutive makes. Partaking in the fruitful run would be Nesbitt Jr. and Demarius Pitts who each added a couple of makes. McKissic would convert another And-1 and Allick would continue his scoring streak. During the run, it was clear exhaustion was hitting the Home team hard with hands on hips, players bent over catching breaths, all while there was energy and spark coming from the Kansas City bench. The run would all but cement victory as the Roos would coast to victory behind 73% second half shooting while limiting the Fighting Hawks to 35% second half shooting.
Final Thoughts & Tidbits
– Game 2 in my opinion was a more accurate representation of what the Roos can do in the Summit League. I thought they outplayed UND in Game 1 but were careless with the ball and missed several bunnies throughout the game. Also, their Small-Ball Lineup may benefit them in the long run in these League Back-To-Backs as exhaustion had a larger affect on the bigger bodied UND Squad
– Josiah Allick…Josiah Allick…Josiah Allick – Get to know this kid!!! He may not “Flash” like Kevin Obanor, Doug Wilson, or Rebraca nor make SC Top 10 with Hammer Dunks like Rocky Krueser but he might be the best player in the league no one knows about! He quietly puts together big numbers and does it as the only True Post Player on the team.
– Which version of Brandon McKissic will we see going forward? I will not attempt to know what’s going on that prompted his desire to transfer and then remain with the team, but he seemed to be in his own head in Game 1 missing too many easy buckets. Then in Game 2 he showed that he might be the best 2-Way Point Guard in the Summit League with a strong performance scoring, rebounding, defending, and distributing.
– Marvin Nesbitt Jr. return to the lineup was a major boost for Billy Donlan. While only 6’4” he showed he could score, rebound, and DEFEND against opposing Bigs.
– Boosts from Zion Williams and Demarius Pitts were not overlooked either as they played strong minutes and added several contributions in all areas of the game. The need will need these type of efforts going forward if they want to be a Top 4 Team in the Conference which I think they can be due to their ability to defend and have just enough scoring punch.
– The team will return home this weekend and host the South Dakota Coyotes who are coming off a Sweep of Denver.