Citadel coach Chuck Driesell had a lot to say about turnovers after the Bulldogs’ 92-51 loss at Clemson on Tuesday, and rightfully so. The Citadel gave up 44 points off 25 turnovers in that game.
The Citadel is averaging 17.3 turnovers per game, and during its current seven-game skid is giving up 18 per game, with 17 at Georgia Tech, 20 at St. Bonaventure and Gardner-Webb and 24 at UNC Greensboro.
“It’s not just this game,” Driesell said. “It’s the last several that we’ve had like this. We’ve played some teams that are bigger than we are, stronger, faster, more athletic. We’ve got to learn to take care of the basketball. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’ve been turning the ball over at a rate that’s way too high. We’re not going to shoot a good percentage and we’re not going to hold the other team to a decent percentage if we’re giving up 44 points off of turnovers. This is not the first game that’s been the case. It’s a big Achilles heel of ours right now, and that’s something that our guys have seen. They understand how important it is that they need to fix that in order for us to have a chance to win.”
It’s just my opinion, but one way to cut turnovers is to slow the pace of play. The Citadel is currently averaging 67.2 possessions per game, according to kenpom.com, which is above the DI average of 67.0 and ranks No. 165 in the nation. That means the Bulldogs are in the top half of DI teams in terms of how fast they play. Coupled with the Bulldogs’ alarming turnover rate of 26.1 percent (No. 339, eighth-worst in DI), that explains some — not all, but some — of The Citadel’s bad defensive numbers. The Dogs allow DI foes to shoot 40.9 percent on 3-pointers and 56.6 percent inside the arc, both ranking No. 342. Too many turnovers are leading to too many easy shots for foes.
In the Bulldogs’ 20-win season of 2008-09, The Citadel averaged 63.1 possessions per game, below the DI average of 66.5 and No. 299 in the nation. That mean the Bulldogs were one of the slower-paced teams in the country. With a turnover rate of 19.7 percent (No. 137), that Citadel team was able to post decent defensive numbers, allowing foes to shoot 32.9 from 3-point range and 47.9 percent from inside the arc, both ranking in the top 150 in the country. (Of course, that team also had two Citadel all-timers in Cam Wells and Demetrius Nelson, an all-SoCon level guard in Zach Urbanus and sparkplug John Brown).
Pace of play is not everything. Last season, The Citadel averaged 64.2 possessions per game, below the DI average of 66.1 and No. 268 in the country while going 6-24 overall and 3-15 in the SoCon.
But in two late wins, over Chattanooga and App State, the Bulldogs were even slower than that, with 53 possessions in each game. They won those games by scores of 48-46 and 62-51. For me, those are the types of scores this year’s team should aspire to.