Struggling ASU on road today at Miss. Valley

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 31, 2004

LORMAN &045; No one really said the business of coaching college basketball would be easy.

It’s been anything but for Sam West in his first season at Alcorn State. The Brave struggled last week and dropped two conference games at home to fall to 1-3 in the SWAC. Much of the blame can be put on an ineffective offense, one that has the Braves third-worst in the conference in points per game.

But as any coach does, no one is lamenting the past. The Braves go on the road today at Mississippi Valley in the first of a two-game swing. They’ll play at Arkansas-Pine Bluff Monday.

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&uot;We’ve had three great practices,&uot; West said. &uot;The kids all understand what it is we’re not doing well. It’s just a matter of executing it. If we execute, we’ll be fine. That’s all it is. Our confidence level is there. When things start going bad for us is when we’re not running our offense. That’s when our confidence level goes down.&uot;

The Braves suffered a disappointing 75-61 setback Monday to Grambling while getting low point totals from leading scorers Brian Jackson and Dion Callans. The Braves struggled shooting a bit in that contest and had just nine field goals the second half.

In the Jackson State game the Braves struggled from the field as well, but that game they cashed in big time at the free throw line to make a game of it late. But the Braves had 18 turnovers against Grambling and 25 against Jackson State.

&uot;It’s just not turning our offense over,&uot; West said. &uot;If you don’t turn your offense over, you’ll get bad shot selections and turn the ball over. That’s it. That’s the only thing wrong with this team right now. We can do it &045; but shooting the ball so fast in our half-court offense. We shoot it so fast we can’t get back in transition and guard their shooters.&uot;

The task today is to get things turned around against a solid team in the Delta Devils. Head coach Lafayette Stribling inherited the title of dean of coaches in the SWAC following the retirement of former Alcorn head coach Davey Whitney, and Stribling’s team is off to a solid start in conference at 3-0.

The Delta Devils (9-4 overall) opened with a blowout win over UAPB, and last week beat both Alabama State and Alabama A&M by double-digit margins.

&uot;Very hostile atmosphere, but it’s one we look forward to going into,&uot; West said. &uot;All we have to do is execute. If we execute our offense, we’ll be in good shape. But they’re No. 1 in the conference. They’re playing great &045; shooting the basketball well and playing great defense. They’re shooting a lot of 3-pointers.&uot;

Valley leads the league by far in 3-pointers attempted with 300 &045; Grambling is second at 249 &045; but the biggest key for the Devils has been their defensive play and scoring from Attarius Norwood. The Valley star is leading the team at 15.6 points per game, a mark that’s fifth-best in the conference behind Grambling’s duo of Paul Haynes and Brion Rush.

It’s defense, too, the Braves are concerned about, particularly if they get the offense going. The Braves are last in the conference in field goal percentage defense with opponents shooting at 49.5 percent. The Braves are also second-worst at 3-point shooting defense at 38.9 percent.

&uot;That’s the one we have to stop,&uot; West said. &uot;But the last three games we’ve played &045; Joyce at Jackson State and Haynes at Grambling &045; we have enough to go against the best players in the league. We can do it.&uot;

It’s just a matter of time, West reminds. Just a matter of time.

&uot;You would think they would know (the offense), but the way our program is built is God is over it,&uot; West said. &uot;It’s not for us to say when that’s going to happen. We look forward to it happening any day now. I really believe that. All of that is happening for a reason. If this was easy, I think anybody could do it.&uot;