Cardinal loyal spectators left the Yum Center disappointed with a 73-72 loss to Wright State on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals start the season with two straight one point losses. Kenny Payne continues to make progress with the team game by game and the progress will be highlighted below.
- Mike James: B
The redshirt freshman ended the night against the Raiders with eight points and five rebounds. James has shown consistency in the first two games of the season, which may instill confidence in himself and in his teammates that he can score this way during ACC play. The only critique of the 6-foot-5 guard would be that he recorded four turnovers, which can be easily improved moving forward.
- El Ellis: B-
The senior guard finished the night with 29 points and two rebounds. The B minus grade may be harsh, but eight turnovers is something that can’t happen with someone that leads the offense. Ellis prioritizes ball movement, but makes too many risky passes attempting ball reversals that wind up in a turnover. On a positive note, Ellis did take over and score at key times to take the lead late.
Defensively, it seems to be a lack of confidence that lends him to giving up easy baskets. Typically, Ellis will take a drop step when he has plenty of time to move his feet in front of the ball handler. This move results in less athletic players scoring on him.
- Brandon Huntley-Hatfield: B-
The Clarksville, Tennessee native finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Huntley-Hatfield looked hesitant to shoot with some open looks he had, but continues to improve. Consistent minutes was something the big man did not get at Tennessee last year, so it’s expected for him to continue to grow throughout the season.
- Hercy Miller: B
The Tennessee State transfer finished with three points, one assist, and one steal in ten minutes of game time. Typically, players with this few playable minutes won’t be included in player grade articles, but this needs to be highlighted. The narrative of needing more guard play will continue throughout the season, but Miller played valuable minutes for the Cardinals Saturday. Miller drained a three and facilitated consistent ball movement while Ellis was on the bench. This will be more important than it seems as the season progresses.
- Sydney Curry: C
The senior big man finished the game with three points and six rebounds against the Raiders. Curry had a sluggish first half, which resulted in being pulled from the game until the second half. He did not prioritize boxing out and was out of position significantly during the first half. Whatever the coaching staff communicated at halftime seemed to motivate the senior forward because after halftime he made more of an impact on the glass.
The Fort Wayne, Indiana native still continues to struggle defensively against pick and rolls towards the basket. He will need to work on this in the future or teams will continue to exploit this weakness.
- Jae’Lyn Withers: B+
Withers finished the night with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and five steals. The Charlotte, NC native continues to show his ability to affect the game in multiple ways, Against Wright State, he specifically showed how he can impact a game on the defensive end, which was a testament to his improvement defensively. Throughout the game, he was able to disrupt the passing lanes by using his length to cause multiple deflections.
Withers has such a mature frame and fans would love him to be more physical when he drives into the lane. One area of improvement for the redshirt Junior is that he typically shys away from contact at times when he outmatches defenders physically with his size.