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Commodores try to rebound from disappointing defeat

By Dustin Kent

Following a disappointing 93-70 home loss to Pensacola State last week, Gulf Coast comes into Wednesday’s game in Marianna hungry for a victory.

The team the Commodores will meet at the Milton H. Johnson Health Center, however, will be no less desperate to get back into the win column.

Gulf Coast (14-4 overall, 1-1 in the Panhandle Conference) faces Chipola (13-6, 1-2) in a game that will put the loser in a precarious position early in the race for one of the top two conference spots.

“It is a big game,” Commodores coach Phil Gaffney said Monday. “If they lose and go down 1-3 with a loss at home it wouldn’t be good for them, and we definitely don’t want to go to 1-2 with Tallahassee coming in on Saturday. That’s a pretty tough back-to-back, so this is a pretty huge game for us.”

The Commodores’ last Panhandle outing was especially stunning following an impressive road win over Northwest Florida State in the league opener, with Pensacola State outscoring Gulf Coast 30-13 over the final 10 minutes to pull away.

The Pirates scorched the nets with 55.4 percent shooting from the field and 57.9 percent from the 3-point line, while Gulf Coast had one of its worst shooting nights of the season, finishing 32.4 percent overall and making just 9 of 37 from three and 15 of 29 from the free throw line.

It was such an ugly performance that Gaffney didn’t waste much time on it with his players after the game.

“We watched the film and said just forget about it,” he said. “You can’t possibly win a game shooting the ball like that. As a team to go 9 of 37 from three was just embarrassing. We have to do a lot better job. Most of the shots we got were pretty good and guys just didn’t make them. Some days you just don’t shoot the ball well.”

Gaffney said the poor shooting also affected his players’ effort at the defensive end where the Commodores allowed the second most points they’ve surrendered all season.

The only time the Commodores gave up more points - in a 104-99 loss to Miami Dade - they shot just 9 of 28 from the 3-point line.

“When guys are shooting the ball well, life is great. You guard, rebound, and defend, but when you don’t shoot the ball, sometimes you don’t do other things well,” Gaffney said. “But that’s the time when you’re supposed to do all the other things. If you’re not shooting the ball well, you better get in the paint and get a dunk or play great defense, get rebounds, take charges.

“Unfortunately, sometimes guys instead will put their heads down when they’re not making shots, but that has to change and I think it will change.”

High percentage looks may be hard to come by against a long and athletic Chipola defense that is limiting opponents to 39.6 percent from the field for the season and just 32.1 percent from three.

The Indians start four players 6-foot-7 or taller, including 6-foot-9 Australian forward Lat Mayen, who leads the team with 20 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in Panhandle play, and 6-11 fellow Aussie Marial Mading, who is averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in league competition.

Mayen is also the team’s top perimeter shooter at 46.6 percent on 3.1 attempted threes per game, while Cheikh Faye, a 6-7 forward from Senegal, has made a team-high 48 threes at a 35.8 percent rate.

“They’re a very big team,” Gaffney said of the Indians. “Playing that many guys 6-7 or taller, that’s just silly. Obviously we’ll have to do a good job on the boards and press up on their shooters, but it’s tough when they have guys 6-11 shooting threes.

“The big thing is we just can’t keep having horrific free throw and 3-point shooting. We have to hit some shots and hopefully we can get some more transition baskets in this game and get some stuff off of the press a little bit more.”

All of that has become more difficult for the Commodores with the loss of starting point guard KK Godwin, who is out for at least a month with a broken right shooting hand and didn’t play against Pensacola State.

Gaffney started 6-4 shooting guard Kaylein Marzette in Godwin’s place against the Pirates, but said he planned on elevating 5-11 freshman point guard Davonta Cook into the starting lineup Wednesday in an effort to alleviate some of the ball handling and playmaking responsibilities on sophomore guaurd Jacolbey Owens.

It’s a big task to replace Godwin, who was the team’s second-leading scorer and top assist man, but Gaffney said that Cook has enough talent and has gained enough experience by now to step in and step up.

“He’s a freshman, but he’s been through a lot of games and you’re pretty much a sophomore by now,” he said. “I’ve told him, ’you’ve watched KK and you know how he plays, so now you’ve got to step up and get people involved in the offense and do a lot of the things we asked KK to do.”

 

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