Early season struggles continue for the Delaware Blue Coats, as they lost to one of the top teams in their conference, the Wisconsin Herd by a final score of 124-119. Both teams had their work cut out for them, as the Blue Coats entered the game with the best scoring average in the G League at 125.7 points per game, and the Herd came in riding a six game winning streak. The Blue Coats started off strong, taking a 37-34 lead after the first quarter. While they held the Herd to a tight competition, the game primarily came down to a horrific second half for the Blue Coats. The Herd went on an impressive 25-4 run in the first half of the second quarter. The Blue Coats started to regain some traction ending the half trailing by only seven points, but they could never regain the lead. They also struggled to hold back Herd forward Rayjon Tucker, who scored 30 points, and was 4-5 behind the arc. The Blue Coats were only a three-point basket away from tying the game with just under 23 seconds left to play. However, Blue Coats forward Haywood Highsmith missed a three resulting in a Herd rebound by former Blue Coat, D.J. Hogg. After being immediately fouled by Blue Coats forward Jonah Bolden, Hogg made both free throw attempts, sealing the win for the Herd.
Blue Coats Head Coach Connor Johnson admired his team’s play overall, yet acknowledged the second quarter having the most impact in the final score. “I thought we actually showed a decent effort,” said Johnson. “The game really came down to a very, very bad start to the second quarter. You look at it, you feel decent winning three out of four quarters, but the whole message we preach all the time is every possession is important.”
Despite the rough second quarter, the Blue Coats overall held their own quite well against one of the toughest teams in the G League. With the Blue Coats currently sitting at a 3-4 record, Coach Johnson believes that with some better execution in their game plan, the Blue Coats will improve their record. “Our strategy is fairly consistent and we play a unique style…what degree do we change? I’m not sure much. I don’t think we want to reinvent what we do each time. Just help these guys get better and put them in positions to succeed.”
The players are also heading into the rest of the season with Johnson’s mindset. “Hopefully we can take the things from these losses and learn how to build on them,” said guard Jared Brownridge. “By the time we get to midseason and toward the end, those won’t be our problems anymore.”
Brownridge emerged as the top scorer for the Blue Coats, earning 23 points, 18 of which were in the second half. While he was only 8-17 in FGM-A, he was 5-10 behind the arc.
Blue Coats Guard Zhaire Smith had his best start to the season, putting up the first 6 points for the Blue Coats in the opening minutes of the first quarter. Despite notching a season high of 18 points, Smith struggled offensively as the game progresses, only earning 5 points in entire second half of the game. However, Smith is expected to overcome these struggles as he continues to develop his game with the Blue Coats.
Some familiar faces to the Blue Coats made their return to Wilmington, such as Herd Head Coach Chase Buford, who served as an assistant coach for the Blue Coats the previous season. Herd forward D.J. Hogg who was traded by the Blue Coats for guard Xavier Munford also made an appearance in this game. Exchanging of pleasantries was skipped, as Coach Johnson and Coach Buford chirped each other at several points throughout the game. Meanwhile, Hogg notched 17 points against his former team, and Munford earned 15 points against his old club.
Guard Shizz Alston Jr. made his home debut for the Blue Coats, earning 9 points in 16 minutes of playtime. The former Temple Owl is adjusting to the G League and is recovering from a hamstring injury. “G League court is way more open than college,” said Alston, “so it allows me to play more free. I’m still not one hundred percent, but I’m starting to get my rhythm back.” Coach Johnson hopes that Alston will continue to develop his game as he recovers and continues his G League career. “I think he has a way to go in terms of coming back from the injury,” said Johnson. “I think that’s all a part of his rehabilitation. He’s played well, but I hope that once he gets his body back, he can get himself in better shape.”
The Blue Coats will get some rest before their next matchup on Friday, November 25, when they will face the Westchester Knicks back in Wilmington. The Knicks currently have one of the worst records in the entire G League at 1-6. The Knicks are currently sitting in last place in the Atlantic Division, while the Blue Coats are only trailing the undefeated Maine Red Claws.