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November 16, 2013

Men's College Basketball: Gators rebound their way to 58-44 victory

Allegheny College senior forward Clark Tritto took a look at the stat sheet after Saturday night’s game against Michigan’s Adrian College and saw that his team had out-rebounded the visiting Bulldogs 55-27.

“That’s outstanding,” he said, his face lighting up.

The Gators are a team that had struggled with that facet of the game just a season ago.

“It was a huge issue for us,” said Tritto.

Yet so far this season, the Gators have out-rebounded their first two opponents and, in turn, have registered two victories. The latest was a 58-44 win over the aforementioned Bulldogs during the final night of action at the Greg Richards Memorial Classic at the David V. Wise Center.

“That was good,” said Allegheny head coach Jim Driggs. “We rebounded the first miss. We got offensive rebounds.”

And the Gators were able to convert many of those rebounds into points. Well, enough points to win, at least.

“It was a defensive struggle,” Tritto admitted.

Speaking of defense, Allegheny (2-0) is really starting to make a name for itself with its zone.

It played a key factor in the Gators’ 77-67 win over Alma College on Friday night. And again last night, the zone proved to be the pivto point for Allegheny, the thing that allowed them to take control of a formerly close game and pull away.

“The zone was good for us again,” said Driggs. “It was active. It was long. The guys enjoy playing it. They seem to rally behind it. We’re going to have to play man-to-man. But the zone has been good for us this week.”

Allegheny started off the game in man-to-man. And it was mostly effective. Adrian shot just 25.8 percent from the field in the first half (8-for-31). And Allegheny was able to bolt out to a 14-7 lead thanks to a couple treys from John O’Donnell and few crafty drives to the hoop by Josh Valentic.

But eventually Adrian found some paths to the basket and outscored the Gators 10-3 to take a 21-19 lead with a couple minutes left in the first half.

Driggs put in the zone.

Adrian never led again.

“I love the zone,” said Tritto. “We’ve been playing the zone here before. But it seems like this year we’ve got some news guys on the floor and we’re talking a lot better when we’re in the zone. And match-up-wise, it really worked well with (Adrian).”

Allegheny ended the first half outscoring the Bulldogs 9-2 to take a 28-23 lead into the break.

Adrian scored the first bucket of the second half and then went on a three-minute scoring slump as Allegheny pulled away. Adrian would miss, Allegheny would grab the carom, then the offense would take the ball down inside for some easy lay-ins.

“We rebound well with the zone, that’s why I love it,” said Tritto.

The Gators made six of their first six attempts from the floor in the second half to take a 41-27 lead. Brandon Smith had three of those buckets en route to a 10-point night. And point guard D’Andre Corbin had several nice feeds during this stretch. He would end the night with eight assists, giving him 15 for the Gators’ first two contests.

Eventually that lead grew to as much as 21 points (56-35) with about four minutes to play.

“I think that’s a good sign,” said Driggs. “We were able to get the lead and then extend the lead. We got it to eight, then 16, then 20. What I always talk about is how we’re not going to win the game on one possession. It’s a series of possessions. You’ve got to do it over and over again. We have to be able to grind it out.”

A couple turnovers late allowed Adrian to reel the game in a little bit. And that was the one negative for the Gators on Saturday. They gave up 16 turnovers. Adrian committed just three.

“I think a little of that is this is the first time you’re playing a team with different colors on,” said Driggs, “and your heart rate is going a little faster. And we were playing too fast at times and that led to some turnovers.”

Valentic ended up leading Allegheny with 13 points. He had 41 for the tournament and was named Most Valuable Player. Smith, with his 10 points and eight boards, was also named to the All-Tournament Team. So was Tritto with his five points and 12 rebounds last night.

O’Donnell and Chris Milon added eight points each for the Gators.

For Adrian (0-2), Ben Rodak was the top scorer with 10 points.

Filling out the All-Tournament Team was Alma’s senior guard Brandon Krause and John Carroll’s sophomore forward Simon Kucharewicz.

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