Road Warriors

Humble basketball winning on road

Humble continues to roll away from home. Vype

Originally appeared on Vype.com

HOUSTON – When teams start to game plan for an opponent identifying the top scoring threats is first and foremost and how to stop them.

Put the tape of Humble men’s basketball on and a coach’s list of players to stop defensively isn’t short.

“I think defending our team that would be tough because there’s not a weak link out on the court at any given time,” Humble coach Lair Crawford said. “I would say it would make a tough cover for teams. A lot of that is based on making shots.”

As any season goes there are ups and downs.

Humble opened the season at 5-6 in its first 11 games before winning eight-straight heading into a short holiday break.

The Wildcats came out of that and played in the Kingwood Holiday Classic, where they went 2-2 – losses to Atascocita and Cy Lakes and victories against Oak Ridge and Kinkaid.

At that time, Crawford admits they were dealing with some internal issues but after some meetings the team came together.

Since those team meetings, all this Humble has done is win.

The Wildcats have won 10-straight games to push its District 21-5A record to a perfect 15-0 heading into Tuesday’s meeting with Crosby, which is 14-1.

“We’re just trying to play our game,” Crawford said. “Play fast and get the ball up the court. We seem to knock down more shots on the road. But when we’re hitting shots we look pretty good and when we’re not we struggle a little bit.”

Despite winning all of their games, the Wildcats have played noticeably better away from their home court.

In eight home games, Humble has averaged 66.1 points per game. The Wildcats’ margins of victory have averaged right at 15 points per game. Humble’s biggest win at home was a 38-point victory against Caney Creek on January 12. The smallest was by three against Barbers Hill on January 30.

On the road, in one less game, Humble has averaged 76.5 points per game, a clip of 10.4 better than at home. The Wildcats’ margins of victory have been by 27.57, a 12.57 uptick from home contests. Finally, the biggest win was by 46 against Dayton on January 23. The smallest was by six against Baytown Lee on January 16.

At home, the Wildcats have won only one game by 20 or more points, on the road it has been four by 30 or more and two by 40 or more.

“It shows they can hit shots in different gyms,” Crawford said about the team playing better on the road. “A lot of teams only play well at home in their own gym. Of course we want to play well in our own gym but when we get going in the playoffs we’re not going to be playing in our own gym."

“Our guys are kind of locked in wherever we’re at just knocking shots down.”

So who has been the key to success this season?

According to Crawford just start rattling off names – Jaylon Alsanders, Kendrick Washington, Justin Lawson and just keep going.

“This team there’s nobody that you can take away,” Crawford said. “If you try to take away guys inside we’ve got guys outside that can hit shots. We’ve got guys that can take you off the dribble. We’ve got guys that can spot up and shoot. There is no doubt it makes it tough.”

On any given night, Crawford said this team has five or six players in double figures. Usually no one scores more than 18 and about nine to 10 players can score at any given time for this team.

Alsanders has picked it up lately, Crawford said, while Lawson has averaged around 18 points per game the last few games and Washington has been Mr. Consistent averaging 12 to 15 a night.

Having a bench full of scoring options is something Crawford didn’t have the luxury of a year ago and that could be a major difference come playoff time.

“I think it helps as you get into some bigger games and especially the playoffs,” Crawford said. “Like last year, guys keyed on Kevin (Dawson). It forced other guys to step up and it just wasn’t there.”

With an experienced group of guys playing for him, Crawford said they will continue to just take it “one game at a time” down the stretch.

Humble is looking to win its second-straight District 21-5A Championship and complete a perfect district campaign in doing so.

The Wildcats have won 18-straight district contests heading into Tuesday’s meeting with Crosby, whom they beat 75-40 at their place earlier this year.

After Crosby, Humble will close out district play at home against Kingwood Park on Friday and then next Tuesday at Caney Creek for the regular season finale before the playoffs.

Humble’s history in the playoffs has been up and down at times.

Last season the Wildcats made it to the second round, prior to that Humble hadn’t made it past the first round since 2016. The last time the Wildcats made a deep runs in the playoffs came in 2015 and 2011 making it to the third round both seasons.

So can this scoring machine carry over to the postseason?

“If we get hot at the right time, if we’re making shots, the way we rebound and that sort of thing and play together we could make a run,” Crawford said. “The playoffs you never know. It’s about matchups.”

Being around the team every single day, Crawford said it is hard to think of just one way to describe this group.

For people that haven’t seen the team in a while, Crawford uses two words to tell the story of the 2017-2018 Wildcats – maximum effort.

“They play so hard,” he said. “I think that’s why we rebound the ball so well. We get on the loose ball, they really get after it for four quarters. That’s what we’ve been preaching lately. Some teams have been staying close for a quarter or a half. They have to play four quarters. Our conditioning this fall has paid off."

“This team really plays hard.”

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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