The Flying Dutchmen have fielded (is the right term courted, since basketball is not played on a field? Hmmm) the same starting lineup in each of their first seven games, the longest such stretch to open a season since the quintet of Aurimas Kieza, Adrian Uter, Loren Stokes, Antoine Agudio and Carlos Rivera started the first nine games in 2005-06.
But after consecutive games in which the Dutchmen were dominated down low by Charlotte and Fairfield, Tom Pecora said there could be a change for the CAA opener at Towson Saturday. Miklos Szabo will have to work his way out of the doghouse in practice this week after recording just four rebounds in 45 minutes in his last two games. Szabo is averaging just 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in six contests against Division I competition this year.
“If he doesn’t rebound in practice this week, he won’t start on Saturday and I’ll take away his minutes,” Pecora said Monday. “We compete every day in practice for minutes, and these guys will tell you: Around here, you get what you deserve. And if he’s not rebounding the basketball, he doesn’t deserve to start and he doesn’t deserve to get minutes. We all have our jobs to do and his is to defend the post and rebound the ball, and he’s not doing either right now.”
The Dutchmen unveiled three different starting lineups in their first seven games last year and five different lineups over the same span in 2007-08.
—One player who will surely push Szabo for playing time is freshman David Imes who made his collegiate debut Monday after missing the first six games with a high ankle sprain and scored a basket in six minutes. “He’s a tough kid, he’s been great in practice,” Pecora said. “He’s a rebounder by nature. This was a good matchup, these kinds of teams, for him, because you can play small.”
—The Dutchmen’s other senior, Life With Corny, has also been the target of some Pecora criticism, but his lean line Monday (two points and no field goals in 23 minutes) was better and more pivotal than it looks. Vines shared the team lead in rebounds with five and also had four assists for the second straight game. He had as many as four assists in a game just once in 31 contests last season.
Vines also continued his season-long hustle on both ends of the floor, particularly in scrambling for the rebound of his missed 3-pointer midway through the second half. Vines took quite a shot from Yorel Hawkins but hit the subsequent two free throws to give the Dutchmen a 61-60 lead. They’d never trail again.
The most amazing thing: He took just two shots, which, you should not be surprised to read, is a career low. Life With Corny taking two shots in 23 minutes is like me taking one trip to the all-you-can-eat buffet.
I don’t think Vines has morphed into a point guard, but he’ll have a vital role—and Pecora will have done a helluva job coaching—if a player who prefers to shoot first, second, third and 27th can contribute by playing with the yellow light Pecora has often spoke about.