On Wednesday night against Jacksonville, Majerus employed a starting lineup that featured four freshmen alongside junior guard Kyle Cassity.
After a 37-point drubbing at the hands of top-ranked Duke, the Billikens looked poised for yet another lopsided defeat. The four freshmen, however, showed encouraging signs of growth.
After an incredibly sloppy first half that included nine turnovers and just three assists in addition to nine Dolphins’ offensive rebounds, the Billikens made massive strides in the second half to claim the 69-64 victory. Three of the four highest point totals were tallied by first-year players.
“I thought Dwayne [Evans] rebounded really hard,” Majerus said. “They did an excellent job of just competing.”
Evans notched his first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Jordair Jett added a game-high 16 points and Mike McCall scored nine points while dishing out eight assists.
“All the freshmen stepped up,” sophomore forward Cody Ellis said. “They’re all real clutch.”
In fact, with the time running down on the shot clock and the Billikens down 43-25, Evans buried a 3-pointer to spark the big comeback. The funny thing is, however, that apparently Evans doesn’t even shoot three-pointers in practice.
“He’s not allowed to shoot 3’s,” Ellis said. “In practice Coach has put in a rule that he’s not allowed to shoot 3’s yet.”
The freshmen made three of their four 3-point attempts on Wednesday.
The growth process can be slow at times, but it’s getting to the point where you can start to see the younger guys maturing within a ballgame.
“I think they’re playing pretty well on the court,” Majerus said.
Cassity agreed wholeheartedly with Majerus.
“They have grown a lot,” he said.
Overall, Wednesday night showed signs of definite improvement from the majority of the players on the team — and especially the freshmen.
“I thought the guys played their hearts out tonight,” Majerus said.