The Delaware Blue Coats snapped their four game losing streak defeating the Long Island Nets 111-88 Saturday. Entering this matchup, both teams made changes to their teams. For the Blue Coats, head coach Connor Johnson decided to switch up the starting line up. For the Nets, the organization waived Henry Ellison, their leading scorer and key player so far this season. However, most G League players are accustomed to the constant changes in team dynamics. It’s the nature of the league.
So what was it that brought fans to their feet that afternoon?
The battle of the big men.
John Egbunu and Christ Koumadje.
Before the game, the Delaware Blue Coats led the G League in points per game. They displayed this offensive prowess after putting up 66 points in just the first half. The Blue Coats generated offense through their aggressive and intense half court defense, along with full court pressure and a dominating presence on the defensive glass. They emphasized pace and excelled in transition. Even with only a glimpse of daylight, players let it fly, knocking down tough contested shots. Their confidence resulted in most shots seeing the bottom of the net.
In contrast, the Long Island Nets struggled to find offensive rhythm the entire game. It was a TOUGH first half. They shot 16% from beyond the arc, 3-19, and not a single player had double figures at the break. Contested jump shots, forced layups, and missed three pointers resulted in a recipe for disaster. Outscored 38-17 in the second quarter, the Nets ran into the locker room down 35-66.
In spite of the blowout, Egbunu and Koumadje knew the show must continue.
And this was where the fun began.
John Egbunu, pretty quiet in the first half although leading the team with eight points, began the third quarter with his own highlight reel. A complete monster in the paint, he sent two Blue Coat shots flying back to back, followed by a lob in transition in which he converted to an assertive two-hand slam. Egbunu’s energy created a spark for the Nets. They crashed the offensive glass hard, outrebounding the Blue Coats 17-7. Regardless of this push, Delaware’s Christ Koumadje held it down for the Blue Coats. With his length and size, it was evident he deterred many Nets players from entering the paint, let alone feeling comfortable enough to finish in a regular fashion. Battling with Egbunu, the two centers put on a demonstration of what it meant to be big, strong, and athletic. They clashed under the basket in one on one moves and fought for position during box outs. They even blocked each other’s shots. A few times. Koumadje made Egbunu earn EVERY basket. And vice versa. Although outscoring the Blue Coats 29-18 in the third quarter, the Nets still trailed by 16 at the end of it.
Even with the momentum, the Nets were unable to capitalize during the fourth. They did not lack energy, or enthusiasm, or the desire to win.
Delaware just looked good. And played good.
They oozed conviction. Trusted one another. Played extremely comfortable in the open court and shared the ball effortlessly. After opening the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, they never took their foot off the gas. Koumadje finished with an outstanding triple double: 12 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 blocked shots. His rebounds and blocked shots were both career highs. Additionally, Marial Shayok finished with a team high 22 points and six other players ended in double figures. A collective team effort. For the Nets, Egbunu finished with 18 points and nine rebounds and Jaylen Hands chipped in 17 points.
Overall, it was a tough shooting night for the Nets, 33% from the floor and 22% from the arc. But…the most significant statistic that contributed to the result of this matchup was this: Both teams finished with 16 turnovers. The Blue Coats scored 34 points in comparison to the Nets 8 off of the same amount of turnovers.
Really, really hard to win that way.
Nonetheless, in the current time of basketball where guard play is usually celebrated, Egbunu and Koumadje made a statement that big men still got game.
The Long Island Nets return to action Sunday, January 5th at 3PM ET against the Wisconsin Herd.