Samford’s men’s basketball team opened the season with an impressive 174-99 exhibition game win over Greenville University Nov. 25. If the game had been a regular-season contest, the Bulldogs would have set school records for points, points in a half, margin of victory and assists. Head coach Bucky McMillan talked about the impressive pace of play the teams were able to maintain throughout the game.
"I don't know if I've seen a game that fast," McMillan said. "We scored 102 in a half, and I know that got us a lot of attention. With the pace both ways, it was such a fun team to play. We obviously want to play fast, and credit them, they're comfortable playing fast and it's good for basketball. It's important to be good, it's important to be successful, but it's also important to play a way the fans can rally around."
The exciting game and impressive score garnered Samford a lot of attention, both locally and around the country. McMillan talked about how helpful that is for a sports program.
"I really think that basketball, before it can be good, needs to be popular," McMillan said. "I've always said that. I know sometimes people think it's got to be good and then it will be popular, and that can be true, but if it becomes popular, it will be good. The biggest thing we want to help build here is the culture, and that's within our program. When I consider our program, it's the fans as well. I want our fans to be a part of this, and the fact that they're excited and people from all over the country are talking about Samford, that's great for our program. I hope it's something that everybody can be proud of, because we're going to build something here together, we're going to build something very special. I think we'll look back at this as the start, and years from now we're going to have a lot of these days where we'll be proud of what we're building."
During the game, Samford shot 64% from the floor and 47.6% from three-point range. McMillan credited the team's passing and patience to look for the best shot, for the high shooting percentages.
"We passed the ball really well," McMillan said. "Our guys have come a long way since we got here and started practice in early August. The biggest deal is how many assists we had on those baskets. We looked at it at halftime and virtually all of our baskets were off of assists. A lot of times that ball is never hitting the floor, just right down the floor, pass, pass, pass, shot. I think that's why we shot a high percentage from the field. The better passing team you are, your numbers go up."
Defensively, Samford forced 41 turnovers in the game. McMillan talked about what he saw in the team's defensive effort.
"I thought we were disruptive, and that's what we want to do," McMillan said. "We gave them 99 points, but we held them 34 points below their average, so that's a good thing. Small details, they got us in the air a couple of times because they do shoot a lot of threes. So, they play a cat and mouse game with you, we probably left the floor too much and got in scrambles. You know, to beat good teams, you can't be in scrambles all night in the half court. So, that's one thing we're going to work on today, just being solid.”
"When you get a helter-skelter pace, which we're used to playing, when you get in the half court, you just have to be solid, and we're going to work on that and we're going to get better and better and better," McMillan said. "For us to be an elite team and an elite program down the road, we're going to have to hang our hat on half-court defense. We're going to pressure all the time, but it's going to become a half-court game at some point and we're going to have to be able to get stops."
Samford played its first regular-season game Nov. 29 when the Bulldogs hosted Alabama A&M. McMillan talked about what he wanted to see out of his team in that game.
"The things I want us to focus on are the things we didn't do a good job of last game," McMillan said. "Being more solid when we get into the half court. I want us to continue to do the things we did well. I think we're an elite transition offensive team. I think we're really good at getting the ball out and we're going to keep playing to that strength. Now, when it becomes a half-court game, can we be elite at that someday. When you get both of those working together, you're a dangerous team."