By Jeremy Balan
OAKLAND – Like the rest of the University boys basketball team, Will Carroll struggled in the second quarter against Lick-Wilmerding in their annual rivalry game at Oracle Arena.
It was what Carroll did outside of that quarter, however, that pushed the Red Devils to a 59-41 Bay Counties League West win on Friday.
The 6-foot-2 senior forward scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the floor and his production was indicative of how well University (12-5, 1-1) was playing at different moments in the game.
When Carroll was scoring in the paint, almost entirely on driving assists from University’s guards, the Red Devils consistently pulled away from the Tigers (10-7, 0-2).
Eight of Carroll’s baskets came on assists from teammates, including three apiece from fellow seniors Harold Getz and Chris Mah.
“If the other team is taking something away, they’re giving you something else,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “I’d like to pat myself on the back as a coach, but the reality was that Harold and Chris read what they were taking away. They were focused on taking the perimeter away and not as much on Will.”
The Red Devils imposed their will on Lick early, and jumped out to a 12-0 lead – a run that included four University steals – before the Tigers even took a shot. Lick’s first shot – a made three-pointer from senior forward Matthew Bergland – came nearly two minutes into the first quarter.
“The reality is, when teams play fast, people think it’s about offense, but playing fast is more about how you play defense,” Bessolo said. “The energy we had on the defensive end allowed us to increase the tempo to the pace that we like.”
Carroll scored 10 points in the first quarter, and eight of the Red Devils’ first 10 points.
“It just kinda happened,” said Mah, who finished with 13 points, four assists, six rebounds and seven steals. “After the opening [quarter], we knew Will was going to have a good game. I think he had our first six or eight points, so we just wanted to feed him – feed the hot hand.”
The flip side to University’s high-paced playing style is so often an extended cold streak and it came quickly after the lopsided start. After Carroll hit a mid-range jump shot in the lane to give the Red Devils a 18-8 lead with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter, the Tigers went on a 14-5 run to end the half and briefly took their only lead of the game at 22-20 on a three-pointer from senior forward Benjamin Schneider with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.
“I’m really proud of my guys, because we were down 12-0 to start the game and a lot of teams would just collapse after that,” said Lick head coach Eliot Smith.
Even though the Tigers’ frontcourt had a significant height advantage – Schneider and fellow senior forward Andrew Rauch are both 6-foot-4 and Bergland is 6-foot-6 – Lick relied almost entirely on jump shots from the perimeter to score.
Schneider finished with a team-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor (3-of-3 from three-point range), Rauch had nine points and Bergland added seven. The rest of the Tigers shot 3-of-12 from the floor.
“We had to rely on our three stars, who are seniors, to help carry the load,” Smith said. “We were fortunate that they got into a nice rhythm. Our strength is those seniors, because they’ve played on varsity for three years and they’ve been here before.”
Lick’s lead was short-lived, however, because 16 seconds later, University senior guard David Medoff hit a three-pointer to give the Red Devils a 23-22 lead at the half.
Medoff’s three was the only field goal the Red Devils made in the second quarter and they were limited to just five points in the frame. University had 14 steals in the game, but none came in the second quarter, which caused the Red Devils’ offense to become stagnant.
“It’s a lot less scary going down and shooting those threes when we know we can get a stop on the defensive end,” Carroll said. “When we were struggling [today] and in the [Marin Academy] game, we were struggling to get stops.”
The drought only lasted a quarter, and after the break, University outscored the Tigers 24-11 in the third quarter and cruised to the final buzzer.
“Us being able to bounce back from that second-quarter cold spell was a maturation step that we had to see and are happy that we saw this afternoon,” Bessolo said.
Will Carroll – 23
Chris Mah – 13
Jack Gale – 10
Harold Getz – 5
David Medoff – 5
Benjamin Schneider – 15
Andrew Rauch – 9
Matthew Bergland – 7
David Allen – 4
Micah Elan – 4