MADISON — Hand boys’ basketball coach Frank Rossi couldn’t come up with much to say about his team’s performance against Hillhouse Thursday night.
“We didn’t come out in the second half with the same energy as well did in the first half,” Rossi said after the Tigers were beaten by the Academics, 67-42, at the Polson Gymnasium. “That led to sloppy offense and poor decisions.”
Rossi thought the Tigers played their best half of the season in the opening 16 minutes when they took a 12-8 lead. But Hillhouse (10-4) grabbed the lead on a pair of free throws by Raiquan Clark (game-high 16 points) at the end of the first quarter and never trailed after that.
Hand (8-6) stayed close in the second quarter until the final minute or so when the Academics extended the lead to 27-21 lead at the break.
“We got great looks in the first half, but missed too many free throws (5-for-12),” Rossi said.
After Andre Frederick (15 points) made one of two free throws with 5:38 to play in the third quarter, it was 32-25, but that’s when things went awry quickly for the Tigers.
Hillhouse went on a 23-4 run over the next 8:36 and blew things open to a 55-32 lead. The run included a 13-0 spurt at one point.
“We started to scramble offensively, we stopped executing and we didn’t rebound,” Rossi said. “I felt like we just sunk and we weren’t able to bounce back. It felt like we were down 40.”
Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton credited his defense for the surge.
In the first half, Hand was able to bang the ball into Frederick where he was able to go right to the hoop or pass the ball back out for good shots. Frederick had nine points at the intermission, but things changed when Sutton made a big adjustment at halftime.
Sutton elected to switch from man-to-man defense to a zone that allowed the Academics to double down on Frederick in the paint. It worked perfectly as Frederick was held to just three baskets in the final 16 minutes, all of which came after the outcome was long decided.
“The 3-2 zone worked better for us and we were able to stay out of foul trouble,” Sutton said. “It’s easier to double down out of the zone. We wanted to send another defender down there when he had the ball.”
After scoring just eight points in the third quarter, Hand was limited to just 13 in the final quarter.
“We played them in our building and they jumped on us quick,” Sutton said. “We were trying to keep them from manufacturing buckets, but when we make our free throws and rebound the way we didn’t tonight, we can be successful.”
Hand, which has lost three straight games, plays four games in the next five days.
“They are all games that are winnable against teams we’ve already beaten,” Rossi said. “We can’t look too far ahead and have to get back on track.”
Besides Clark, Hillhouse had three other scorers in double figures in Shane Christie with 12 points, while Corey Barret had 11 and Wayne White had 10 points.