HERRIN — Basketball is at heart a make-or-miss game. You make shots, you probably win. You miss shots, you probably lose.
And when you miss shots the way Carterville missed them Saturday against an opponent with the height and the skill to make shots, you’re going to lose pretty big.
While the Lions canned 27.5 percent of their field goal tries, Mount Vernon connected on 54.2 percent of its attempts. The result was predictable, a 64-34 blowout in each team’s final game of the Pyramid Plus Tournament at Memorial Gym.
“If you’re going to play, you have to be able to make open shots,” Carterville coach Shane Hawkins said. “We were 2-for-15 from the arc shooting open shots. If we can’t consistently make those shots, it’s like shooting a turnover.
“At least if you throw it out of bounds, you can set up your defense. We lack a sense of urgency right now. We’re very passive in everything we do. We’re just waiting for someone to do something, and until we get the mindset that we have to go do it, we’re going to have nights like this.”
In the Lions’ defense, more than a few teams might have nights like this when confronted with the Rams (4-1). They have experience, size and one of the best players in Southern Illinois, 6-2 junior Amir Spann, who broke out the assortment pack.
Playing roughly three quarters, Spann collected 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and four steals. His best play might not have belonged to any of those categories. After getting sloppy with his dribble and turning the ball over, Spann sprinted nearly 60 feet for a chasedown block, wedging Tyler Bittle’s layup between the rim and glass.
“We’ve got some guys who can really shoot it, and he can really drive it,” Mount Vernon coach Doug Creel said. “They help him, and he helps them. He had a really nice tournament.”
Spann will be a difficult matchup almost every night out. He’s too powerful for smaller defenders, and he can whip bigger defenders off the dribble. Had teammates not fumbled or walk to negate a spate of potential layups, a triple double wouldn’t been off-limits for Spann.
Six-seven Weston Brockhouse added 13 points, while Lukas Cooper hit for 11. The Rams owned the glass to the tune of 33-20 and committed only seven turnovers.
Yet Carterville could have at least been competitive if it had converted some of its open looks in the first half. It made only 7-of-22 from the floor and 1-of-10 from the 3-point line. Most of those shots were at least decent looks and some were cleaner than a freshly-washed window.
Most of them found iron.
“It’s a confidence thing,” Hawkins said. “You see one go in the hole and it not only gives the guy who shot it confidence, but it gives the others confidence too. But when it doesn’t go in, things just snowball.”
The Lions trailed just 21-14 halfway through the second quarter, but Mount Vernon rattled off 12 straight points. Spann put back a missed shot, scored off a steal and fed a couple of teammates for layups. By the time Conner Hawkins stopped the run with a 3-pointer, the margin was 16 and not about to shrink.
Austin Garbe and Cameron Hall each scored nine points for the Lions. Earlier Saturday morning, they suffered a 59-42 loss to Marion, the Wildcats’ first win of the season.
Collinsville won the tournament for the second time in four years, notching victories over Meridian and Herrin.