Toros Running Wild Over D-League
By Matt Moore,
1:50PM, Thu. Mar. 6, 2008
They say when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
The Toros were given lemons this week, losing leading scorer Keith Langford to the exotic lure that Europe holds (you and I know it as “cold, hard cash”), Andre Barrett to an NBA call-up to the Los Angeles Clippers, and Ian Mahinmi first to a bevy of fouls on Friday, and then a lower-back injury on Saturday night. That’s three NBA-caliber athletes in one weekend, if you're counting.
The Toros decided to turn those lemons into a superpowered lemon gun, capable of firing the tasty fruit’s zesty acid into the eyes of its opponents while degrading them and their mothers.
In other words, they did a whole lot of running, a whole lot of gunning, and a whole lot of winning in the past five days.
It started in the friendly confines of the Austin Convention Center Friday night as the Toros took on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. The Ants featured Detroit Pistons’ prospect, 7’ 1" center Cheikh Samb from Senegal, and talented combo guard Earl Calloway. Early on, it was pretty clear Toros’ star and Spurs assignment player Ian Mahinmi was facing an uphill battle against the officials. While Mahinmi was able to use his touch and quickness against Samb’s raw power, he ran into early foul trouble and was sent to the bench. So with the star player on the pine, and a brand new point guard in Andre Barrett (who would get recalled later that evening to the Clippers), and facing a much larger lineup, how did the Toros respond?
They ran, of course.
A funny thing happened in the second quarter. After a slow start, the Toros, led by their long, athletic wings, ripped apart the Mad Ants in transition. Longtime Toro Justin Bowen led the charge with 28 points, and Marcus Williams continued his stellar play with 24 points and 8 rebounds. Calloway picked up 25 points and 7 boards for the Ants, but after a 9-0 Austin run to start the second, it was all Toros from there on out. The depth was really on display in this one, with the Toros bench outscoring Fort Wayne’s 62-31. All this helped Austin to a 119-108 win.
Interesting Note for the Game: Each time Mad Ants guard Earl Calloway stepped up to the line to shoot free throws, he was met with a random holler from a Toros fan of “No, my name is Earl!” He clanged several. Sweet.
Saturday night, the Toros faced a much larger lineup against the Anaheim Arsenal, led by forward Ivan Johnson, and featuring 7’ Marcus Campbell out of Mississippi State. In front of a surprisingly raucous crowd, the Toros seemed primed to overcome the loss of Barrett to the pros. It couldn’t have started much better for the Toros. With the loss of Barrett, Coach Quin Snyder went to, essentially, a four-wing, one center lineup with Ian flanked by newly acquired Serge Agounou, Marcus Williams, and DerMarr Johnson, with only wily veteran Cheyne Gadson to run point. Surprisingly, the Anaheim defense was woefully unprepared for the athleticism of the Toros. Moved into the starting spot, Marcus Williams and Ian Mahinmi abused the Arsenal on the high pick and roll, leading to 11 points for Williams with 5 assists in the first quarter alone, and Mahinmi picking up 16.
And then, disaster.
Early in the second quarter, Ian Mahinmi landed awkwardly on his back and lay in pain on the floor. He clutched his hip as his teammates waited anxiously. Eventually, Mahinmi was helped to the bench, but was unable to shoot the free throws he was awarded on the foul. This removed him from eligibility for the remainder of the game. As the medical staff worked with Ian on the bench, the Toros were now without their new point guard, and without their star center. Being part of the Spurs system, they responded the same way the Spurs would.
They shot the lights out.
Behind Justin Bowen’s 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, and with the help of Marcus Williams’ 23, 9, and 7, the Toros ran roughshod over the slower Arsenal on their way to a 125-103 win. For reasons unbeknownst to man, the Arsenal attempted to front Williams in the post with 32 year old Derrick Dial. Let’s just say it didn’t end well. Posterized, is generally the term. The Arsenal did get
After the game, Coach Quin Snyder remarked on his club’s luck lately and how they’ve responded, “We’ve lost one of the leading scorers in the league this week and then arguably the best point guard in the league this week, two guys in the All-Star game this week, and then Ian. To play that way, that was a real credit to the guys we have. They were a team, they played great defense.”
After leading his team to another win, forward Justin Bowen remarked, “I credit my teammates, they went to me early …. Losing Ian, I knew I had to get more aggressive, and I just tried to make the most of my opportunities.”
Interesting Note for the Game: Immediately you noticed a particularly rowdy group in the top rows of the Convention Center. Turns out they were members of visiting Memorial Drive United Methodist Church from Houston on a mystery trip of high school seniors. They brought their voices, and they did their homework. They chanted, screamed, and clapped for all four quarters. We need more fans like group leader Mark Bogart here in Austin.
Perhaps the most convincing win of the week for the Toros came on Wednesday against the Idaho Stampede. Against the best team in the D-League stacked with Seattle Supersonics assignee Mouhamed Sene, and without their Spurs star, Ian Mahinmi, the Toros were up against the odds again.
No Ian? No sweat.
Behind Marcus Williams’ 32 points, including the go-ahead basket in the final seconds, the Toros were able to overcome the Stampede 105-102. The Toros only played seven players in this game, but had four in double figures as DerMarr Johnson rebounded from a poor game against the Arsenal with 25 points, and Justin Bowen continued his stellar resurgence with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sene led the Stampede with 30 points and 18 rebounds, and Lance Allred added his 18th double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Two Things to Remember: One, this team is peaking at the right time, with a great chance at a bye for the playoffs. And two? That Marcus Williams kid? Yeah. Catch him while you can, Austin. He won’t be here for too long.