FLINT, Michigan — Mott head coach Steve Schmidt had a week and a half to get his team focused for Monday night’s big game versus Owens (Ohio). The Bears had a strong start to their season, but it was no secret that Schmidt was displeased with his team’s effort on the defensive end heading into Christmas break.
Schmidt got back to the basics in practice, challenging his team to take more pride in stopping the ball. He reacquainted them with his expectations, and Monday night was their first chance at redemption.
Mott (9-2) responded in emphatic fashion, blowing out the Express, 97-62. And, if the score fooled you, understand that Owens (12-4) isn’t some out-of-state whipping boy. The Express already have an impressive resume of wins over some of the better teams in Michigan, including Wayne County, Kalamazoo Valley and a 41-point blowout win over Mott’s next opponent, Henry Ford CC.
The Bears didn’t waste any time Monday night, leading by as many as 21 in the first half on the strength of an impressive performance from 6-4 sophomore Myles Busby. Mott doesn’t normally count on Busby as a scorer, but against Owens he was the picture of efficiency. He scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half, shooting 7-for-8 from the field with five rebounds and two assists. (He had four and ones in the game, something I’m not certain I’ve ever seen from one player.)
The Bears led by 15 at the break and held Owens to 26 points in the second half, a far cry from the 56 points the Bears surrendered at Kalamazoo in the second half.
A welcome sight for the Bears was the play of 6-6 redshirt freshman William Abbott. The athletic forward has struggled to find his role on the team this season, but came on strong against Owens. He finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three dunks. For Mott to make another run this season, Abbott must be able to replicate his tonight’s performance on a regular basis. He looks the part; now he has to play it.
Mott’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Malik Albert, struggled from the field against Owens. He scored 20 points on 24 shots, but made up for his inefficiency with 10 steals, eight assists and five boards. Devin Foster, another sophomore guard, poured in 17 points with five assists. Freshman Lorenzo Collier added 12 points.
John Murry led Owens with 16 points and three rebounds. Shaakir Lindsey added 12.
Mott won the battle of the boards, 45-29, and tallied 23 assists to only eight turnovers (the Bears forced 21). This was, by far, the team’s best performance of the season. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as Schmidt prepares for rival Henry Ford at 3 p.m. Saturday in Dearborn. Better still will be the return of Mott’s top freshman, 6-5 small forward Ruston Hayward, who is rehabbing an injured knee. Hayward may well be Mott’s toughest player, and he’s certainly the most talented forward on the roster.