This season is no different, Smith is currently in the process of taking a better than good team with a bit of a confidence problem at times and turning it into a machine ready to lift shots from any spot on the floor at any given time.
Saturday, against White County, Smith and the Bears (6-8) took a large step toward that goal with a 45-58 win over the Warriors (10-6). The victory also avenged a 65-61 December loss to White County.
Smith’s Saturday goal was three-fold. The plan going in was to attack the weakness of the White County defense, hold a lead in the fourth quarter and finish with a win, and build confidence in one of his best shooters.
The plan worked to near perfection.
“Their favorite defense is the 1-3-1. The way that defense is set up, the shot in the corner is where the weakness is. We’ve got a shooter there who can knock that down, he’s got to be confident enough to shoot it. Tonight his second shot goes down and that is big for Logan because he really was bad on the confidence problem,” Smith said afterward.
“The game plan was really attack their 1-3-1 from the corner and high post. That’s what they gave us and Bryce was able to do what he does. It was a good game plan for our guys.”
Cox nailed four 3-pointers in the win and finished with 15 points. Teammate Bryce Copeland added three 3s and scored a game-high 25 for the Bears.
From the floor, the Bears were good on 67 percent of their shots including seven from behind the arc. Bradley only committed 10 turnovers to 19 for the Warriors. Rebounds were dead even at 22 apiece.
“I’ve been telling the guys, not just Logan there are some of our juniors who have to be contributors,” Smith added. “Their confidence has been lagging and I don’t have the prescription pad to take to Walgreen’s and tell them, ‘Here’s confidence.’ You’ve got to play through that.”
It took a full quarter for the Bears to begin to find that confidence. Cox and Copeland both hit 3-pointers, but the Warriors rained 3s from outside the arc hitting four in the first eight minutes.
The first quarter White County rain turned into more of a drizzle in the second with only one trey coming off the hands of of the Warriors. A 10-0 Bears run midway through the period propelled Bradley to a lead it would not relinquish.
But, the 28-22 halftime lead was not enough for Smith to feel the Bears were in complete control.
“We’ve lost eight games, seven of them where we led midway through the fourth quarter. We’ve just got to learn to finish, finish, finish,” he said.
Finishing would not be a concern for the Bradley boys Saturday. The Bears answered back-to-back-to-back 3s by White County with 3-pointers from Copeland and Cox to build a 46-36 lead headed into the fourth quarter.
“To be honest I didn’t know,” Smith said when asked if he felt the 10-point lead would hold up. “The way we have lost some of these games obviously I have to look at myself as a coach and say, “What am I not doing to get them over the hump?” When in reality it is about them believing in themselves and learning how to close out a game.
“Tonight they took a big step forward. Our guys really hung in defensively tonight. The played a really good half-court defense. We didn’t press because we weren’t very deep tonight. We just kept it in the half court and held them to 45 points which was a good effort by our guys.”
Confidence on both ends of the court manifest itself in the fourth. No 3s found its way to the strings for the Bears, but inside play paid off with 13 points. Defensively, Bradley held the Warriors to nine points to lock up the 13-point victory.
“They guys played hard. We desperately needed that win. It was another fourth quarter where we held the lead, but we finished the game right tonight,” said Smith.
The next step for the Bears will be taking advantage of the win and continue to build a self-reliant attitude that will pay big dividends at tournament time.
“I think the biggest thing is confidence with this bunch and young guys contributing. Logan having the big game he had was really huge,” said Smith. “We’ve got to have four guys contributing on nightly basis scoring-wise.”
BEARS 58, WARRIORS 45
White County 14 8 14 9 — 45
Bradley Central 10 18 18 12 — 58
White County (43) — Kane Young 17, Henderson 9, Crosland 6, Nash 5, Wilkerson 5, Stephenson 3, Davenport.
Bradley Central (58) — Bryce Copeland 25, Logan Cox 15, Whitmore 8, Clark 6, Bentley 2, Cain 2, McGowan.
3-point goals: White County 11 (Young 5, Crosland 2, Stephenson, Wilkerson, Henderson, Nash); Bradley Central 7 (Cox 4, Copeland 3).
Free Throws: White County 6-8; Bradley Central 9-13.
Records: White County 10-6; Bradley Central 6-8.