It was a quick turnaround for the Hustle after their defeat yesterday against the Lakeland Magic. With the game ending around 4:30 CT, they had very little time to recoup and reenergize before this mornings 10 AM CT matchup against the Salt Lake City Stars. With both teams sitting at 1-2 entering today, the morning matchup is critical for both teams to avoid a 1-3 start with just 11 games remaining following this one.
It was another sloppy start for the Hustle, as they committed 10 turnovers in the opening quarter. The 10 turnovers, combined with the incredibly poor shooting, caused the Hustle to be down 24-14 at the end of the quarter. The Hustle shot just 5-18 (27.8%) from the field and 2-10 (20%) from deep. Meanwhile the Stars got 11 combined points from Trevon Scott and Tyler Bey to balance out the scoring effort that was partnered with their great defensive execution. Because of all of this, the Hustle found themselves down 24-14 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter didn’t start well for the Hustle as they found themselves down by as many as 14. The Hustle offense finally woke up midway through the second quarter, with Sam Merrill knocking down a couple of triples and other players getting involved offensively. The run was thwarted a little bit by the Stars getting hot from deep with three straight triples amidst the Hustle run. Ultimately, the Hustle deficit stayed at 10 at the halftime break as they trailed 51-41.
The third quarter was kind to the Hustle as they were able to make a run midway through the quarter and cut the Stars lead down to just 2 points. It took a few minutes, but after not being able to get past the 2-point barrier, they were able to finally break through and tie things up at the end of the 3rd tied up at 70 with the Stars. It was a great offensive and defensive performance by the Hustle, outscoring the Stars 29-19 in the quarter. David Stockton helped spark the run in the quarter with a couple of buckets, but mostly plays that don’t necessarily show up in the box score. He was tough defensively and made a ton of passes that got the offense going and ultimately lead to more open looks for the Hustle.
The Hustle momentum carried over into the 4th quarter as they kicked the quarter off with a 6-0 run to get a nice lead over the Stars. The Stars were able to collect themselves midway through the quarter and comeback and tie the game after being down by as much as 7 in the 4th. It was a close game until the Hustle were able to pull away late in the 4th thanks in large part to the efforts of Freddie Gillespie and a dagger triple from Shaq Buchanan with 2 minutes left in the game. The Hustle were able to maintain the lead in the final minutes, finishing with the 104-96 win over the Stars. It was a big come from behind win for the Hustle after trailing by as many as 14. The win moves the Hustle to 2-2 on the season and keeps them firmly in the playoff race with 11 games to go in the shortened Gubble season.
In the postgame media availability, Jason March credits the Hustle slow start to the quick turnaround from yesterdays game that ended around 5 PM CT. The Hustle had just 17 hours to rest, watch film and prepare for a 10 AM tip against the Stars this morning. March says he was proud of their effort and knew if they could keep it close by halftime they’d be able to get going. Jason also takes some blame for the 22 total turnovers as he’s being preaching to pass the ball and that sometimes they get to passing the ball too much.
Jason also mentions how proud he is of Freddie Gillespie’s performance (14 points, 15 rebounds), especially in creating second-chance opportunities. March also mentioned how excited and proud he was for David Stockton moving into 19th on the G-League all-time scoring list and breaking the 3,000 point barrier in todays game.
We also got to speak with Shaq Buchanan after the game, who said he’s proud of the high energy plays him and Ahmad Caver are able to make off the bench for the Hustle to create scoring opportunities — noting that he’s still working on what he told us on Media Day that he wants to be a more vocal and on the floor leader for the team in his second year. I asked Shaq about finding ways to contribute to winning when his shot isn’t falling, and he mentioned how he tweeted the other day he doesn’t care about stats and just wants to win. Says if he keeps shooting the shots will eventually fall, but he just wants to help the team win.
The Hustle have moved to 2-2 on the season and will face off against the Oklahoma City Blue on Wednesday at 6:30.