Saint Francis senior guard Kegan Comer is scoring less than he has at any point in his career, and over the past two games he has missed nine of his 10 shots and totaled just four points. So veteran Cougar coach Chad LaCross has to be greatly concerned about that, right?
“No, I’m not,” LaCross told The News-Sentinel. “Kegan is such an unselfish player and he makes other guys better.”
No. 3-ranked Saint Francis (14-3, 4-1 Crossroads League) will host upstart Mount Vernon Nazarene (14-3, 3-2) today at the Hutzell Athletic Center (3 p.m.).
Comer is averaging just 9.1 points per game this season, which is the first time since he arrived on campus four years ago that he hasn’t been a double-figure scorer. That is in large part due to a couple of things:
• Saint Francis has more offensive options this year than in seasons past, and
• Comer is doing a great job of getting all of those other options involved in the offense
“The one thing with Kegan is that he is not going to force anything,” LaCross said. “There are times that I have talked to him and we need him to be more aggressive. When I say that to him, though, whether it is getting into the paint, whether it is creating for himself or creating for others, he’s done a nice job of that.”
LaCross’ point is well taken. The past two games aside, it isn’t as if Comer is shooting poorly.
He is connecting on over 42 percent of his shots, which is comparable to both his junior (44 percent) and sophomore seasons (46 percent) seasons, and his 41 percent rate from 3-point range is significantly better than his junior year (36 percent).
But where Comer has been much more effective this year is his ability to get other people involved.
“I think he can score 14, 15 points a game for us,” LaCross said. “I’ve told him that he needs to look for opportunities, but his reaction is ‘Well, (Bryce Lienhoop) is playing well and (Chandler White) is playing well.’ He’s got guys around him that can make shots and score the basketball.
“Kegan is just really unselfish and he just wants to win.”
Comer is averaging far more assists this season (3.7 per game) than he ever has (he averaged less than three per game each of the past two seasons), yet he is not turning the ball over nearly as much, despite the increase in ball-handling tasks.
So far, Comer has only turned the ball over 18 times in 17 games, where that number was essentially doubled per game each of the past two seasons, which lends credence to LaCross’ point about him not forcing anything.
Where the 6-foot-3 Jay County High School graduate is “forcing” something is in his leadership, according to LaCross. Comer has become much more vocal in his final season and LaCross is very happy about that.
“He’s done a nice job of being a better leader,” LaCross said. “He knows that this is his team. The way that he communicates with guys is a lot different than he has in the past. He’s done a really nice job with that.”
Mount Vernon Nazarene is on the rise
A win over Saint Francis would be momentous for a number of reasons for the Mount Vernon Nazarene program, but statistically, it would give it more victories already this year than it had all of last year.
The Cougars won 14 games last season and 19 the previous year, but prior to that had been at or near the bottom of the Crossroads League standings since joining the league in 2011.
Mount Vernon Nazarene is currently the hottest team in the conference having won five straight, which includes a recent 12-point win over defending NAIA Division II national champion Indiana Wesleyan.
“They do an outstanding job on the boards,” LaCross said. “”They had 18 offensive rebounds against Indiana Wesleyan. But they also push it in transition. They’ve got multiple guys on the floor that can score it. They are really balanced. They have five guys that are scoring in double figures.”
The Cougars not only rebound the ball well, they prevent other teams from doing so. Mount Vernon Nazarene ranks second in the nation in defensive rebounding and are outrebounding its opposition by nearly eight per game.