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December 03, 2015

Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram went bonkers last night

While watching the NBA games (mostly a lopsided Sixers loss at MSG) on Wednesday night, I noticed that Basketball Twitter was buzzing. Down in Baton Rouge, Ben Simmons was apparently putting on quite the show. So I checked on which opponent the talented Australian point forward, who we initially profiled here, was matched up against.

North Florida. Not a terrible team by any means (KenPom rank: 109), but certainly not a program with enough juice to force me to change the channel from Sixers-Knicks. I mostly want to see how Simmons fares against future pros, so the decision to stick with the Porzingis show wasn’t difficult.

A couple of hours later, #FormerSixer Max Rappaport tweeted this:

Now that is a final line, my friends. And more importantly, that is a performance you have to catch the replay of, so that is precisely what I did. The best way to begin explaining Simmons’ performance is by looking at his shot chart:

Everything was in the paint for Big Ben, which illustrates how little resistance his opponent provided. You see, North Florida is a rock solid team that spreads the defense out and knocks down three after three (KenPom offensive efficiency: 35th out of 351). They did that against LSU, but UNF’s 254th-ranked defense also couldn’t get any stops. That is how you score 108 points in regulation and lose by double digits. Somebody wake up Paul Westhead, run-and-gun college hoops is back!

This was the perfect storm for Simmons to go berserk. For most of the game, he was covered by a couple of 6’8” shooters who are North Florida’s de facto centers. These guys had no prayer against him. Time and again Simmons got super deep post position or just rose up and shot over his defenders. Here is an example of the former:

“I thought Ben did a great job of posting, getting to the paint area,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones told reporters after the game. “Generally, he gets caught out on the perimeter, drives and forces the collapse, and gets his teammates shots. But he was able to force them to have to play him in there.”

Simmons’ coach is describing how this was a totally different plan of attack from him. I have admittedly only seen the guy play a few times, but it didn’t look very much like the same point forward type from the other games. Well, except for a few of the seven assists (to only two turnovers):

Simmons is a great talent that did exactly what he was supposed to against an overmatched opponent. Full marks. Look back at that shot chart one more time, though. What happens when he can’t shoot layups? I can’t wait to find out.

Over at Duke, Brandon Ingram has been struggling to do much right in the early going. That changed last night against Indiana, when the rail-thin freshman poured in 24 points on 10-15 shooting. He found the range from deep, and more importantly, impressed Dickie V.

Dickie V 120315

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann