‘Normally a school would not try to destroy us like that’
Champion Baptist basketball coach Eric Capaci is used to seeing his team get drilled on the road.
Capaci had never experienced anything quite like Monday night, though, when his team fell behind 44-0 on the way to a 116-12 loss to Southern in Baton Rouge, La.
“For whatever reason, Southern pressed us the entire game,” Capaci told FOXSports.com. “I have no idea why. He (Southern coach Roman Banks) has his reasons for that. Normally a school would not try to destroy us like that.”
Before the game, Capaci said, Banks had officials ask the Champion Baptist coach if he would mind doing away with the long media timeouts that stop play four times per half.
Capaci didn’t want to do that, telling officials those timeouts benefit his players, who can use all the rest they can get against bigger, more athletic Division I teams.
“Maybe that is what fueled something,” Capaci said. “I have no idea. I’ve never been asked to play without media timeouts in a Division I game, and I’ve played in a lot of them. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.”
By “it,” Capaci means Southern’s press. Southern pressed its way to a 44-0 lead — which set the national record for a game-opening run — and didn’t stop. When Champion finally hit a free throw to make it 44-1, the Southern crowd cheered.
Banks says he hadn’t realized how lopsided the game was.
“I looked at the scoreboard,” Banks said, “I turned around and asked my assistant, ‘Is that the right score?’ I think it was 44-1 at that point. I really wasn’t aware.”
“When you’re down 44-0 and you’re still facing a full-court press, it’s demoralizing,” he said. “We still continued to do our best and did not react outwardly to that situation.”
Located in Hot Springs, Ark., Champion Baptist is a small seminary school; its students are there to learn how to be ministers.
Capaci, who doubles as president of Champion Baptist in addition to his full-time preaching job, doesn’t recruit his players. He forms a basketball team out of the guys he already has in the school, which has an enrollment of about 250.
To raise money, Champion Baptist sends its basketball team out to play a lot of “guarantee games,” which is shorthand for an arrangement in which a bigger school will pay a smaller school for the opportunity to get an easy win. Capaci says his school received $4,000 from Southern.
Banks understands about guarantee games. His version of what went on Monday is different. Southern did press, but it also ran some basic man-to-man and even zone defense. He was using the game as a glorified practice, essentially.
“We went into the game planning on trying to get better,” said Banks, whose team is usually on the other end of the guarantee games. “We’ve been playing a lot of Top 20 teams, and we were talking about that. …
“Our goal was to go out as a defensive-minded team and prove ourselves defensively going into conference play. We knew we were going to play man for a period of time, we knew we were going to play zone and work on some of our presses and stuff like that. The guys did a good job of staying focused and playing to our game plan. We talked about how we were going to play every possession and chart every possession, and obviously it led to us being able to limit their opportunities.”
Banks said he switched defenses every four minutes.
“I told our team, ‘Let’s see what we can do as it relates to holding people under their averages and scoring defense, so we’ve got to get a lot of stops and get better in this game,’” Banks said. “That was our strategy going into it. Also our strategy was, we felt we needed to work on our zone, we needed to work on our press. Every four minutes we were going to do something a little different.
“I thought they missed a couple shots they could have made, looking back at it.”
Capaci wanted to squash a rumor that Champion had suspended several of its players, and that the guys on the floor were more or less pulled from the student body on short notice.
Capaci said he didn’t have any players on suspension, and Banks said Champion used the same lineup he had seen it use in previous games.
“I have no idea what that’s about,” Capaci said.
Champion Baptist missed 41 of its 44 shots from the field (shooting 6.8 percent), went 1-for-11 from 3-point range (9.1 percent), 5-for-17 at the free-throw line (29.4 percent) and committed 27 turnovers. Southern wasn’t historically great on offense, shooting 59 percent. But it got off 34 extra shots.
Champion Baptist has already lost to Southeastern Louisiana 108-54, Mississippi Valley State 108-48 and New Orleans 101-38 this year. Brutal defeats, all.
Just not historic ones.
“We’re accustomed to losing those games by 40, 50, 60 points while scoring 40, 50, 60 points,” Capaci said. “It’s just unfortunate we didn’t score enough points to stay out of the media last night.”