It's only March 15, but today is the final road game of the the month for the Erie BayHawks. It's also their third in the past four days. After winning on the road against Albuquerque on Friday and Idaho on Saturday, the BayHawks would love to sweep this West Conference roadtrip and extend their current overall winning streak to what would be a season-high five games.
This is the first and only game between the BayHawks and Flash this season. Utah currently holds the eighth playoff seed, but the race is tight, and a loss against the BayHawks would hurt as they try to make their playoff push.
Game 43 Preview: Erie BayHawks (17-25) vs. Utah Flash (22-19)
Erie coming in: The BayHawks have won four straight and have scored at least 100 point in every game this month. In the month of March, the trio of John Bryant, Mike Gansey, and Blake Ahearn have combined to average 71.2 points per game. The BayHawks still have very slim playoff hopes. They are 5.5 games out of the eight seed with just eight games to play, meaning they basically have to run the table and hope the teams ahead of them stumble down the stretch. A win over eighth-place Utah is essential if those flickering hopes are going to stay alive.
Utah coming in: The Flash are 3-2 in March, going W-L-W-L-W. Their most recent game was a 115-109 overtime win on the road against the Reno Bighorns. Jazz assignee Kosta Koufos led the way with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks, and Gabe Pruitt added 20 points off the bench. The Flash are 10-10 at home this season.
BayHawks keys to success:
- Combatting Kosta Koufous
Barring any news that he gets recalled by the Jazz, Kosta Koufous will present an interesting matchup for the BayHawks. The 7-footer has averaged 20.7 points and 11.7 rebounds in three D-League appearances this season. Erie's best bet may be to try to punish him when he's on defense with their behemoth frontline combo of John Bryant and Michael Sweetney, which had some effectiveness Saturday against Idaho. The question will come at the other end if Bryant or Sweetney can defend Koufous. Jarvis Gunter and Kyle Goldcamp are the smaller but quicker options for defending Koufous. Whoever draws the assignment will play a key role for Erie tonight.
- Attacking early
It's easy to fall in love with the 3-ball, especially when it has been working in your favor as it has for the BayHawks the last few months. But without Cedric Jackson and on the last game of a road trip, the team needs to be extra careful not to rely on outside shooting alone, especially early on in this one. A few missed shots and that's a recipe for digging an early hole that they don't have the energy to climb out of. Minus Jackson, Jackie Manuel is probably the best player Erie has to drive and create off the dribble, but Mike Gansey and Blake Ahearn are also capable of setting up plays for their teammates as is backup point guard Cliff Clinkscales.
- Avoiding the last game letdown
By winning the first two games of this roadtrip on back-to-back nights, the BayHawks could simply call this trip a success and pack it in. No one expected them to sweep the three games anyway. Hopefully, that will not be the case. They have the chance to extend their winning streak to five, which would be the best they've done all season. Now is not the time to let up, not with an extended homestand (Erie plays its next six games at home) on the horizon. The last game of road trip is one of those extra-gear games where the standard effort won't be sufficient.