Blue Coats fall to Cruise in Mac McClung’s return to the G-League

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Coming into Wednesday night’s matchup with the Motor City Cruise, the Delaware Blue Coats were second in the G-League standings with a record of 13-5 in the Eastern Conference. Before tipoff, an energized crowd of almost 1,700 filtered in, hoping to see Mac McClung after his spectacular dunk contest victory in Utah. 

Blue Coats vs Cruise recap

The new dunk champion started off slowly, missing his first few shots, but he did find other ways to contribute. McClung had three early assists to get his teammates several baskets. If there was a consistent Blue Coats scorer in the first quarter, it was Louis King. The 6-foot-7 forward from Oregon put on an impressive shooting display, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.

The Motor City Cruise had a sharp-shooter of their own who torched Blue Coat defenders whenever he touched the ball. Buddy Boeheim, son of the Hall of Fame college coach, Jim Boeheim, was lethal from the 3-point line. The 6-foot-6 forward from Syracuse had 18 points after one quarter, doing most of his damage from the perimeter.

The Blue Coats missed opportunities to get easy baskets in the first half, committing several turnovers in transition. They did control the boards, pulling down 28 rebounds compared to just 20 for the Cruise. Two Blue Coats players with a strong inside presence were Michael Foster, Jr. and Justin Smith. Despite a quiet first quarter, both players established position in the post and scored down low. One dunk from Foster Jr. rocked the rim and electrified the Chase Fieldhouse arena.

From the start, the Cruise moved the ball with precision, finding open shots for cutters. Their guards drove the lane and kicked out to open shooters. Point guard, ShawnDre Jones, orchestrated Motor City’s offense all night, racking up nine assists.

Jaden Springer, who has played minutes this year for the 76ers, was aggressive on offense and defense against Motor City. Although he had a slow start, he was assertive driving the lane and pulling up from three. A few offensive miscues for Springer were countered by solid defense, staying in front of the opposition and causing turnovers. Though it was not his best shooting night, he was not hesitant to launch 3-pointers. He ended up with 14 points, four steals and a block.

McClung, who went scoreless in the first half, scored his first basket in the third quarter on a spot up 3-pointer. Mostly a playmaker in this game, he did score in transition for an easy basket. Afterwards, Delaware’s coach, Coby Karl, admitted that McClung came into the game on tired legs from the All-Star game festivities.

“He put in a lot of work. I think mentally, just as much physically. It’s hard to come off emotional events and play with the same energy he usually plays with.”

Second half gambles fail to pay off for the Blue Coats

Tempers got the best of players in the third, where a double technical foul was called on Jaylen Johnson and Louis King. After things settled down, competition returned to normal. However, at the 9:07 mark in the fourth quarter, King was ejected after being assessed another technical foul. 

In the second half, the Blue Coats seemed to take control. In a game that had 16 lead changes though, the Cruise chipped away at Delaware’s lead. 

Only up six points, Delaware tightened their defense, hugging the 3-point line. Springer locked down Shawndre Jones on one play, drawing an offensive foul that was determined to be a flagrant. Jones became the second player to get ejected. Springer then made a key steal and scored on the fastbreak.

On one play, Delaware had a 2-on-1 advantage in transition with Michael Foster Jr. leading the break. He had McClung on the wing looking for the lob, but Foster Jr. elected to drive in himself and draw the foul. On a subsequent play, McClung found Jared Brownridge for an open three to increase the lead to seven points.

The Cruise refused to let up, knocking down late 3-pointers to close the lead to a point, approaching the two minute mark. Some miscommunication and gambles on defense for Delaware led to a lead change. A Jared Rhoden dunk pushed Motor City’s lead to three points.

Brownridge had a clean look for a 3-pointer to tie the game, but he missed. The Cruise grabbed the rebound and Jaylen Johnson made both of his free throws to secure the win. 

Mac McClung is hungry to make the NBA

As far as McClung on his subpar game, he admitted, “I really struggled tonight. But that’s life. It’s all about the bounce back and see as a team if we can come back and get a win Friday.”

When asked about his desire to play in the NBA, he shared, “I do want to be in the NBA. I want to make an impact. I’m just waiting for my turn. When I have that turn, I believe I will make the most of it.”

In the loss, Delaware did have balanced scoring with seven players in double figures. Braxton Key secured 12 boards to lead his team in rebounds. Delaware did cause Motor City to commit 21 turnovers, but the Blue Coats did not have an answer for the Cruise shooters. They knocked down 17 shots beyond the arc compared to 12 for Delaware.

The Blue Coats’ next game is this Friday, February 24th, in a rematch against the Motor City Cruise at 7PM ET.

Photo Credit: Tyrese Williams