At halftime, I said to a room full of friends gathered around my big flatscreen TV hanging on the wall tuned to CBS in HD, “Considering how badly we played in that first half, you gotta like the fact that we’re tied right now.”
Let’s face it, we came out less than stellar last night. But our defense was relentless, and that’s going to win you games like these. When your shooters can’t shoot. When your bigs are neutralized. When the other team – who’s NOT a good 3-point shooting team – is hitting miracle bombs from downtown with hands all up in their faces.
I’d say going into halftime 28-28 was perfect. Because you knew we HAD to play better in the second half.
The stat of the game that stands out right off the bat is bench scoring: we had a 28-0 advantage. ZERO. Granted, they had two guys only play a minute apiece, another played 3 minutes and a fourth player logged 8 minutes (with a lone forward in there for 20 due to the starting forward’s foul trouble), but they only took 1 shot combined, and missed both free throws attempted. That’s putting too much damn pressure on your starting five, and you could clearly see at the end they were gassed. I had no idea they play basically a 6-man rotation; had I known that I would’ve been much more confident.
Of course, one reason for my pause is our streaky long-range shooting. Last night was one of the bad ones: 4 for 18 from behind the arc. Leading the way was the trifecta of 0 for 2’s by IT, Holiday, and Ross. Wilcox only netted 1 for 4 and Gant and Overton combined to go 1 for 3. Suggs was our only source of comfort there, making 2 of 5. It’s good to be healthy, because I’ve said it all year long: we’re bound to always have at least ONE of our shooters show up to play. Last night it was Suggs. Hopefully, with all the butterflies out of the way after this first tournament game, some of the other guys will step up tomorrow. We’re going to need every last basket we can get against North Carolina.
I’ve already bitched all I’m going to bitch about our matchup with UNC in Charlotte, but here’s something new I can complain about: 9:15am??? You have absolutely GOT to be shitting me! We play the night game on Friday, then we have to turn around and play the very first game on Sunday? What are these NCAA Fucks trying to do to us?
Before I go stew for the day on how much my bracket sucks, I have to point out IT’s game. He didn’t have his 3-point shot falling, but he still wreaked havoc in the paint. 19 points on 6 for 14 shooting (including 7 for 7 from the free throw line), 7 assists and 2 steals. He’s our rock, and he’s going to be the reason we get back to the Sweet 16.