In a game where Bama showed improved focus and effort, especially on the defensive end of the court, two of our stars threw the game away just as crunch time was beginning to arrive. Riley and Gee both made very bad passes with the game on the line resulting in easy baskets for the Rebels. Gee has been prone to make bad passes into the lane all season. Riley has not developed the habit of making lazy passes. Unfortunately both of them got lulled to sleep when they should have been focused on continuing to do all the little things necessary to win the game.
Another very avoidable mistake that I place on the entire team is that they allowed the trap to force two turnovers just as Ole Miss was beginning to make their run. They should be coached to look for that and to come back to give the trapped player help. A championship caliber team simply does not play like that, especially with the game on the line with a cornered animal for an opponent.
I don't know what the numbers will tell us when Bobby posts them, but these are the positive things I saw in the game. Gottfried benched his entire starting five when they were not playing defense the way they should. The second biggest positive is that the starters responded favorably to being benched while the second line players more than held their own. Almost everyone on the team played defense with better concentration and effort. All the regular players contributed in big ways.
Offensively the team continues to struggle. In fairness, Gee, Hollinger and company are continuing to make freshman and sophomore mistakes. We simply cannot afford for them to do that, especially on the offensive end of the court. Gee needs to work on his fundamental mechanics during the off season. I don't think there is any way to improve them at this stage of the season. If they are going to work hard on defense they don't need to rest on offense. Lack of movement away from the ball was a continuing problem.
Like the coach, I saw a good deal of improvement today. Unlike the coach, I think we should have seen that immediately after the Notre Dame loss. With Davidson at less that full strength (but apparently beginning to improve again from the concentration angle) and Steele suffering from whatever continues to hinder him, we simply are not going to be a very good team if all we have left are freshmen and sophomores. Sure Hollinger and Gee have played tons of minutes, but they continue to make mistakes.
I am at the point where it is impossible for this team to come close to meeting my expectations for them. I think I have to accept that we have a team full of underclassmen who are going to continue to play like underclassmen and our three upperclassmen simply are not going to be able to carry them. Given those assumptions, there is no reason for us to have expected to beat a well-coached Ole Miss team on its home court (regardless of the horrendous no-call on Hendrix rebound which led to a third possession that produced a three point shot for Ole Miss).
We are not a physically superior team to them. We are not as experienced. We are not as well coached or as mentally tough. But we are improving in those last two areas. I wonder where all that was during the month of January.
Perhaps CMG has a secret plan for peaking in March this year sort of like Richard Nixon's secret plan to end the war in Vietnam? Henry Kissinger, where are you?