A number of little mistakes add up to another loss. Torrance was back in the starting lineup over Tony Mitchell after coming off the bench the last couple of weeks. He responded by scoring 8 of our first 10 points and carrying the team offensively through much of the first half. $tate has some talent, Varnardo now holds the all time record for blocks in his career and Bost is a quick guard who can shoot the lights out and carry a team. They have weapons both inside and out, but they are not a very well coached team. JaMychal Green picked up 2 early fouls and sat on the bench for most of the first half. One would think $tansbury would try to establish their inside presence with him out of the game, but their shot selection was awful. They seemed content to chuck NBA range 3's while we mostly played a matchup 2-3 zone. This allowed us to go into the half only down 2.
According to the box score, we outrebounded them, but I have no idea how. At one point in the first half M$U got 9, NINE! shots in 2 trips. They got 3 shots on their last possession of the half which lasted well over a minute. We've got to do a better job of rebounding out of the zone. We put Coach Grant in the position of having to make a very tough decision: If we stay in zone we can't get a rebound, but if we switch to man they likely get better first shots as the matchups generally favored them. For the most part, we stayed in the zone. I liked the defensive call out of the timeout at the end of the half. $tate had the ball for the last shot, and we showed a 2-3 zone but switched to man with about 10-15 seconds left. $tate had already called their play to attack the zone, and appeared to be surprised by the switch. It worked as they had to take a contested shot and missed. That was good coaching.
We made too many little mistakes to win this game. Brock got the ball stolen from him 2 or 3 times with ease. Once again free throw shooting was subpar, with the usually reliable Torrance missing a couple of badly needed ones in the second half. Tony Mitchell immediately jumped into the air after a rebound in the back court and had no idea where he was going with it, and ended up throwing it right back to $tate. I've said many times this year that I think Knox should get more playing time over Hines, but every time I think that a game like this happens. We really needed Knox to step up with Green on the bench, and he looked every bit as inept as Hines on offense but without the solid defense and rebounding. We continued to try to go inside after it became painfully obvious that 1) we weren't going to be able to shoot over Varnardo and 2) the refs were not going to call a foul on him regardless of whether we drew contact. We shot nearly 50% from 3 ponit range, and some point we should have just started letting them fly from downtown.
Despite all of this and falling down 10, we were able to create some turnovers and easy baskets off the press, along with some big shots from Hillman and Torrance, we were able to cut $tate's 10 point lead down to 2 with less than 3 minutes to play. We played good enough defense to get stops, but $tate made three 3's, 2 of which were from 30 feet or so. At some point our luck has got to change.
As much as I gripe about ESPN, CSS's coverage was awful. We missed the first minute or so because they would not switch over from the Florida-Vandy women's game which had already been decided, and then they had to show about 30 seconds or so of highlights, plus commercials, after the conclusion of that snoozefest before flipping over. Also, I feel like I missed half of the second half because the cameras were too busy focusing on camouflage wearing rednecks and the fat, hideous creatures that pass for women over there with their various "clever" Varnardo block party signs rather than showing the actual action on the court. The announcers did a fairly good job though, with the exception of not knowing the rule on the time limit to replace a disqualified player. They criticized Coach Grant for immediately replacing Green when he fouled out saying, "he could have used his 60 seconds there to ice the free throw shooter." Actually, you only get 20 seconds to replace a disqualified player, and I didn't have a problem with keeping the game moving there, sometimes I think "icing" a shooter actually helps him. Anyway, I generally enjoyed listening to Will Perdue.
At 4-9 in the conference, we now probably need to win out to make the NIT or make a deep run in Nashville. With Ole Miss' win over auburn, it's going to be difficult for us to climb out of that 4th spot or drop down to 5th in the West, which means Kentucky in the 2nd round if we win on Thursday. In other words, you can pretty much forget a deep run in Nashville, so we need to win out. Up next, once again we face the leaders of the SEC West, this time in the form of the Ole Miss Rebels. Tip-off is set for 1pm Saturday in Tuscaloosa. This team has proven they will continue to compete and play hard, so let's not give up on them yet.