Sunday, February 14, 2010

Hillman Helps Harass Hogs, 73-68

The first half was brutal. We made poor decisions and lazy passes resulting in turnovers. We ran a full court man to man press for much of the first half, and Fortson was able to easily dribble around and past Brock creating fast break opportunities for the Razorbacks. Defensively, Arkansas completely took away Torrance's left side, forcing him to go right exclusively. It seemed to take him a while to adjust. We finally started making some shots and catching a few breaks to cut the 13 point lead down to 7, and had the ball with a chance to hold for the last shot of the 1st half. Once again, Torrance turned the ball over at a very bad time. Coach Grant should have used a timeout when he saw Torrance in trouble. In situations where you have the ball with less than 35 seconds remaining in the first half, or in a tie game at the end of a game, there is no excuse for being outscored over the remainder of the half, but it has now happened to us at least 3 times this year. So, we go into the half down 9, and Arkansas starts the 2nd half on a 4-0 run to get the lead right back to 13.

Given the way this year has gone, it would have been easy to throw in the towel against the Western Division front runners. Instead, the team kept scrapping and found a way to get back into the game. It helped that the Hogs were resting Fortson and his 3 fouls. While he can be somewhat of a ballhog, they are an infinitely better team when he is on the court. We were able to make a run with him out of the game, thanks in large part to Hillman getting things started with a 3 and Torrance creating some opportunities off the dribble. The press was much more effective with Fortson on the bench, and we were able to force some turnovers which created offense. Charvez Davis knocked down a 3 to finally tie the game, and JaMychael Green kept us going down the stretch, making big play after big play in the post. After going 1 for 5 at the FT line during a stretch in the first half, we made every one in clutch situations down the stretch. Green and Torrance were 16 of 17 combined from the free throw line. That is how you win close games!

Hopefully this game will give us confidence down the stretch. We did a much better job of communicating on defense in the second half, and Hillman kept Clarke pretty much shut down. Our bigs did a good job of containing their post players. Hines pulled down 7 rebounds, played great defense, and plays as hard as anybody on the court. Still, he looks awkward and ineffective offensively, and I would like to see Justin Knox get a little bit more playing time, as I think he gives us another scoring option when he's in the game.

It was a late arriving crowd of probably 9,000 or so. Not bad considering the previous day's snow probably made it difficult for some to travel from certain parts of the state. I was somewhat disappointed in the student turnout, but again, with classes cancelled on Friday, I would imagine many left town for the 3 day weekend and/or Mardi Gras festivities down in the French Quarter. Up Next, we get a week of rest before travelling to Athens, GA to take on the UGA Bulldogs at Stegeman Coliseum next Saturday, Feb. 20, at 3pm Central time. While UGA's record is not very impressive, much like us they have been very competitive and have some high quality wins under first year coach Mark Fox. Bobbyjack and I will be there representin'.


bobbyjack said...

What kills me is the roads started to thaw around 1PM EST... after we made the call not to go. Damn.

Looking forward to the UGA game... if for anything a return to their campus where the football team ruined their blackout.

Rocky Mountain High Tide said...

We need Hillman to keep playing well and become our consistent 3rd scorer. We miss his offensive output from last year. The scary thing about this team is that all 5 remaining games are winnable. I think we steal a win on the road and finish 3-2 down the stretch for 7-9 in the conference. I don't think that would get us into the NIT unless we made a run to the tourney finals though.

MSmilie said...

Rocky Mountain: Finish 3-2 and win a game in the conference tournament, Alabama would have a good shot at an NIT berth (obviously we would prefer they win the tournament, but for the sake of this discussion). As of today their RPI ranking is 96. The remaining teams on their schedule, with the exception of Auburn, all have higher RPI rankings. You have to figure Alabama's RPI would rise with a few victories over those teams. This might not result in a high NIT seed, but after the last few years I'll take what we can get.

DJC said...

Folks, we may be in better shape for the NIT than we realize. These folks have been pretty good at predicting the field in the past, and right now they have us as the last one in, and that was before the win over Arkansas.

We finish 7-9, and I think we get some sort of post season play. If not the NIT, at least the CBI or that other tournament that nobody watches.

MSmilie said...

DJC: I keep an eye on that site myself. The thing about that projection though is that it can't possibly predict which conference champions from one-bid conferences will lose in their tournaments. Those teams receive an automatic bid to the NIT. Last year five teams fell into this category. Hopefully Bama can win a few games down the stretch and improve their seeding in these projections. I would consider an NIT bid this season to be an accomplishment.

Regarding the CBI: Alabama was eligible for that tournament the last two years but didn't go. I think that decision had a lot to do with the fact that, correct me if I'm wrong, Gottfried received a bonus if he took the team to post season play of some kind. The athletic department obviously wasn't hip to shelling out more dollars to a guy who was continuing to underachieve. Last year Pearson took over and did an admirable job handling the team. He even had some fans saying he should be given the job. I think they were already working on Grant at that time and didn't want to take the chance that Pearson might guide that team through a tournament and improve his standing with the fans. Better to just end the season, hire the new coach and look to the future.

It will be interesting to see this year, should Alabama not make the NCAA or NIT tournaments, if the powers that be will allow Bama to play in something like the CBI for the sake of the coaches and the continued development of the program.

DJC said...

Mitchell, those reasons may very well have been a part of the decision to pass on the CBI last year, but I also heard that the CBI and College Insider tournaments actually require the teams to put up some $$ up front get in. For smaller schools, it's worth it to get the TV exposure, but I think we determined that we wouldn't sell enough tickets and there wouldn't be enough interest for it to be financially worthwhile.

Rocky Mountain High Tide said...

I live down the street from Colo St and they are having the best year in about a decade and their goal is to get to any post season tourey...NCAA, NIT, CBI or I would hope we'd take an invite to one of these 2 new tourneys if we miss the NIT just to get the extra practice time. I'll tell Mal we can schedule a game at CSU and I'll let the team stay at my house to keep costs down!

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Anonymous said...

CBI is a pay to play tourney. It would be worth the money now because we have a new coach.