Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Turtles top Tide, 58-57
I blame this loss completely on my girlfriend. She missed 2 home games this year, this game and the Tulane game. Clearly, we can't win at Coleman without her.
In many ways this game was a microcosm of our season. Inexcusable mistakes, followed by stretches of good enough play to get our hopes up, but never quite enough to get over the hump before finally ending in disappointment.
Overall, I thought the physical effort from our team was outstanding, with the exception of a couple of lazy passes, everyone played hard from tip to finish. There was no lack of hustle, but for some reason there seemed to be a glaring lack of mental focus. The two obvious examples are Rodney Cooper running the baseline against the Maryland press on an in-bound following a charge call, and Moose's lane violation when he decided to leave his block after Levi was given the ball to shoot a free throw. As some of you know, I officiate high school basketball. I might see one middle school or 9th grade player per year, at most, make the mistake of running the baseline on a throw-in. Of course you see a few lane violations, but very few of that particular variety. You almost never see either of those at the varsity high school level. To have those two mistakes, in a Division 1 game...in the SAME game by the SAME team, is completely inexcusable.
Beyond that, we also made very poor decisions with the ball. I was shocked to look at the box score and see we only had 14 turnovers. It seemed like twice as many, I guess because so many of them were unforced and/or at very bad times. Our entry passes into the post were horrible. When we weren't telegraphing, we were attempting bounce passes at Nick Jacobs and Moussa Gueye's feet.
We could not match up with them man to man early in the game. It's easy to see how they were able to get some of their impressive wins. Alex Len is an outstanding ball player in the post, and he opens things up for the rest of their team. They jumped out to an early 10-5 lead on us in the first couple of minutes, , but we were able to get back into the game after switching to a zone defense that caused them a lot of problems. Neither of our centers were able to do much with Len when he got the ball in the low post, but the zone allowed us to either deny him the ball or force him away from the basket.
After going on a run to briefly take the lead, Maryland came back to recapture the lead with about 8 minutes to go in the first half and would not relingquish it for the rest of the game. I thought we stuck with Moose for too long in the first half after he picked up his 2nd foul. He was playing tentative on defense and Maryland took it to him 2 or 3 possessions in a row.
After falling behind by 10 in the second half, I thought we did a good job of continuing to battle back every time it looked like the Terps might be able to blow it open. Unfortunately, it seemed like every time we got some momentum and cut the lead to 4 or 6, we would make a boneheaded mistake (see discussion above) and the deficit would increase back to 6 or 8.
We seemed to have the same game plan focusing on the dribble drive that was successful against Stanford. The problem is that Len is much taller and a much better defender than Powell. Our guards and forwards were either getting rejected or having to attempt very difficult acrobatic shots around the rim.
When Len finally picked up his 4th foul and had to go to the bench, I thought we had a great opportunity to seize control of the game. We were on the verge of doing so, having cut the lead to 1, when Maryland went on a 9-2 run by making 3 straight three pointers. With Len out of the game, we probably could have extended our defense more on the perimeter, but statistically the guys who made those shots were not great shooters and had not been shooting the ball well that night up to that point. Give Maryland credit for making the plays they needed to down the stretch in a tough environment.
Our guys continued to battle, Cooper answered with an and 1 at the other end and we forced some turnovers to give ourselves a chance to win. We had the ball, down 1 with 19 seconds left, and used our last timeout to draw up a play. Maryland did a nice job defensively switching on every screen and not allowing Releford to advantage of the high ball screen as designed. He passed to Cooper, who made a move to the basket, but was rejected, leaving us with only 3 seconds to play. Incidentally, with 3 seconds remaining in the first half, coming out of a timeout, Retin could not get the ball in bounds and burned another of our timeouts. Given the low liklihood of scoring in that situation, I would rather put the ball up for grabs than waste a timeout on that possession. It would have been nice to have one more T.O. to use with 3 seconds left in the game after Cooper got blocked. Nevertheless, I thought the team and Coach Grant showed good composure, and Lacey used a head fake to get a very good look from about 16 feet that just wouldn't fall.
Individually, I thought Levi and Cooper had excellent games. Releford had a very strong second half, and Nick Jacobs played well considering what he was up against. Levi was even briefly matched up on Len when we went with our smaller lineup, using Levi to front him and deny him the ball. That worked for a couple of possessions until they figured out they could just throw over the top and Pollard wouldn't be able to do much from the other side. Retin seemed to regress after playing very well the last few games. He was out of control and made some very poor decisions with the ball leading to turnovers. Gueye was horrible, as his height was obviously not an advantage against Len, thus the reason he only played 12 minutes.
The crowd was fantastic. I would guess there was close to 10,000 there, and they were very loud and into the game, even when Maryland had a 10 point lead. My only complaint was it was not our most knowledgeable crowd, a lot of people booed the officials after our boneheaded throw-in violation not realizing what had occurred, and I had to tell some people sitting a few rows behind me to stop yelling while we were attempting free throws. Still, having to tell people sitting near the court NOT to make noise was a refreshing change. We've discussed the problems with the Tide Totals and seating configuration here a lot, but another issue is ticket prices. To most people, it's not worth $20+ per game to sit way up in the corners of Coleman for an SEC game, but I think if we reduced prices for some of those "cheap seats," to the $10-$12 range, we could bring in some fairly nice crowds.
Up next, the off season. Even though this was a disappointing season in many ways, I am always a little sad when I realize I won't see a Bama basketball game for 7-8 months. I am going to decompress a bit, and hopefully by the end of the week I will make one last post analyzing the season and the state of the program before I retire to the wilderness of crappy baseball for the summer.