Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Crap. Crusaders Curb Stomp Crimson, Valpo 68 Bama 60

Sloppy.  Unforced turnovers.  Missed dunks.  Missed layups.  Poor free throw shooting.  Add all of those up, and you get a loss to an inferior team.
View from my seat

No disrespect to Valpo.  They had the best player on the court, and he stepped up and made the big plays when needed, and got just enough help from his friends, but we were overall a bigger, stronger, deeper, more athletic team, and we crapped the bed in this one.

It was the first time we really faced a zone defense for the entire game, and it really seemed to frustrate our offense.  We had limited success attacking the middle against the 2-1-2, but seemed content to jack up 3s against the 2-3.  We went 6 of 21 from outside.  Davis in particular threw up some awful shots going 0 for 5.

The Mandelay Bay Elephants were not a good luck charm
Once again, when the pace of the game was up tempo, we were able to go on runs.  Bama held a brief lead in both halves after getting in transition after turnovers.  Unfortunately, Valpo generally did a good job of getting back on defense to get set and taking the air out of the ball on offense.

The only real bright spot I see in this game is Donta Hall played well with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Norris and Collins also added 10.  Braxton Key had 8 points but really should have ended up with more.  He made several nice moves to get to the basket but failed to finish.  Hale didn't score.  He turned the ball over early and seemed disinterested most of the rest of the game.  There were a few moments in the game when I thought he had a chance to step up and provide some senior leadership, but that didn't happen.  I said his freshman year that I thought he had borderline NBA potential, and I still believe he is that talented, but unfortunately he is wasting his skills.

There was a scary moment in the second half, after Donta Hall missed a dunk resulting in a mad scramble for the rebound, Dazon went down with an apparent arm or shoulder injury.  He was checked out in the locker room but was able to return to the game and appeared to be fine.

Overall, I did not think the officiating was that bad.   There were a handful of missed calls each way, but that happens in every game.  The technical foul on Coach Johnson, however, was egregious, and it more or less put the game out of reach.  Rewind to the first half, fairly early in the game when we were on offense at the other end, one of the officials blew the whistle to issue an official warning to Coach Johnson who, as usual, was way out of his coach's box near halfcourt.  Fair enough, but given where the official was positioned and what was going on at the time, he probably shouldn't have even seen Coach standing near halfcourt.  The official who gave the warning was at the center position table side, meaning he would have been right in front of our bench on Valpo's next possession.  I would have handled that by simply saying, "Coach, I need you to mind your box" on the next trip.  Perhaps he had already given him the informal warning, in which case I have less of a problem with it.  If he didn't get that official warning in the first half, who knows if he still gets nailed with the "T" in the second half.

Anyway, we were trailing by 4, and neither team had scored in the last couple of minutes with about 5 minutes to go in the game.  Riley drove to the basket and there was a collision in the lane.  It appeared to be a blocking foul to everyone in the gym except for the official who had primary coverage in that area.  Maybe his view was blocked, maybe he just missed it, it happens.  It was a train-wreck of a play, and there MUST be a whistle in that situation.  Donta Hall was called for a legitimate but much less contact foul at the other end, sending Valpo to the line.  Now, it's a fairly large arena with excellent acoustics, but a small crowd, which meant you could hear EVERYTHING anyone yelled, including players and coaches.   While they were shooting free throws, the official who blew the blocking call was at the trail position closest to the table.  Avery, standing in his box but MAYBE one foot or so over the line onto the floor yells "C'mon man, that was a block!"  The ref just gave him a dismissive look and turned away, so he repeated it again, a little louder, "THAT WAS A BLOCK!"  The ref called a technical, they made all 4 free throws sparking a run to stretch their lead to 9, and that was that.  Again, Coach Johnson was more or less in his box, did not use profanity, did not "show up" the ref, and did not say anything personally offensive.  Furthermore, he had a legitimate beef and given the situation (close game, final 5 minutes) should have been given more slack there, in my opinion.
Obligatory Strip Shot

We didn't play well enough to deserve to win the game, and probably wouldn't have anyway, but that sequence of events really made it an uphill battle that was too much to overcome.

The arena, located within the MGM grand casino, is very nice, although it did have a bit of an odd feel with the curtains blocking the upper sections and most of the concession stands closed.  The two they had open were more than enough for the sparse crowd.  I caught the end of BYU-St. Louis and BYU has by far the most fans here.  It's really hard to estimate attendance because I have no idea what the capacity of the lower level is, but I would guess there were only about 1,400 or so there.  I would guess we had about 300 fans to Valpo's 150.  There were quite a few annoying St. Louis sitting around me in the first half openly cheering for Valpo and against us, thankfully they left at halftime.  As I said above, you could hear EVERYTHING, including a Valpo fan yelling "he lowered his shoulder" after they fouled Corban during the final moments of our comeback attempt.  In probably not my greatest moment I yelled back across the gym, "They spotted you 6 points to give you this lead in the first place so shut it!"  One complaint I have is the lack of statistical information available.  There are 4 screens in the corners that give individual stats and the totals, but nowhere to find shooting percentages, turnovers, etc.  Also, in the second half, since the boards display game totals, team fouls is not displayed.

I have doubts about this tournament's long term viability.  Outside of a small on one of the entrances to the casino, I've seen virtually nothing promoting it.  The lack of television coverage and the ridiculously late starts for the biggest games is really limiting the audience.  The PA guy struggled at times, at one point he announced a bucket for Jimmie Taylor that was actually scored by Nick King, and his mic cut out several times.  All of the halftime and media timeout "entertainment" consisted of various shooting competitions between random fans.  Other than the great venue and setting, the whole production seemed sort of second rate.

Up next, the consolation game against St. Louis, that really isn't much of a consolation.  The real loss in last night's game is that instead of playing a very good BYU team that would give our RPI a boost even in a loss, we're playing a team that lost to Ball State at home by 20.  The Billikens, much like the MLB franchise that infests their cesspool of a city, are garbage.  Tip off is set for 6:30pm Pacific, 8:30 Central Wednesday night.  No TV again, but you can watch it on youtube.

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