Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tide's Three Musketeers Come Up Short, Minnesota 89 Alabama 84.

Well, that was unusual.  The big story everyone wants to talk about is the fight, but I'm going to start at the beginning to set the background that led up to it.

Once again we started the game slow, allowing the Gophers to knock down some open 3s and build a substantial early lead.  Minnesota took a 13-2 lead and eventually stretched their lead to 17 in the first half.  We couldn't stop Jordan Murphy, and frankly I thought we were just overmatched, and maybe not quite ready to compete with a veteran top 15 team.

With about 4 minutes left in the first half, after Murphy went over the back to get an offensive rebound the officials called him for a foul...then conferred and decided the foul was actually on Riley Norris.  Understandably, this set Coach Johnson off, and he was called for the first of what would be many technicals on the night.  Nevertheless, we finished the half strong and cut the lead to 12 going into halftime.
My view for the first half
Nate Mason made a couple of 3s to stretch the lead back to 18 early in the second half and it looked like game over.  He was also talking a lot of smack to Collin, but I have no doubt Collin was giving as much as he was getting.  The officials let this go on for way too long, in my opinion, before finally calling a double technical with about 14 minutes left.  Mason and Pitino vehemently argued the call, earning additional technicals and thus the ejection of Mason from the team.  So now we get 4 free throws and the ball and a little momentum.  Collin makes 3 of 4, Riley nails a 3, and all of a sudden we have a 7 point game.

I think Minnesota felt they were screwed in that situation and were looking to get back at us ,and unfortunately we took the bait.  A couple of minutes later Ingram and Dupree got tangled up, Dupree bowed up on Ingram right in front of the Bama bench, and players from both sides rushed in to support their teammates.  The problem is, all the Minnesota players were already in the game, but our entire bench ran onto the floor.  The coaches did the best they could to grab everybody and yell "get back," but in this day of instant replay, it was too late.  If the same situation happens at the other end of the floor, I'm likely writing a much different recap right now.  To be clear, I don't think any of our guys threw a punch, in fact I didn't even see any contact other than the initial pushing and shoving, so I don't think we are looking at a situation where there will be suspensions.  After reviewing the monitor, the entire bench was ejected, so now we are looking at a 9 point deficit and playing iron man basketball for the final 13 minutes with Collin, Petty, Norris, Dazon, and Galin.  With the technical, Dazon was playing with 4 fouls and Minnesota wisely went right at him and promptly got him fouled out of the game.  So now it's 4 on 5, and there's still 12 minutes left.

Also, a segment of the Minnesota fans were really riding Collin most of the night, trying to get under his skin.  I was a little perturbed that after the fight, given all the Gopher fans were saying to Sexton and the officials, they met with security who then walked over and had a fairly lengthy conversation with our first lady, Cassandra Johnson.  She wasn't ejected and I don't know what was said, and in fairness she was sitting court side and she's known for getting a bit passionate during the games, but I felt it was nothing more than a jerk move to irritate Coach, knowing he already had one technical foul and certainly couldn't do anything under the circumstances.

You all know what happened next.  For all that happened in this game, the Petty injury is the biggest story in my mind.  It looked bad, and while he tweeted later "im be aight," he's going for an MRI today.  He wasn't able to put weight on it leaving the court, and I'll be surprised if we see him again before SEC play begins.  With our brutal schedule coming up, losing an NBA level talented player is really going to sting.

Back to the game, so now we are down by 13 and we're going to have to play the last 10 and a half minutes with just Collin, Riley, and Galin.  Defensively, playing 3 on 5, you pretty much have to concede any jump shot beyond 15 feet.  There is no way to guard the perimeter.  We ran a triangle to protect the basket, think of a triangle + 2 but without the 2.
My view for the second half.  I moved to get away from some obnoxious Minnesota fans and try to change up the mojo.

What transpired next was simply ridiculous.  First of all, it was one of the worst coaching jobs I've ever seen by Pitino.  I'm not sure what the hell he was thinking.  As I said, we couldn't defend the perimeter, but for some reason they would pass the ball around and still run the shot clock down to 10 seconds or so trying to decide who would take the wide open jump shot.  Limiting the number of possessions in the game played to our advantage at that point.  Furthermore, they allowed Collin to just walk the ball up the court and didn't really start defending till he got within 35 feet or so of the basket in the front court.  To me, it seems a no-brainer that you press in that situation, make us work to get the ball across half court, being able to double team and trap two thirds of our team, would have likely resulted in a lot of turnovers and a big run.  But for whatever reason, perhaps they just underestimated Collin's ability, they left the door open.

Our guys didn't throw in the towel.  Collin seemed even more motivated to prove he could literally win the game by himself, and he almost did exactly that.  He ended up with 40 points, and made some ridiculously long 3s, but he didn't just settle for jacking it up, he was still able to get to the basket and when he drew a THIRD defender, he could find an open Riley Norris who also played well.  Galin did all he could defending the basket and got some huge rebounds.  Minnesota didn't shoot as well as you would think, sometimes being too open will throw a shooter off a bit, and I think they got a bit nervous as the lead started to dwindle.  A win with 3 players after a 13 point deficit in the final 10 minutes would have been legendary, and we had the ball down only 3 with about a minute and a half remaining.  Unfortunately, the shot didn't fall, and the Gophers survived with a 5 point win.

It oddly almost felt like a win after the game, the way we played with only 3 guys.  Our contingent of fans were very enthusiastic as the team left the floor, and Coach saluted us and yelled "Roll Tide!" as they went to the locker room. 

If they really paid $1 Billion to build the Barclay's Center, somebody got ripped off.  Don't get me wrong, it's nice, but it's not even close to being as nice as Madison Square Garden (and this is coming from an avid Knick-hater).  The seats are really low to the ground; I felt like I was squatting more so than sitting.  I'm only 5'11, my knees should not be above my ass when I'm sitting in a stadium seat. The TV screen was nice though they didn't even use it to show replays of the fight, or many replays at all for that matter.  It's also hard to believe an NBA arena would not have a board for individual or team stats, but I suspect that may have been behind the auburnish curtain blocking the upper level.  The game was only attended by about 2,000 or so, 80% of which were Minnesota fans. The Wifi service did work great there, as I was able to stream the iron bowl without any issues (other than the garbage game our football team played).  I was disappointed with the way a few of the Gopher fans acted.  Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities during the summer time, it's beautiful and the people are exceptionally welcoming and friendly, but they had a small contingent of fans who seemed more interested in trying to antagonize our guys as opposed to supporting their own team.  They also started lame "au-burn" chants.  One guy asked me at halftime as I was on the way to the bathroom, "shouldn't you be watching the football game?"  I replied, "no, but don't you have a hockey game to go to somewhere?"

Up next, La Tech comes in for a 7pm tipoff Wednesday night back home in Tuscaloosa.  It will be streamed on SEC Network +.  The Bulldogs are undefeated and one of the top teams in their conference, so it will be another tough test for our guys.

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