Okay, I'll admit that I was probably overreacting a little bit yesterday. Was that loss bad? Yes. Was it the end of the world (and season)? Absolutely not. There are definitely some positives to take away from that performance (although certainly more negatives) but now that I've looked back and actually examined WHO we've been playing, it doesn't hurt as much.
Losing 5 of our last 7 is certainly not the way you want to go into the tournament. But outside of UConn, we've lost to some pretty good teams, and all will be going dancing on Sunday. My main concern, is that this team has lost it's edge. Or it's flair. Or whatever you want to call it.
And that, is troubling.
More after the jump...
Because I was lambasted for my negative nancy attitude (rightfully so) by my 'Nova bretheren yesterday, I'm going to get the negatives out of the way first, and finish on a positive note. Maybe that generates a little momentum from this blog heading into Selection Sunday. Maybe it doesn't. But at the end of the day it makes me feel better daggummit!
Reggie Redding was not playing well yesterday. He went 1-9 from the field. He played atrocious defense. He played the exact opposite of how he played late in 2009 (what the heck was that spinning, out-of-control shot in crunch time?), when we all lauded him for his game. Yet, he played 38 minutes. I don't remember us being in the kind of foul trouble that would warrant such playing time, and looking at the box score I can confirm it. Nobody fouled out and Fisher was the only one who reached 4 fouls. Why was he out there so much? Beats me. We'll get to that in a second.
Scottie Reynolds was clearly flustered by the defense of David Cubillan. Credit him, he was in Scottie's face all afternoon long. The Scottie surge in the 2nd half we're used to never came. Tough to win when your best player has a game like that.
The defense in general was awful. Darius Johnson-Odom (and for that matter everyone else on Marquette) continued to drain 3 after 3. Yet we let them keep shooting them. GET UP IN THEIR FACE AND MAKE THEM BEAT YOU ANOTHER WAY. I found myself yelling that a few times yesterday.
And finally, Jay Wright. I already covered the Redding playing time issue. I get you are loyal to your guys. I get he's a senior. But he was playing one of the worst games (on both ends of the floor) of his career. Sometimes, you just can't be so stubborn. And what about Mouphtaou Yarou? Has the kid not done enough to warrant some serious PT? He's a monster out there. We played great fighting back with him in the 1st half. Then we barely see him after the break. I love you Coach, but you clearly were making wrong player decisions yesterday. Whatever though, Coach thinks we're getting better?
But as I said, there was some good to come out of this. Yesterday I said that the Corey's were not ready to lead this team. I think I was wrong, partly.
Corey Stokes had the best game of his career. The sniper is back. He was 9 for his last 15 trey balls entering that game. He was 6-7 at the close. His only fault was not demanding the ball down the stretch. He's quiet by nature. That needs to change, but you've got to LOVE what you are seeing out of Strokes lately. Looks like he is FINALLY ready to step to the forefront of this team.
Corey Fisher was brutal on free throws, but he was phenomenal everywhere else. 16 points and 6 assists and he looked like he really wanted the rock down the stretch. So glad we (hopefully) have him for one more year. I love his game and his attitude. He plays fired up at all times.
I yelled at Jay for not playing Mouph, but I've got to give Mouph credit for the time he was on the floor. His perimeter D is still shaky (he's just a freshman who missed half the season though) but he has some serious tools. I love the way he rebounds. None of this tipping it around BS. He goes up and gets it, and one he touches it, it is his and nobody elses. I can't remember the last time I saw a 'Nova player rebound like that. And how about that full-court sprint block from behind? I nearly wet myself.
Maalik Wayns, save some careless turnovers, was great in the 1st half. And again, we didn't see him much in the 2nd. I've been harsh on Maalik in the last month (he clearly hit the freshman wall), but I liked what I saw out of him. He had that spring in his step that he had early in the season.
So, I'm ready for The Dance. A couple things have me with a positive attitude heading into Sunday:
- We're leaving the BIG EAST. I love it. You love it. But Thank God we're outta there. It was BRUTAL. But we're better off because of it. I feel bad for the ACC. I feel bad for the Big Ten. I feel REALLY bad for the Pac-10, whose tournament champion might not even be allowed in because they are that pathetic.
- The attitude of the players in the above-linked articles is the right attitude. It doesn't sound like anyone is down and beaten. It sounds like they are ready to kick some ass:
"There's no confidence issue," said junior Corey Stokes, who led the Wildcats with 22 points. "Even though we have a lot of young guys, everybody has a lot of confidence. We're not going to get down on ourselves. We're just going to come to practice and work even harder."
THAT is the attitude that the 2009 team had. No excuses, just work harder. I want to see that again when we start dancing next week.