Rough game. But before I get into specific criticisms of this game, let me take a moment to defend the team and certainly defend Al. Basketball is a lot about matchups and styles of play. As long as Paul Hewitt is at Tech and Skinner is at BC it will be a tough matchup for us. Hewitt recruits athletic kids, coaches a suffocating style of defense and substitutes like a hockey coach. They take risks on steals and clutch and grab on every play knowing that only so many fouls will be called. This same sort of approach has frustrated us in the past (for example Pitt under Howland and UW-Milwaukee). But Al is willing to bet (and I am too) that our defense will settle in, that we’ll eventually adjust and get some easy baskets and we’ll beat them at the foul line. It didn’t happen Sunday, but Al has my trust. Also, I’ve seen a lot of posts on the blogs and message boards talking about uninspired play or lack of effort. Maybe it came off differently on TV but in person these guys were trying. They didn’t play well, but it wasn’t really an effort issue. Things were sloppy, Tech certainly got to them, but the huddles were focused and the guys were communicating well. And finally we played Tech at the wrong time. They are peaking now and are always tough at home. All these folks who are coming down on this team are coming off as spoiled to me. Virginia and Virginia Tech both finished their seasons with bad losses. This is the ACC. Every game is tough. But Al has produced in two years in the conference and this year did it with very little talent. He lost his second best player in January, yet we still finished in the top four of the ACC. I am not proud of this loss, but I am proud of this team and this coach. I still think we can make a little run here, but if we don’t, so what? This team accomplished a lot despite numerous short comings and provided some very exciting moments. Here are my thoughts related to this game:
-- Spears showing signs of life. I was worried about Shamari, but he came to play. He still had some issue with his hands, but in general played well and was not afraid to shoot when everyone else seemed tentative.
-- Blair finishing. He has the ability and strength to close down a dunk. That might seem silly to get excited about, but his counterpart (Oates) does not have the same ability. Next season, Blair should be able to contribute 10 or so points in our offense.
-- Sean Marshall fighting to keep us in it. Some are getting on Marshall’s case. He ran the floor hard, handled more than he normally would or should and hit two big 3s when we were floundering. Of course we came up short, but he stepped up when we needed something.
-- Rice’s recklessness. Tech forces a lot of TOs but some of Rice problems were pure sloppyness or moments of panic. Plus he killed us by not getting shots off as the clock ran down. He couldn’t get the ball to Dudley in good spots. He just did not have a good night.
-- Dudley’s rebounding. I know he got 6 boards, but it was not a good night. I don’t know if he is in pain or is tired, but he let a lot of guys push him around.
-- Everything about Roche. That was ugly. The kid looked so out of place. What is he bringing to the table? He needs to be ready for a kick out – not posting at the top of the key. And we had to go to the 2-3 when he was out there to protect him defensively.
Maryland might be the hottest team in the conference, but I like our chances. This team is in the tournament, but they need to regroup and need a few breaks.