I know this is late but I had a crazy weekend and just now got around to watching the sad, sad events of Saturday evening. I’m in this weird emotional state of alternating between pissed off and serene… and both for essentially the same reasons.
Let’s face it. SU laid a stinker and their opponent capitalized on the opportunity. They obviously missed Fab on both ends of the court, but it wasn’t his absence that cost them the game — at least not “physically”. It may have contributed to their lack of composure and mental sharpness. But although Cooley (a.k.a. “Fake Luke Harangody”) was able to have a field day in the post, shoving both Keita and Christmas around with his bulk, that’s something that SU on a good day would have been able to overcome.
So, they could have won despite losing the interior battle. But they shot terribly and the offense was stagnant for long stretches. Missing Fab hurt the offense too. Not that he is a primary scorer, but as color commentator Beth Mowins* astutely noted (and I can’t believe I’m saying that but it’s true) he is their most effective screen-setter. It’s harder for a defender to get around Melo than it is for him to get around Keita. Even so, SU did have a number of wide-open shots that they simply missed. Make just a couple of those and the complexion of the game is totally different.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame was having a game where just about anything they did went right (other than their press break). They had at least three possessions which ended with someone hitting a desperation contested three-pointer with one second on the shot clock. Two of them were by a guy who shoots 21% from deep. Another one was banked in. Add to that the natural tendency of refs to favor the home team — nothing egregious, but just about every call or non-call that “could have gone either way” seemed to go ND’s way — and there was just too much adversity for SU to overcome. (By the way, I am officially sick of the “elbow rule” replays. If the ref sees an elbow, by all means call it. But otherwise just let the game go.)
I’m serene because something like this was bound to happen eventually. We knew SU was going to lose a game somewhere along the way (frankly I was expecting it to be tonight at Cincy, even with Fab). And it took ND getting a number of bounces to go their way, and SU having a terrible shooting night, having just lost their starting center, for it to happen. I don’t expect that particular combination of factors to come up all that much going forward. But at the same time I’m pissed off because most of the guys on SU came up small on a night when they should have stepped up their game. The adversity of losing Fab and playing in a hostile road environment would ideally have galvanized the team, made them get their shit together tight and show the world that they can handle adversity. Instead, for the most part they came up small. Not just the missed shots but what appeared to be a general lack of enthusiasm and focus. I hope they take the feeling of having the ND students rush the court all around them and put it in their pockets, and use it to fuel them in what will undoubtedly be another physical contest tonight. A loss is OK. but you don’t want a loss to become a losing streak.
* - it may possibly have been Doris Burke instead of Beth Mowins. Honestly I can’t tell their voices apart.