Cuse Country

Home Away From Dome for Syracuse Orange Fans

Taking care of… wait, hang on a second… uh oh… AAAARG!

Posted by Josh on January 28, 2007

I think last night’s game hurt even more than the St. John’s game. I’m not talking about RPI or anything like that. I’m talking about the mental and emotional fortitude of the team. For the first 30 minutes, they played about as well as they are able — that is not to say they were playing “lights-out”, rather that I have seen enough games now to know that this was about the best one can hope for. Then suddenly… what? What was the magic bullet that stopped them in their tracks?

The Post-Standard quoted Boeheim as saying that Watkins leaving with 4 fouls around the 9 minute mark was a tipping point, because Louisville then got their interior offense going and controlled the boards late. But that does not explain why our offensive possessions suddenly turned to mush. The analysis (and some of the player quotes) says that they got complacent and stopped hustling. I think that’s oversimplifying it, and if that is the only lesson the team takes from this, it won’t be enough. What happened was that they tried to slow the game down and sit on their lead, but did not know how to function in this mode. Several possessions basically boiled down to Devendorf trying to make something happen by himself with 10 seconds or so on the shot clock. These possessions tended to result in turnovers, whereas earlier in the half they were successful in getting open shots by moving the ball around with purpose. This team has not had a great half-court offense all year, and it’s even worse when they deliberately slow things down. And when Louisville started to make their move, you could see the Orange get tentative and unsure of themselves.

Granted, some of the final possessions were not bad; they got good shots but missed. Nichols missed a couple that he generally makes (including one of those 13-foot ‘gimme’ pullups in the lane) and Devendorf had one successful drive to the basket on which he got fouled, but missed the free throws. These were, I think, symptoms of the nervous fear that took hold of the team. With the crowd howling and the pressure building, every shot was just that much more important, and the players couldn’t respond to that added level of tension.

So this hurts. A lot. This is going to seriously damage their confidence going forward. It’s going to haunt their minds the next time they are faced with a team making a run at them (whether they have a big lead at the time or not). The next time they have the ball on offense and need a basket, what will they do? Does Nichols have enough confidence left to make a tough shot? Devendorf’s confidence is never in question, but will he trust his teammates or try to do everything on his own? Will the other players be calm enough to hit an open shot if the defense lets them alone? Will they only win games in which they build a giant lead and then get just enough dribs and drabs of points in the end to stave off the other team’s comeback?

…anyone?

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One Response to “Taking care of… wait, hang on a second… uh oh… AAAARG!”

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