Here are my thoughts about the IUPUI game in no particular order.
There is a difference between this team and last year’s team that is nothing short of phenomenal. Last year, we won almost all of our games on the strength of our talent alone. We were just more athletic, faster, better shooters, etc. than most of our opponents. We never figured out how to play to our potential as a team because we relied on our ability more than each other.
This year, every win we get, every improvement we make will be because we earned it. This team works hard. Four games in (counting the mezzanine) we are already more of a team, than last year’s group of guys ever became. For us to win, these guys are going to need to rely on each other and just flat out work their opponents.
I was so excited by almost every aspect of our win last night and it’s because it felt earned.
Our defense in the first half was really good. We held them to 20 points in the first half and a Mike Davis-like 7:00+ minute scoring drought. Our help defense improved over the Northwestern State game.
Our second half devense was less effective, but we held them to 57 points for the game.
Tom Pritchard was all man last night. He had some trouble scoring after the contact at the beginning of the game, but that quickly subsided and he was HUGE.
Our rebounding was better. We still have a room for improvement, but it was better, and we were in a zone for much of the game, which generally makes rebounding more difficult.
Everything about this team makes me feel good. I feel proud again of the type of guys we have and the style of ball we play. We moved without the ball, reversed the ball pretty well, displayed real patience offensively, and realy intensity defensively. I can’t think of a better way to put it. I feel clean this year. It’s great.
Speaking of which, the difference in the post game press conferences from a year ago are equally as pronounced.
The first quote is from Tom Crean last night.
“So to find a way to come back when it was not even close to our best night defensively in the second half, and when certain guys weren’t making as many shots.”
The rest of these are a sampling of quotes from many games by Kelvin Sampson last year.
“I thought we go off to a great start.”
“I thought the second half was really good.”
“I thought from the sixteen minute mark of the second half to the, maybe the two minute mark, I think we were down four and then you look up and we’re up 12. So, we go plus 16 in the second half. I thought we did a lot of good things defensively during that stretch, executed well on offense, spaced it, just played a lot better that second half.”
“Our last three minutes we had no turnovers, missed no free throws and they had no offensive rebounds”
“I thought we corrected a lot of those from the first half to the second half. We were better in the second half.”
“Once we got to half time, I thought we were good.”
“Probably as good as we’ve played all year, the second half.”
“We’re good defensively when we need to be.”
Do you notice a difference? I do. Crean, in his first comment after the game acknowledged that we did not play very well defensively in the second half. Sampson spent almost all of last year down playing out weaknesses and trying to make people focus on the parts of the game we played well. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!!
That may seem like a small distinction, but I’m telling you it’s huge. The first is the perspective of someone who is proud of his team for overcoming their shortcomings. The second is the perspective of someone who wants everyone to ignore the bad things and only see the good.
Daniel Moore is a stud. He played 23 minutes, and didn’t score until those free throws at the end of the game, and he got to the line because at 5’9″, he pulled down a crucial rebound. He finds the open man and delivers the ball well. If he was five inches taller, he’d be scary good.
We had a one point lead with :20 seconds to play and the best shot IUPUI could get was a long and contested three. That was a great defensive possession.
Win or lose this season, if we play with the kind of heart and toughness with which we played last night’s game, I am going to really enjoy watching this team play.*
*Remind me of this when we hit a losing streak and I want to take a shit on everything.
Oh, and finally, here’s the theme song to tonight’s game.