Well, LUHoops00 and I are ready for new careers…as postmen. For, as they say, “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds.” One for the north and one from the south, we converged on the TD Bank Sports Center last night to witness one hell of a game.
Most thrilling game of the year. Sure Baylor and Pitt were that for awhile but for 40 minutes this one took the prize. It exceeded all expectations. Going in it was to be their “bigs” vs our “CJ.” Neither disappointed. The script was perfectly followed. Jackson, Azotam and Drame (combined weight of 696 lbs and averaging close to 6’9″a man) pulled down 25 boards and played a combined 79 minutes. CJ, calm, cool and collected, rode to the rescue in the final minutes. You’d swear, just as he and Coach Reed had it planned. CJ can do it all. In the first half, he was perfectly happy to dish out a few assists (all four I believe) and lead by quiet example – confidence the team feeds off. You can sense it sitting, as we did, in Row 1 eight feet behind the bench. It translated into outstanding ball control and pin-point passing. Witness: 18 assists (most in the first 30 minutes) on 25 made baskets! Not too shabby. And, when it came time for CJ to perform his magic with less than 10 minutes to go, there was no stopping him. Can’t say I ever saw a quicker 11 points being scored than I did at game’s end. Their “bigs” were of no concern. There were no rebounds to be had. It was all net all the time for CJ. To sum it up, the game featured 10 ties and 9 lead changes. But, you swear watching it, on the edge of your seat, it was a one possession game that we somehow won by eleven.
Throughout much of the game, however, we were over-match under the boards. Our pesky and disruptive play – only recourse we had lacking size and underclassmen experience and technique – resulted in 13 Q turnovers and numerous “held” ball calls. When it didn’t we were whistled time and time again. Thankfully, Q missed 11 of their 30 free throw attempts. That’s something we can’t count on it going forward. Our interior D must get better. We can’t have CB foul-out after 21 minutes of play and we can’t have JG sit on the bench for all but two minutes of play. Both things must change. If not, we had better hope CJ, Gabe and Holden stay healthy and BJ returns to late 2011-12 season form. Even then, repeating as PL champs is no lock. It is, however, possible. That’s how good CJ is.
Other quick observations:
AD – night and day difference in D capabilities over last year. Can see why in BJ’s absence, he’s on the starting 5. First one back on D. Even quicker with hands to the ball. Passing has improved as well. Two picture-perfect passes last night. Played his finest 4 minutes of ball this season in the first 4 last night. Good to see Reed and team members recognize him.
CS – Can see him taking over the PG role sooner than later, especially should MM continue to struggle with TO’s (5 last night). You lose nothing him CS at the point. Season A/TO totals: 11/2. New this year: a gliding move to the basket with a soft touch high off the glass, ala CJ.
Effective leading the pack last night with MM in the game in a heavy small lineup.
Reed – Never misses an opportunity to teach. On numerous occasions last night, we would pull aside a player yanked from the game and “educate” while play was underway. When it’s not Reed, himself, you see Antoni doing the same.
TD Bank Center – $52millon well spent. You gotta see it. 3600 high-banked seats. Great sight lines. Colorful. Schedulers: Get us back here every two years. Good team and great hosts.
Stat of the Day – CB, with 8 for 9 (.889), is our finest free-throw shooter this year. Holden’s 2 for 2 last night raised his season-long average to .867. Those that follow are: MM (.780), GK (.756),and CJ (.756).