Saturday, February 10, 2007

Heartbreak in Bloomington....

Oh my, what could have been. Up 61-60 with under a minute to go, it looked for a moment or two that we would indeed get our signature road win of the there against a TOP-25 Indiana squad (in a border classic for the ages). But, in the end, the Hoosiers got the late calls at home to make the difference. We had our late chances with a few good looks from McBride, but it just wasn't in the cards today. Here are the game notes.

So I ask, is it possible to lose the battle but win the war? I submit that the answer to that question is yes. Sure, this was our 9th loss on the year (6-6 in conference, 18-9 overall). But, I claim this was the game we're we might have just played our way into the BIG DANCE barring a monumental collapse down the stretch of conference play. We're not done yet, but with 4 more games on the (2 on the road and 2 at home), our tournament destiny is clearly in our own hands. Two more wins should seal a bid to the NCAA tourney. Three more wins, especially one at Iowa, would guarantee a bid.

I like they way we're finishing down the stretch in conference play. This isn't the same team which struggled with an identify crisis through the month of January. It also looks as if McBride and Smith are starting to heat up from beyond the arc. We shot 46% for the game and 31% from downtown as a team. Not too shabby. McBride and Smith were a combined 4-12 from downtown, including two late misses which could have each won the contest. Carter added 14 points and Mr. Arnold muscled in 12 more points (huge). Looks like Pruitt and Randle were held in check, and that may have been the difference. Keep in mind that this was all against a high-scoring Indiana squad at home in their Assembly Hall. We really held the Hoosiers in check tonight on 46% shooting and 65 points. They are a much more explosive team offensively against just about everyone else.

So, where does that leave us? Like I said, we have to win two more games. Three would be nice. But, that being said, I now think we can and should win all four down the stretch. Our next two are at home against NW and Michigan after an 8-day much-anticipated rest. We go to Penn State and Iowa to close things out. Anything less than three more W's would be disappointing. The HAWKEYE showdown in Iowa City can go either way. At least we get another little rest in between the Penn State game and this one. I like our chances at making a deep run in the BIG -10 Tourney. I think my team is playing some of the best ball right now in conference play, despite our record. And we're nowhere near as good as we could be with a little more work and some rest. This team has started 8 different lineups this year, the most in the conference because of injury problems. Not making excuses, but it's hard to win and impress when you're not healthy.

But, keep this in mind. This is a Bruce Weber team. His teams always play hard, especially down the stretch. He seems to find a way to motivate is players at all levels to bring their best games when it matters most. I expect nothing less than that this year. Things are getting brigher. Keep the faith. I see some hope afterall at the end of a long dark tunnel.

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