Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hail to the Chief - Now it's GO TIME!

Wow, we needed tonight's buzzer-beating victory over the CATS like A-rod needs a lawyer. No doubt, it wasn't pretty most of the way. I think we were down 14 points or so with under 10 mins to go in regulation. That's OK, we only needed 9:58 down the stretch to put NW away, 60-59 - on their home court. Although, to be fair, it was a 50/50 crowd up there on the shores of Lake Michigan. Tough teams never quit. Good ones close down the stretch when the game is on the line. Great ones finish by winning games their 'supposed' to win.

I've been telling you these two things all year. But, they're so true right now they merit repitition when it comes to conference play: 1) DON'T LOSE AT HOME. 2) WIN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ON THE ROAD.

At first glance, and perhaps even at 5th glance, you may be asking yourself if the Chief is off his rocker. Never fear, I don't own a rocking chair. But when you do the math (-1 for home losses and +1 for road wins), it's better to be be above PAR in this game - like modified Stableford scoring at the International. And at 8-4 in the conference (20-5 overall), the tribe is +2 heading into Bloomington on Sunday for another tough road test with Indiana, 2 back in the win column behind SPARTY. We're #14 in the RPI with an SOS of 27 nationally, 3rd-toughest in conference. We're also 5-4 against the RPI top 50. More importantly, all 5 of our losses came against teams in the top-52 or better. There are no nights off in the BIG-10 this year, especially on the road.

As for the action itself, we gutted this one out despite going 2-12 from the charity stripe (imagine how I would feel if we lost this game). McCamey was the undisputed leader again tonight scoring 19 points, including the game-winner with 3 seconds remaining. But Meachem may have bridged the scoring gap down the stretch, scoring 12 of his 15 with less than 5 minutes to go.

Keys to victory:
  1. With the game on the line, we dictated 'tempo' with the full-court pressure late in the game. NW had NO ANSWER comitting one turnover after another on their own floor.
  2. No empty possesions. Take advantage of easy scoring opportunities and manufacture other efficiently by working your 'tail' off in the half-court. You don't getting any points for just burning the 35-second clock down.
  3. Shutdown defense (see tempo). We held NW to just 42% from the floor while shooting 48% ourselves. And while they jacked-up 22 threes, they only made 8 (6 in the first stanza).
  4. It's crunch time in CBB. Don't crack under pressure. Finsh strong!

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