Moral victories are useful. They are like candy, temporarily tasty, make you feel good, but ultimately useless to building a good program. Last night the basketball team fell to 0-2 on the conference season and 5-8 overall. Coming off the game against Lehigh in which they couldn’t score or defend and going into a WKU-MTSU trip against rivals, this was a scary proposition. I could easily imagine that game being another blowout. That it wasn’t makes me feel good. I don’t want to feel good about losses but I also don’t want to have an embarrassment of a basketball team.
So I feel guilty about feeling good about that loss. The offense still doesn’t look like any kind of crisp machine but there were signs of encouragement. Decisions were made much quicker. Passes looked faster. Shots were still missed, though. That was the problem early. WKU jumped out to a nice ten point lead by simply just grabbing rebounds and converting easy buckets. Our defensive sets still rely too much on funneling dribblers to Tony for a block. The problem is that this is a recipe for foul trouble. Tony had four. We did much better with the 1-2-2 press that forced a few bad passes in the second half.
Pressing all game is tiring and risky. Lehigh ate it up pretty easily. WKU, a good team, is obviously as cohesive or we just played with more verve. Whatever the case, we forced turnovers and go easy buckets. Most surprisingly? We started hitting threes. Five of them. I know huh?
Ultimately, the comeback succeeded. We got a lead thanks to Clarke Overlander’s three. We lost it soon after that and things just kind of fell apart. Tony Mitchell got his fourth foul, Chris Jones tweaked an ankle, and we missed shots we had to make.
It was disappointing but heartening. CJ was running the point like we knew he could. He was the catalyst in transition, attacking the paint with success, and making the right passes. Defensively, he was quick to jump in passing lanes (5 steals!) but more important that just stealing the ball was his aggressiveness. He stole it or rebounded it, turned and attacked offensively. It seemed these last few games he was kind of floating down court. Before tonight, only Alzee seemed comfortable in transition.
According to Vito, Chris Jones is still being evaluated and we’ll know if he’ll play against the Blue Raiders tomorrow night.
What does this mean? Well, WKU is among the class of this conference. The road to the NCAA tournament likely goes through them in some fashion. We played them tough in their own building. Last time we were there we got rocked on national television. It is good for everyone’s psyche. Can we defend as well as we did last night with that 1-2-2 and full-court man? Likely not. That is a risky defense. We have the athletes, but it is a tiring defense. That won’t fly in a conference tournament with back-to-back-to-backs. But what other options do we have? The offense was sparked by the turnovers created. Right now that is the only option for scoring consistently. Tony Mitchell still goes no-show a couple of times a game.
MTSU will be just as tough, if not tougher. I still feel guilty.