Wow. Another very good effort from the Pirates that fell just short. What a Hall Line afterwards on WSOU (it lasted almost 2.5 hours, for the record). Here are the thoughts from a confusing and frustrating game:
- Jeff Robinson
Robinson was the brightest spot on a night that featured the return of Jeremy Hazell to the Pirate faithful at the Rock. That is tough to do, but Robinson had one of his best nights as a Pirate. He hit several tough shots in the lane and used his strength to its full potential. His 25 PTS and 7 REB on 9-13 shooting was a huge positive on a night where they were playing a team that, size-wise, the Pirates actually matched up well against. He took full advantage of the opportunity.
- Herb Pope
Pope finished with 16 PTS and 9 REB, but he played like a man possessed in the second half, showing a ton of aggressiveness and skill in the process. But then he fouled out. And he did so by committing a STUPID foul on Hoya superstar Austin Freeman (who, by the way, slapped up another great line of 28/5/3 on 10-13 shooting), hitting him from behind on a shot attempt in the lane when he was clearly beaten by Freeman. Freeman missed the shot, but it should have been a 3-point play. After that, the Pirates let Georgetown come back and win down the stretch. Pope should know better than to commit that foul, especially on a player of Freeman's caliber. For Freeman, that was like receiving $500 in the mail from the government. And who in his right mind would allow that to happen?
- The Crowd
The Rock's announced attendance was 7,593, which was great for a Tuesday night. But the student section? Packed to capacity. FINALLY. There was no Orange to be seen this time, as everyone was in Pirate Blue. They were also more into it than any student section crowd this year, chanting more often, reacting according to the happenings on the court, and generally bringing the energy. It was great to see on SNY. Unfortunately, I could not see it live due to my obligations to WSOU. And even then I witnessed and moderated the longest Hall Line in years, at almost 2 and a half hours. The callers, although not always correct in my opinion, were passionate about their points. So the crowd reception gets an A for the night.
Ok, now to the gorilla in the room- the Hoyas took control down the stretch of this game after Herb Pope fouled out. This happened a lot to the Pirates last year as well, although to my knowledge the Pirates got lucky and won a good chunk of those games last year in which they were up by a seemingly comfortable margin in the second half. Here are two specific things I noticed that should have happened (the first being more severe than the second):
-As noted in our postgame recap, the Pirates should have gotten the ball to Jeremy Hazell down the stretch. Hazell, on the critical possession of the game, did not touch the ball. Now, a perfectly healthy Jeremy would not have had this happen to him. But Jeremy even admitted that he was only about 85% right now. The brace he has on his left wrist allows him to catch the ball and shoot the ball, but not to dribble the ball with that left hand. It takes away his driving ability because teams will just try and force him left. While he certainly should have at least touched the ball, I can see the reasoning in not making the possession iso-Hazell.
- Eniel Polynice on this possession that was discussed above and in our postgame recap, ended up somehow at the top of the key and did not see the MASSIVE mismatch that Jeff Robinson had down low against Chris Wright. MASSIVE mismatch. Polynice decided to drive down the lane. He ended up missing the layup. But I can't fault Polynice totally for that because he had a bit of a mismatch with Julian Vaughn (Robinson's man) switched onto him. I can see that he saw that mismatch and took it. But I also say that Polynice should have known that he is not the most explosive player in the world, and for this reason his layup attempt was almost blocked.
Had the Pirates done those things as they should have (in hindsight), I believe they would have won the game. But they didn't. And we have to live with it.
The dominant topic for most of Hall Line, a lot of people complained about the coaching down the stretch. There is only one true mistake made by Willard in that second half- not spelling Herb Pope earlier. Against DePaul, when Pope got in foul trouble, he shuttled in Aaron Geramipoor almost every other possession to protect him. And it worked very well, although Pope still fouled out. But nevertheless. After Pope picked up his 4th late in the second half, Willard had no choice at that point but to gamble, to leave Pope in. At that point in the game, you can't bring in a freshman like Geramipoor or Anali Okoloji because of their youth if you want to have the best shot at winning. The time to use them to spell Pope is earlier in the game, when the situation is not as dire.
Now if you are of the opinion that they should have been used anyway after Pope got his 4th, consider this- is it better to throw a young and inexperienced player into a pressure situation, have him fail, and therefore have his confidence zapped? Or to start him in less-pressured situations to build up his confidence before putting him in those high-pressure situations? Anyone who has ever coached at any level or played at any level would take the latter in a heartbeat without question or second thought. This is why AG or AO should have been used earlier to spell Pope. Willard knows that putting them in the endgame situation is potentially disastrous. He was gambling, but actually playing it safe when it came to his freshmen.
Stay tuned to the Juice for my Rutgers Preview later in the week, as I present it before I get a chance to call my first RU-SHU game on WSOU. This is a disappointing loss, but the focus should now land on beating Rutgers, who the Pirates have a 4-game winning streak against in the "Turnpike Tussle." It's also known to Pirate fans as the biggest game of the year. The drama continues...