Sunday, November 26, 2006

Falcons Win Buzzer Beater, for a short time life is good

It is crazy how good this can make me feel. Things are OK, but some things are not going great, and in quiet moments over the Holiday weekend, cares were overtaking my holiday spirit. My son and I headed to Anderson Arena to see the basketball game against South Alabama. Truth to be told, we weren't very optimistic about that, either. USA won 23 games last year.

What we saw was the best Falcon performance in months, and an absolutely thrilling buzzer beater to win the game. We sat courtside since the students were gone (best view possible for college hoops) and when the team scored, we were all high fiving each other and I was jumping up and down yelling until I was hoarse. All the cares were gone--for hours, in fact.

And that was with about 1,000 other people in a very lightly attended game at Anderson.

The end set up like this. We had been up 1 with 19 seconds left and Samarco on the line with a 1-1. Normally, an excellent position. He misses the front end, and we run down and foul, and USA hits both free throws to go up 1. We have 9 seconds.

USA brings full court pressure, which we break, but in the hurlyburly we nearly throw the ball away on the sideline. We get the call for possession, and then Hamblet gets in the inbounds. (There are now 4.9 seconds). Hamblet drove to the hoop and did all he could do--fight through bodies and arms to get the ball onto the glass. It danced on the rim for what seemed like forever, and then it fell in just as the buzzer sounded and the backboard lit up.

And, pandemonium, such as it was, broke loose in Anderson Arena.

Here's how Hamblet described it.

"The original play was to get [Martin] Samarco open for a shot, but we couldn't get him open, so I just tried to take it to the rim as far as I could. Then while I was on my back I saw it hanging on the rim and when it went in I just put my arms up."

At the end of the day, this team badly needed a win. After 10 straight D1 losses, and playing long and hard against a good team, to lose in the final seconds would have just cut their heart right out. Further, coach indicated in the post game that it had been a brutal week of practice. After all that, to lost that one would have really hurt.

Here's what coach said:

"I thought the key to the game was the ball falling on the right side of the rim and not the left side. Everything else didn't matter. We got a long way to go and we got to keeping working at it. Our own sloppiness put us in a bad spot, but like I said we just have to get better and I'm glad that the ball fell on the right side so at least this week we can breathe a little bit and let the guys feel good, which is incredibly important."

If that ball bounces left it is utter misery. It's impossible for me to explain. Not only for the coaches but for the players as well. I got off the court quick and went into the weight room and I just listened to the players coming in. They were talking about the things we worked on all week. Now if you lose, they might focus on things you don't need as a team."

That pretty much says it. Do we have a long way to go? Yes. But, the only worst thing would have been to lose that game.

A few notes:

  • South Alabama's coach brought a lot of traps and full court pressure. Last season, it was painful watching us handle pressure. Absolutely painful. It was painful watching us inbound the ball against pressure, for cripe's sake. Not so today. We handled it pretty well. We made plenty of turnovers--stupid ones--but we broke the press pretty well.
  • Coach said that during the long week of practice, he thought some guys "grew up," mentioning Hamblet and Simmons by name.
  • Samarco led the team with 23 points, and was, as always, an absolute warrior. He plays the whole floor and is the rock for this team.
  • Dusan also contributed, with 26 minutes, eight points and five assists (and 4 TOs). He was, in some non-countable ways, a steady presence with the ball when, in the past, we might have threatened to lose our grip.
  • Eric Marschall continues to be an emerging star. 10 points and six boards in 26 minutes. 5-7 shooting. He did foul out.
  • Matt Lefeld brought 20 key minutes. He was 5-8 from the field, with 12 points, many of them in key points.
  • Note previous bullets--the emergence of an inside game makes a huge difference for our team.
  • South Alabama was a strong shooting team coming in. We held them to 42.9% from the field, and that was probably the difference in the game. We also won the boards 33-25.
  • Our shooting was good (47.8%) though not scorching.
  • We played 11 players, though four of them got less than ten minutes.
  • Fouls were improved...we only had 19. (USA had 16). We did turn it over 18 times (13 for USA).
  • Coach was especially upset about a period in the second half when we didn't take care of the ball. That run started with 12:32 left and BG up by 6. Ryan Sims turned it over, then USA hit a 3. Then, Dusan turned it over, and USA hit a layup. (BG now up 1). We turned it over again (Marschall), and were both teams traded a couple missed jumpers before Hamblett turned it over, and USA hit a shot to take lead with 9:50 left. So, in 2:42, we had six possessions and four turnovers.
  • We did show some heart. With 4:19 left, USA was up four, and you could kind of feel it slipping away. Martin drilled a 3, and Marschall followed with a layup in the next possession, andd just like that we had the lead back and it was a game again.
  • Here's what the USA coach said..."Bowling Green has made some improvement since we saw them on film. They were a completely different basketball team tonight."

So, bottom line, a great day to be a fan. It was simply great. I hope this team is turning the corner. We have winnable games upcoming, and I'd love to see us actually win them!


Anonymous said...

Great post! It was a fun, and to me, a very encouraging game! The AZZ'ers are pretty down on Dusan, but after he (finally) drilled a three last night, I saw him totally transform. He was visibly energized by it and it showed on both ends of the floor from that point on. He just needs some confidence!

All I ask is continued improvement and I saw that yesterday!

Orange said...

Thanks Grant. It was a needed boost for our program. To lose yesterday would have been a killer.