Friday, February 21, 2014

That one hurts.


That one stings.  And, if it feels like that for a fan, imagine how it feels for the players and coaches.

For the 3rd time in four games BG gave up a shot in the last 5 seconds to lose a game, and this one came in a rivalry game, at home, in front of a big crowd and with BG just seconds away from getting a huge upset over UT.  Instead, UT did what they do, which is make the plays at the end with ruthless efficiency and they ended up with the win.

The fact that BG lost twice to UT at home (football and men's basketball) this year under similar circumstances does not make it any better.

It was a total gut punch.  BG had rallied all the way back, had the lead late and it was a total gut punch.

For much of the game you would not have thought we were going to be talking about a close finish.  UT bolted out to an early lead, just as they did in the first game.  It was 16-6 about 8 minutes in and UT was still rolling.  With 6 minutes left it was 30-13 and it was just looking like a really ugly night.  At the break, the Rockets like by 16--and with 39 points was well on the road to their 80 point average.

The second half was impressive for a Falcon team still playing short-handed and behind by that kind of score.  BG just laid some incredible defense...holding UT to .67 points per possession for the second half.  The Rockets shot 33% and had 9 turnovers, both big shifts from their normal numbers.

Even so, UT led by more than 10 for the first 8 minutes of the second half.  BG finally took advantage of all those stops and went on a 12-2 run to get the lead to 1 with 8 minutes left.  BG had 3 shots to take the lead, got open looks and they didn't fall.  At the time that seemed like a big deal, and while I think the place would have gone crazy if BG had taken the lead, I don't think you can expect that UT would have just wilted.

BG finally tied the game with 2:45 left on a Henderson 3-ball.  BG got a stop and then Black was fouled and split his FTs to put BG up 1 with 1:40 left.  BG got another stop on a Holmes block, but couldn't convert on the offensive end and still led by 1 with about 1 minute left.

Juice Brown did what he does next, nailing a clutch 2 to put UT back up by 1.  BG took a timeout with :38 left.  Typically, BG is not great in these situations, and that proved to be true again.  BG came out, moved the ball around the edges, and then late in the shot clock set a high ball screen for Clarke who drove to the FT line and missed a jumper.  BG got the board, though and Parker was fouled.

With :12 left, Parker was at the line down 1.  It was only a 1-1, so it was a pretty clutch situation.  He made the first one and missed the second and the game was tied.  UT was out of timeouts, but that didn't bother then.  Drummond drove down the court, nobody on BG stopped the ball and he penetrated to the key, drawing the defense to him.  He dished the ball to Rian Pearson who nailed a jumper to give UT the lead with :04 left and gave the Falcons a heartbreak.

It wasn't completely over.  Clarke got a buzzer beater off that was in and then out and the heartbreak was complete.

More later.  Look, UT (and Akron) are teams that know how to win.  BG had a possession to take the lead and didn't get the ball to a big man even for a touch and ended up with a jump shot that didn't go, whereas UT had two possessions in the last minute where their guys found open looks and nailed them.  BG gave it everything they held.  Their defensive pressure at the end was stifling.  They battled back and put themselves in a position to win and for the third time in four games, a shot in the last :05 was decisive.

To be fair, the Akron game and UT game were tied when the shots were made, so even if they don't fall you'd have to win an overtime.  Still, it has been a heartbreaking stretch for this team and losing a rivalry game like that is just brutal.

Even as they fall short and there are no moral victories (blah blah blah), I am proud of this team for their resilience and determination.  They continue to fight and remain competitive in a situation where not all teams would.  They are essentially playing six guys and are mostly without two of their leading returning players (Orr and Sealey) and they continue to compete.  That's worth something.  Oddly, next to 2009, this might be the best coaching that Orr has done at BG.

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