Sunday, February 05, 2017

Falcons Break Streak, beat Rockets in Classic. Part I

Wow.  What a day.  BG and UT matched up for 169th time on Saturday at the Stroh.  The two teams have played some great games over the year and had some titanic battles, but this one has to join the list and be near the top.  It is one of the best basketball games I have seen in years and one of the best sporting events I have attended in years.  Huge drama, great crowd, big rivalry, back-and-forth play.  My adrenaline was still pumping 6 hours after the game was over.

As you know by now, BG was a double-overtime game, 104-100.  As far as I can tell, it is the first double overtime game in the history of the rivalry.  It snaps a losing streak for BG and gave Coach Huger his first win over UT....and this is a guy who gets the rivalry. It was a great night.

It did not start out great.  BG got off to one of their patented poor starts, down 12-2 less than 4 minutes into the game.  BG battled back and had the game tied with about 9 minutes left in the first half.  From there it was a closely fought thing.  UT was on a late-half run (as they did in the first game) and had a six-point lead when Malik Hluckoweckyj was in transition, made a move in the open court that put a defender on his butt and hit a layup to cut the lead to 4 at the half.  Big play, sent the teams into the locker room with a different demeanor.

UT started fast in the second half as well, with a 7-1 run that put them up 10.  They had that lead solidly until there were 10 minutes left, when they led by 7.  BG went on a 6-0 run there to get it to 1...featuring two steals by Zack Denny...and from there on in, for the next 19 minutes of basketball, it was a dogfight.

With 1:52 left, Lillard made a layup and BG had a 1-point lead.  BG fouled Stevie Taylor on the other end--an effective strategy--and he missed both of his FTs.  Navigato committed a foul over the back on the FT and Wiggins made both of his FTs to put BG up 3 with 1:31 left.

UT had a time out and when they had the ball Sanford drove to the baseline, drew help and then kicked the ball to a wide open Jonathan Williams in the corner and he drained the 3 to tie the game.

Both coaches cited defensive errors by their own team as a key factor in the game.  There was one for each.  In this case,  Coach said that BG was not supposed to help off Williams, yet "somehow, some way" we did and Williams made us pay.

The game was tied with 1:11 left.  BG had the ball, got Denny a good look from the top of the key, but he missed it.  UT got the board, called time out, and did what you would expect, which is to get the ball to Stevie Taylor, who was dominant all game.  He got the ball up on the rim from close range but it didn't go down and BG cleared the board.

At this point there were :07 left.  Ish Ali raced the ball up court, probably rushed it a little bit, went flying under the basket out of control.  There was contact, but you don't get bailed out in a situation like that.  He didn't get the shot off and the play ended up as a turnover.


Which also started poorly for BG.  UT was up 6 midway through the period and up 7 with 1:31 left.

And this is where I am so proud of our guys.  This was absolutely a chance to fold up.  Instead, they battled back.  Wes Alcegaire scored on a layup.  Zack Denny got a steal and Alcegaire scored on a layup.  Navigato missed a 3FG (no it happened) and Wiggins cleared the board and Alcegaire hit a jumper in transition to score again to get the lead to 1 with :40 left.

UT took a long possession on their end, and with the shot clock running now, Sanford made a huge play with a hard drive from the right side of the lane that ended with him sinking a hard jumper with :12 left as the shot clock went off.  Just a clutch play.

BG called timeout.  They were down 3 with :09 left.  This was UT's defensive error.  BG had dribbled the ball up court and called timeout after crossing halfcourt.  But UT ran a guy at the ball and it was clear that they intended to foul BG rather than let BG shoot a 3FG.  That's a little unusual...most teams don't do it with that much time left....but anyway.

So Coach Huger after the game said he saw that and decided to call a play that would generate a catch and shoot and not provide the opportunity to foul.  BG ran a play they say they have run in practice but never in a game, but it consisted of a series of screens with a look to Frye first and then Denny.

Kowalcyk said that his guys were supposed to stay on top of screens and guard the 3-point line but that isn't what happened.  Denny broke off a Wiggins screen and was just wide open on a curl.  He took the inbounds pass and drained a 3 to tie the game back up.  UT got back down the floor and Sanford got the ball off the glass and off the rim at the buzzer, but it did not foul.

Double overtime.

This one also did not start out well, as UT had the first 5 points.  BG scored the next 5 and it was tied again.  UT was up 3 with 1:39 left.  BG ran their offense and with 1:18 Denny drilled a 3FG to tie the game.  (Just a point here...for the previous hour the Stroh was just electric, pandemonium in the arena, just a great atmosphere).

BG fouled Knapke and he made 1 of his 2 FTs.  Denny rebounded, BG came down, ran offense and then Denny drilled another 3FG, this time a contested one, and the Falcons were up 2 with :28 left.  UT had no timeouts, ran offense and got Sanford a 3FG, which he missed.  UT got the board but in the resulting melee Zack Denny got his hand on the ball and caused a deflection which ended up in the UT backcourt for an over and back call.

Stroh Center is just exploding by now.  BG inbounds to its best FT shooter---yeah, Zack Denny--who was fouled.  He made both FTs to put BG up 4 with :09 to play and BG had the victory in what was just an epic game.

Here's one for you.  The game was 50 minutes long.  BG led for 2:30 in total.

Our guys sprinted directly down and joined the student section to celebrate.  The arena was crazy.  I was crazy.  People ask you why you love sports....that game is why I love sports.  So incredible.  So proud of our guys, who had multiple chances to fold and continued to battle and make huge plays.  This is one they'll remember their entire lives and so will we.

More to come.

No comments :