We knew when the schedule came out that the week after Christmas would be a very difficult one for us. Four games in eight days against very good competition, including 2 road games, 3 NCAA teams from last year and our league opener would really test our team.
I felt the Penn game would be one of the toughest on our schedule this year. They return 10 players from a team that was 25-7 last year, and I definitely see them in the Tournament again this year. The first half of that game was one of the best halves of basketball we've played, save for maybe the Richmond game.
The second half was a different story, and it was very frustrating to lose control of that game. We had a team down that we should have put away early in the second half, and we didn't do it. Confidence and momentum play such a big role in this game, and it is amazing how when you let a team off the mat and give them a couple of plays that allow them to get their confidence going, they can take control of the game.
We weren't happy with how we played after halftime, but we were happy with how our guys responded to losing the lead. In overtime on the bench we kept saying "plenty of time, plenty of time" and our guys never panicked. We made a number of plays (Sick's 3, Marcus tipping the rebound to Ryan, Tuukka's shot) that we had to have or else we probably would have lost that game. It was a good win, although we would have enjoyed it a little more had a our play been a bit more consistent.
That win gave us great momentum going into B.C., but you never would have known it the way we came out. That was close to the most frustrating 20 minutes of basketball I've watched in the 1st half, because it seemed like we were just standing around watching B.C. play the game. The halftime scene in our locker room was pretty loud, and I think coach got his point across. But the most important point he made may have been his last one - that despite how bad we played, we were only down by 8 points on the raod. And B.C. had shown a tendency to struggle on defense in the 2nd half of some games (they gave up 49 points to Harvard in the 2nd half).
In the second half of that game, I'm not quite sure what happened. We were in an awful funk and the next thing you knew we were up 11 with five minutes to play. Ryan started playing a lot more active down low. Donnie grew up in a hurry and became a playmaker. Marcus continued to change the game with his defense. Tuukka battled for boards in the paint. The crowd went nuts and help carry us through. Sick made some huge plays on both ends of the floor. Rome made our entire team pick up the level of our intensity. It was a fun half of Friar basketball to be a part of, no doubt. When the dust settled, we had 60 points in the 2nd half and hadn't committed a turnover.
And how about that crowd? I can't tell you how big that was for us. When we went our run the energy in the building was very high, and it definitely helped our guys. It's great to see people take the drive to a road game to support this team, and I'm glad we rewarded them with a great second half. Taking over the building of one of your closest rivals is pretty awesome. It was a great win, and a great start to our Big East season.
Bill Parcells always said success is never final, and it is so true. There is a next game, and you need to win it, and we went to Siena and didn't.
I don't want to hear about a "trap" game, or about the scheduling or the travel or the snow. It was our fourth game in eight days, but so what? To win the Big East Tournament you need to win 3 or 4 games in as many days, so what are we going to do? If we make it to the finals are we going to say we were tired for the championship game?
You need to be ready to play when the ball goes up, and you need to get wins. Despite a sub-par effort in the first half, we hung in the game and used our press to stay within 5 at halftime. Donnie hit four 3's in the first half and refused to allow us to slip. He looked like he was getting ready to put us on his back for the second straight night, but then he twisted his ankle and was limited the rest of the way.
We battled back and took a five-point lead in the second half, but we could sustain the momentum. We didn't do the job on the glass and allowed Siena too many second shot opportunities. That is something we need to clean up very quickly with St. John's and Villanova staring us in the face.
Once again, the name on the jersey doesn't matter. If you don't bring it every night, especially on the road, you will get beat.
The bad news is we didn't finish off the four game stretch the way we would have liked in losing that game. The good news is that when we woke up today we were at the top of the Big East standings, so we need to concentrate right now on staying there one game at a time.
For everyone who made it up to the B.C. game, thanks so much for the support. It really made a big difference.
And just to remind you, Mike Jarvis wasn't very happy with you guys the last time he was in town. Let's make sure we welcome him with open arms on Wednesday.
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