Jan. 13, 2003
Is the glass half-empty, or half-full?
It seems like coaches in all sports always try and look at the bright side of things and spin things in their favor, but privately there is always room for improvement no matter how good things may look.
We went up to BC two weeks ago and really didn't play well for about 25 minutes, but then exploded and won a huge road game. Is it good that we were able to beat an NCAA Tournament team on the road without our best game? Or is it bad that we came out and struggled early in our first league game?
We went to Siena last week and didn't play very well and lost to a tough team in a tough place to play, but it was really a game we should have had. The good spin was that we woke up this past Monday 1-0 in the Big East with St. John's coming into our building, so we had every reason to think we could stay in first place.
The negative side was that we had been out-rebounded at BC, and Siena pounded us on the boards. St. John's might be the toughest, most aggressive team in our league, so there was certainly cause for some concern.
We had beaten St. John's 4 times in a row, so we certainly felt confident going in. We felt we needed to take care of the ball, out-tough them on the boards and keep them out of the paint on defense and we would be fine.
When the game was over, it was kind of hard to figure out how we won. We didn't really take care of the ball, we didn't do a very good job on the boards and we struggled with them getting to the rim, especially Marcus Hatten. We had a chance to put them away early in the second half, but we couldn't keep the pressure on them and make them go away.
We did, however, make the big plays down the stretch, and it is great to see this team getting comfortable winning close games late. We executed our offense almost flawlessly on two possessions to get Ryan the ball and it led to the five points that won the game - 2 by Gomes and 3 on the huge shot that Sick made.
We hadn't played our best game, but we had won. We were 2-0 in the league for only the second time ever, but we had had some of our weaknesses exposed. I didn't really know how to feel. Was this a team that was finding ways to win when we didn't play our best, or a team that would be exposed as we got into the heavy Big East battles?
Saturday at Villanova our ability to win without our best game ended. They absolutely hammered us on the boards and we couldn't make enough shots to stay in the game. They sensed some weakness in our defensive rebounding and they kept coming at us. It seemed like we couldn't get a clean rebound the entire second half.
It wasn't pretty, and it was very frustrating. Clearly we need to find a way to rebound the ball better if we are going to compete in Big East games. And we don't have a lot of time to figure it out, because we play two teams this week that have a lot of athletes and muscle under the glass.
Lafayette won 20 games last year and has four starters back, and they have a ton of athletes and horses underneath. Michael Southall is a big guy with NBA ability who was originally going to Kentucky out of high school, and they back him up with a lot of size and athleticism.
Virginia Tech had Villanova beat on Wednesday at Villanova, missing two free throws in a tie game with 16 seconds to play, before falling in overtime. They always have athletes and they still have a house inside in Terry Taylor.
So how do you look at the glass? We've played 3 league games, 2 of them on the road, all against teams that most people considered NCAA contenders at the beginning of the season. We are 2-1 in those 3 games, so the glass is obviously half full.
We've gotten beat on the boards in our last four games, including all of our league games. We gave up 25 offensive rebounds on Saturday and it seemed like we couldn't pull down any clean rebounds. Does that make the glass half-empty?
What I do know, for sure, is that we know exactly what we need to work on. We might just put lids on the rims for the next two days in practice and never blow the whistle. Let the guys compete until we are sure that what happened Saturday is out of our system.
We don't expect to lead the country in rebounding, but we are certainly capable of holding our own. We need to do a much better job, and it needs to happen immediately.