Inside Friartown - Volume XVIII




    Feb. 17, 2003

    What did you guys say at halftime?

    I guess it would be a better story if coach threw a water cooler or broke the blackboard in Alumni Hall, but that really didn't happen. Obviously we were not happy with the way we had played in the first half, and trust me, that was expressed. But we also had to move forward and be ready to play in the second half. Once you get your points across at halftime, you need to make sure the guys leave the locker room ready to win the game.

    We threw the game plan out. It wasn't about what St. John's wanted to run, or how they would get Marcus Hatten open. It wasn't about what defense we would play or how we would get the ball into Ryan. It was about pride, playing hard, playing tough, competing. That is what Coach kept saying in the locker room, but who knew if the guys were taking it in. Having lost 3 straight games and playing really poorly on the road in the first half, we weren't sure where our guys were mentally.

    Go out, play hard, forget the score, just compete, battle, scrap on every possession. No excuses. The ball is going up, go after it. That was the message.

    The next step was to find the 5 guys we wanted to do it with, and we were all pretty much in agreement. Ryan had kept us in the game almost by himself early, and Donnie is as tough of a competitor as we have. We felt that Sick, Rob and Marcus had played with the most life in the first half, so we decided to go with them. And there weren't any plans to take them out.

    Getting off to a fast start was a must, because it gave our guys confidence that we could win the game. When Donnie hit the 3 off the ball screen going to his left and they called time-out, we knew we were right back in it. He hasn't been shooting the ball extremely well but he made two big 3's in the second half, one to get us back in the game and one to put us up 8 in the last 8 minutes.

    Rob Sanders made some incredible plays at the rim, and that also gave us a boost. His left-handed follow slam was one of the most amazing plays you will see. It was a blocked shot that didn't even hit the rim - it was like dunking a loose ball. I don't think I've ever seen that. He followed that up with another slam and then an incredible reverse finish on a half-court pass from Donnie. When Rob is playing with that kind of life it gives our entire team a big lift.

    Ryan Gomes was huge in the second half as well, making big plays on both ends and scoring clutch buckets when St. John's threatened us. His ability to face the basket and handle the ball is kind of scary when you think of how good he is in the low post, and it is a part of his game he continues to develop confidence in.

    Marcus Douthit had the type of game that was Linehan-esque. He made a huge impact on the game without making a basket - or attempting a shot for that matter. He had 12 huge rebounds, 11 of them on the defensive end, and played great defense on Anthony Glover in the middle of the zone with 4 blocks. He made a ton of plays on the defensive end and with each one our confidence and energy grew.

    Sheiku Kabba made some big plays on both ends, and his dunk over Abe Keita was ridiculous. I thought he was going to try and lob the ball to Rob, which is a very tough play going full speed. I think he surprised Keita a little bit when he raised up on him, and when he came down I'm not sure Sick knew the ball had gone through the net.

    When we came out with great energy and fire, we knew we were going to ride those guys the entire half. Marcus looked very tired after about 8 minutes so we wanted to get him a breather around a time-out, but we were ready to go the whole way with those guys if we could. We thought about subbing for one of the guards around the 10-minute mark just to keep them fresh, but once that opportunity passed they were not coming out of the game. They had gotten us the lead, they were going to play with it.

    It was really a fun half to watch.

    Now the challenge is to sustain the energy and intensity. We have absolutely no room for a let down with just 5 games left in the regular season. We feel really good not only about getting the win but about the way we played as a team. We played together and tough and gutted out a win on the road.

    Now we have to wait in the snow an extra day to play Miami, and I'm sure they are not happy about being holed up in their hotel for another day. I think being at home is a big advantage in this situation because our guys are on campus and we were able to get them together for a regular practice today. We don't play our next game until Saturday, so playing tomorrow shouldn't effect us too much.

    Miami is unique in that over half of their production comes from two players, Darius Rice and James Jones. They are tough match-ups because of their size and their ability to shoot the ball, and Rice can take over games in ways very few people can.

    However, it is not about what they do, and Coach keeps pounding that into our guys heads. We held St. John's to 22% shooting in the second half on Saturday, and if we defend with the same aggressiveness and intensity we will be fine. Our focus since the B.C game has been our defense, and that is how we are going to try and win games.

    Hopefully you can sled your way down to the Dunk and give us a great home court advantage.