Thursday, December 22, 2011

SHU Squanders Opportunities to Make a Statement

It was 4 pm on Sunday afternoon, and I was already finishing up my second beer.  Doesn’t sound like much to a college kid or alcoholic, but for me, this was unusual.  I was coping with a pathetic performance from my New York Giants, as I had just witnessed Rex Grossman knock off Eli and the Giants for the second time this season and bump them out of the NFC East division lead.

So after asking God why I had better hands than Hakeem Nicks for a solid hour, I began to eagerly look ahead to Sacred Heart’s big week on the hard court.  They had a real opportunity to make some noise, squaring off against two major programs (well at least in theory), Notre Dame and Boston College, who were each struggling through down seasons.  I felt SHU could genuinely battle each team and maybe, just maybe, pull off a big upset in one of the two games. 

Well….that dream went about as well as the Baltimore Orioles search for a general manager did.

Rewind to Monday afternoon, hours before tip-off with Notre Dame.  I had refreshed my Facebook app to find a Youtube video of Evan Kelley leading the Pioneers out of the tunnel at the ND football stadium.  A couple of hours later, two SHU players on Twitter expressed how anxious they were before the game.  Hmm, were the Pioneer players in completely over their heads?  Would the moment get too big for them to handle in South Bend?

It didn’t seem that way early on.  A Steve Glowiak three gave the Pioneers a 30-23 edge with 7:48 remaining in the first half.  And then the Fighting Irish turned up the heat and never looked back.  After taking that 7 point lead, the Pioneers were outscored 25-7 to conclude the half, thanks to a porous 2-3 zone that Dave Bike doesn’t typically employ.

Notre Dame carried the momentum right into the second half, by going on a quick 11-0 run, essentially turning the game into a laugher.  Midway through the second half, I turned off my grainy internet TV feed after a dejected Dave Bike called timeout.  The Fighting Irish were up 30 and already in the double bonus.  Game over.

(To save Sacred Heart some of the embarrassment, I will spare you the statistics from the game except this one - Notre Dame scored 1.58 points per possession.  The NCAA basketball average is about 1 point per possession.  Yikes…)

Depressed, I turned my attention over to Wednesday night, where they faced off against a bad Boston College team.  Bad as in, picked to finish dead last in the ACC Preseason Poll bad.  As Charles Barkley would say, “this team is turrable.”

Despite this wonderful opportunity to upset an ACC foe, SHU lost a sloppy, yet hard fought battle, 83-73.  In truth, the undersized Pioneers actually put forth an effort I was rather proud of, even though their defense allowed Boston College score 1.17 points per possession and shoot an effective field goal percentage of 67% (the average is 49%).

It was the coaching staff that disappointed me Wednesday night.  First of all, I understand that BC has a 7’0’’ freshman center and a 6’8’’ power forward that will create mismatches for undersized forwards like Femi Akinpetide, Justin Swidowski, Stan Dulaire and Nick Greenbacker.  These mismatches, more often than not, will result in more fouls from the smaller defenders, which in turn places stress on a roster without front court depth.  I get that.  But why did Femi Akinpetide foul out with 16 minutes remaining in the second half?  Why was he in there?  There certainly were other options on the bench.

Second and more importantly, I didn't understand why Shane Gibson sat out nearly 8 minutes of the second half.  He wasn’t in foul trouble.  He didn't appear to be injured, since he did play most of the final 6 minutes.  Then why did Bike sit his leading scorer when Gibson was red hot in the first half?  Did he violate team rules at halftime?  Did he party too hard in celebration of his 1,000 career point?  Was Bike saving his 21 year old body for crunch time?  I’m out of questions.  And my head hurts.

So as you can see, when it comes facing big time programs, it doesn’t matter who is at fault.  It's the same old Pioneers.  In the past 10 seasons, Sacred Heart is 0-40 against teams from the A10, Big East, Big 10, Big 12 and Pac 12 (SHU has never played a team from the SEC in its history).  I'll leave everyone with that stat over the holiday break

Until then, have a wonderful holiday and I promise to spend the break (and the much needed time off from work) researching and writing informative posts for you the reader.  I should have some great material in the coming weeks.  NEC season is almost here!  Happy Holidays!

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