Monday, November 26, 2012

C.J. McCollum and Lehigh Smoke Sacred Heart, Running Diary Style

For SHU's home season opener, I figured it was a great time to document the event with a running diary, Bill Simmons style. I originally wanted to break out the diary for the SHU/Stony Brook game, but then all hell (aka Shane Gibson's late game heroics) broke loose. So instead, I'll dedicate the running diary to future NBA lottery pick C.J. McCollum and his Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh comes into the Pitt Center as the defending Patriot League champions, fresh off a stunning upset over the Duke Blue Devils in last season's NCAA tournament. I'm not expecting much from my Pioneers today, but at the very least, I'm hoping Shane Gibson will put on a show in front of his home crowd. Here. We. Go!

Pre-Game: Here on press row, there are three seats reserved for NBA scouts. They're obviously here for McCollum, whose a future NBA lottery pick. Maybe they're also here to catch a glimpse of Gibson as well?

15 minutes before tip-off, I'm almost able to count the number of fans in the stands. I'm guessing there are 300 fans here at the moment. Yikes. Hopefully, there's crazy traffic heading into Fairfield right now! Public Safety probably needs more manpower to control the sudden rush of traffic.

19:46: And we are under way with Lehigh winning the opening tip. On the first play of the game, McCollum backs Gibson down in the post for a quick bucket. That took all of 14 seconds.

19:04: And McCollum hits a long three in Lehigh's second possession. Containing him might be a problem. 5-2 out of the gate for Lehigh.

17:09: Holden Greiner (no really that's a real name) hits a three pointer to give Lehigh a 10-2 lead.

16:41: Femi Akinpetide with the strong move and the foul! Femi has all five points in the early going for SHU. Don't get me wrong - I love Femi and the energy he provides SHU on the boards, but SHU will not have long term success if Femi is the go-to-guy on the offensive end.

15:09: Phil Gaetano hits a three to pull the Pioneers to within four, 12-8. I don't like the flow of this game early on. I have a feeling SHU will need to hit a lot of threes just to keep up with this Mountain Hawks offense.

13:51: McCollum drains another long three. And on SHU's ensuing offensive possession, McCollum forces Gibson into a quick turnover. Gibson is now 0-2 from the floor with two turnovers. Seems like he's trying to do too much.

11:18: Pioneers having a hell of a time trying to keep up with Lehigh. The Pioneers are running back very disorganized on defense, leaving open looks in transition for the Mountain Hawks.

9:57: And just as I finish writing that, Lehigh drains another transition three pointer in front of SHU's bench. Dave Bike with the timeout. It's already 28-16 Lehigh.

9:15: Gibson hits his second three-pointer of the game, but then McCollum immediately answers with a three of his own. Is he even breaking a sweat? Right now, he is by far and away the best player on the floor, and it pains me to say that with Gibson out there. But that's what I am ... brutally honest.

7:57: I think I saw a couple of the NBA scouts drooling at their station. McCollum now has 16 points.

6:07: Lehigh hitting an incredible clip of their long range buckets. I mean incredible! Now 8 for 12 by my count. It's a little of hot shooting but also a lot from the Pioneers' porous defense. It's been atrocious early on.

4:51: Breaking News!! SHU prevents Lehigh from scoring in their last 3 possessions. Prior to those 3 possessions, the Pioneers probably have given up close to 1.75 points per possession. I'd look this up to confirm, but I have the motivation of SHU's defense right now.

3:13: Knutson and McCollum are killing SHU right now. They've scored 27 of the Mountain Hawks 47 points. Knutson, a preseason All-Patriot League selection, has carved up the Pioneer frontcourt in this half. Nick Greenbacker nor Justin Swidowski can keep up with the savvy 6'9" big man.

0:34: De'Aires Tate with a defensive rebound and then a bucket on the other end. This game appears to be a blowout, so at the very least, I'll get to see SHU's future on the court. It'll give the fans (albeit very few of them) something to actually cheer for.

0:00: Lehigh hits a breakaway layup at the buzzer to give team a 16 point advantage at the half. A fitting end to the worst half of the season. And that's saying quite a lot.

Halftime: The stats are frankly ugly from SHU's perspective: 57.6% from the floor and 53.3% from three for Lehigh. I'll stop before I start crying in public though...

2nd Half, 19:00: Swidowski commits an offensive foul and then gives a look of bewilderment to the referee. It seems like Swidowski has had that face for the majority of the young season, as have I! I've seen lots of inconsistency out of the big man. On a related note, my depression is starting to sink in.

16:36: The Pioneer defense has been so bad today. And no adjustment out of the coaching staff at the half. No matchup zone, no box and one, nothing. Just more terrible man-to-man. This is just awful to watch. Oh yeah, Lehigh leads 59-37.

15:45: Wouldn't you know it, Dave Bike has a pulse. He implements a 2-3 zone out of the timeout, but then McCollum hits another open three. You're halfway there Mr. Bike, now how about a matchup zone? Please?

15:00: Gibson picks up a quiet technical foul. It's his second one in as many games. This is really depressing. He just seems to have a different attitude this season. Maybe his girlfriend dumped him? I'm legitimately bummed out. SHU beat reporter Bill Paxton is trying to lift my spirits here on press row. We're talking about the 2007 SHU team. Oh Drew Shubik, how I miss you...

12:44: At least I've been treated to my first live look of CJ McCollum. He just crossed over Gibson and hit a three. Coming back down the floor, McCollum flashes a smile toward the NBA scouts. Now, there's no way I'm missing an opportunity to see Lehigh when they visit Navy and American. He's some talent.

11:56: Gibson drains a three to cap off a12-4 run for SHU. To cut the Mountain Hawks lead to 23 points. We're back baby! Timeout Lehigh.

10:02: I'm struggling to pull out highlights now, so maybe this is a good time to recommend a movie to you. I begrudgely had to see Life of Pi on Friday, after Lincoln was sold out. Turns out my wife was right, Life of Pi was a very good movie. And there may or may not have been moisture near my eyes at the end. Thankfully the theater was dark and I had 3D glasses on. (Hopefully most of you already left the running diary, because the game has been over since halftime)

8:34: Montes with a strong move using the left hand to draw the foul. The reason I mention this? Well 1) this game sucks and 2) Montes has had an off game, for perhaps the first time all season. He hits both free throws, but who really cares at the moment.

6:12: Nice to see after a Swidowski three (he's alive after all), Dave Bike decides to ditch the full court press. In fairness, you'll never mistaken SHU's press for the Mount Mayhem or Monmouth's full court pressure. I'm not sure if I've seen a turnover yet this season from the Pioneers' lazy press.

5:26: I just caught myself muttering "only the NEC conference play matters." Ahh yes, we're five games into the season and I'm already looking ahead to January. Pioneer basketball everybody!

4:59: Pioneers commit their 20th turnover. Even Coach Latina looks dejected and he usually has the energy of someone who just drank four cups of coffee.

2:53: Justin Swidowski fouls out after a decent performance offensively. The final numbers from the senior: 10 points, 10 rebounds. Honestly, I never would have guessed he had a double double, mainly because him and the rest of the frontcourt could not contain Knutson and company. But at least Swidoswki is perhaps close to being fully healthy.

1:23: Louis Cramer with the tip in. The walk-on! Lead back to under 20 points! WHY AM I SHOUTING!

0:00: The game has mercifully ended with the final score: Lehigh 91, Sacred Heart 77. It's only a 14 point loss, but make no mistake, this game was NEVER in question in the second half. It's the Pioneers third such game this season, with their blowout losses to Rutgers and Hartford serving as the other lopsided defeats.

Postgame: I overheard assistant coach Johnny Kidd's post game interview on the SHU radio broadcast. His quote: "I thought we would come out and make a statement." Umm, well that didn't happen, now did it?

A couple of hours after the game, I received a call from an unknown number on my cell phone. It was Sacred Heart asking for a donation. The quick conversation went something like this:

SHU: So Mr. Peters, have you been back to Sacred Heart since you graduated?
Me (clearly caught off guard): Umm, yeah. I was there today.
SHU: Oh really?! That's great! Did you enjoy your time on campus today?
Me: (What I said) Suuuuure ... I guess.
       (What I should have said) Are you f***ing kidding me? Did I enjoy watching SHU get absolutely destroyed by Lehigh?!?! Did I enjoy watching this defense?! And their stagnant offense?! What kind of question is that? HOW DARE YOU ASK ME FOR ANOTHER DONATION! (emphatically hang up)

On second though, maybe it was good I was polite and reserved. Maybe I don't need therapy after all.

Until next time ...

Ryan Peters covers Sacred Heart men's basketball for Pioneer Pride and Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride

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