Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sacred Heart Falls to Lafayette in the Final Seconds

If it ain't one thing, well it's another.

The Sacred Heart Pioneers lost on Sunday afternoon in excruciating fashion, when Lafayette freshman guard Bryce Scott drained an OPEN three-pointer with two ticks remaining on the clock. It was the Pioneers' fourth straight defeat and leaves them with a 0-3 record against Patriot League opponents this season.

The defense was, as usual, lacking in the first half as Lafayette raced out to a 20-4 advantage. Only eight minutes had elapsed and already Dave Bike had burned through two timeouts and enough violent head-bobs to make a figure skater dizzy. As I was listening to this wretched mess on my car ride home from Costco, I shuttered to think that I'd be writing yet another depressing blog post. Luckily, I had just purchased a pair of sleek Calvin Klein jeans for $19.99, so I was in a decent mode. But I digress.

After falling behind by 16 points, Bike emptied out his bench probably sick to his stomach. The underachieving Pioneers were now seven for eight in finding themselves down double digits at some point in the first half. Let that resonate with you for a second. They had found a way to be trailing by ten or more points in the first half of 87.5% of their games.

This time around, however, Bike's message got through to the players. Steve Glowiak and Nick Greenbacker combined for 20 first half points, Mostafa Abdel-Latif grabbed four boards in three productive minutes, and the high motored De'Aires Tate provided some much needed energy of the bench. As hideous as the opening minutes had been, SHU was actually heading into the locker room down three points, despite receiving absolutely zero contributions from Shane Gibson and Louis Montes. All things considered, it was a moral victory worth celebrating.  And these days, I guess that's something us Pioneer fans will have to settle on.

The second half was an exciting back and forth affair, but when a Phil Gaetano three-pointer gave the Pioneers' their first lead in nearly five halves (more than two games) of basketball, it felt like Bike's bunch would persevere with a badly needed road victory. Gibson was back to his usual self in the second half, as he impressively poured in 25 points on 13 shots. Gaetano had another double digit assist effort. The only problem was I forgot about the dreadful Pioneers' defense.

If you read my previous post, you already knew that the Pioneers' defense was never to be trusted. And of course with today's game in the balance, Lafayette scored 17 points in their final 12 possessions, good for a dismal 1.42 points per possession (the average is roughly 1.00 points per possession). Perhaps if SHU hadn't missed eight of their ten free throw attempts, they wouldn't have been in this predicament. Either way, a stunned group of Pioneer players had to endure a long bus ride home to Fairfield after falling to Lafayette 72-70.

In the grand scheme of things, the loss means very little. SHU wasn't getting an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament anyway (wouldn't that have been hilarious), but a record of 3-5 sure as hell would have looked a lot better than a record of 2-6.  In fact, SHU is off to their worst start since ... well two years ago when the Pioneers only won one of their first eight contests. After that 1-7 start, SHU righted the ship by embarking on a three game winning streak. A possible winning streak, this time around, is unlikely to come with Stony Brook and road games against A10 foes La Salle and George Washington to finish out the non-conference slate.

Instead, keeping the remaining players healthy will be paramount. There's now 24 days before SHU opens their NEC conference season at home against the shorthanded LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds. Hopefully, the remaining ten players on scholarship can begin playing together as a cohesive unit, while putting together a consistent effort for 40 minutes. It may not sound like much, but the Pioneers are running out of non-conference games to figure their issues out.

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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