A good effort in front of about 7,000, the largest and most enthusiastic crowd of the season, ends in another loss. Things started out very good. We opened the game with some 1-2-2 pressure, and while we didn't force a lot of turnovers out of it, the ball pressure disrupted the aggies offense. Green was dominant down low, and we built an 11 point first half lead.
The aggies made some adjustments, got momementum, Gottfried was called for a technical, and the lead was gone by halftime. I don't spend much time defending Gottfried these days, but the technical foul call was B.S. I sit right behind the bench, and could not hear what he said, so it obviously was not very loud. He was not outside of the coach's box, and he had a legitimate gripe. Texas A&M got away with about 5 moving screens in the first half. They finally called it a time or two in the second half, and they stopped doing it.
Foul trouble hurt us in the second half. Green was great when he was in the game, but he only played 19 minutes due to foul trouble. If the fouls were the result of aggressive defense I could live with it, but they were mostly stupid fouls. His fourth foul, for example, occurred when his man set a screen 20 feet from the basket, and Green inexplicably grabbed his jersey.
We did a much better job of taking care of the basketball in the second half, and we were able to force some turnovers and get some baskets in transition to retake the lead. A&M played an agressive man to man in the second half, overplaying the passing lanes, and not once did we run anything to try to go back door. As usual, the high post offense was a disaster, because the only big man we have with good hands was on the bench with foul trouble. Nevertheless, Knox was able to get some second chance opportunities and Hillman made some incredible shots over the Aggie defenders.
We don't seem to know how to win a close game. Our free throw shooting woes continue. Hillman, who made some incredible shots from the field, missed 2 late in the game. We are one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to managing a close game in the final minutes. This was almost as bad as the game at South Carolina last year. We don't do any offense/defense substitutions. Down 5, the Aggies put in a goofy looking white guy who hadn't received any significant minutes the entire game. It was obvious he was in there to shoot a 3, and we leave him wide open, so now it's a 2 point game. We then put Torrance in the game, after he's sat on the bench all day, and expect him to make 2 free throws. First of all, Torrance should have played more, especially when Ron was hurting in the second half. Secondly, Ron Steele is one of the best free throw shooters in the country, you have to get him the ball in that situation. At any rate, Torrance only makes one, and the Aggies get the rebound trailing by 3 with less than 15 seconds remaining. In that situation, everyone knows a quick 2 does them no good. There was absolutely no reason for any of our defenders to even set foot inside the 3 point line on defense. I can understand not fouling, because they may throw up a shot and get the continuation call and 3 shots, but you have to defend the perimeter in that situation. They scored on a simple drive and dish play. There is no reason anyone should have left the perimeter when their guard drove inside. So, the Aggies made their second straight wide-open 3 in the last 30 seconds of the game to force overtime.
We still had a second or two to try to win the game, but we ran the same last second play we've been running for 4 years now. It worked once, maybe twice. At this point, all of our opponents have seen that play on film. It consists of Jemison inbounding the ball, faking the pass to a flashing Ron Steele at half court, throwing over his head to Justin Knox, who can either catch and shoot or tip the ball to Gee on the wing. There wasn't a soul in the gym who didn't know what was coming there, but the ball was overthrown anyway.
Ron Steele appeared to be cramping up late in the game, and he made some uncharacteristic bad decisions both in transition and in the half court. He forced a couple of 3's in overtime that were way off. Earlier in the game, I felt he was looking too much to create shots for his teammates when everyone except Senario was cold. I would like to see Ron look to create a few more shots for himself. At the end of overtime when we desperately needed 3's, I would have had Hollinger in the game along with Steele, Hillman, and Gee. Instead, we left a couple of big men in on offense, making it even easier for them to defend the perimeter. We never really had a chance in OT after blowing the lead at the end of regulation.
Up next, Tennessee State, Wednesday night at 7pm.