One would think after losses to Tulane, Mercer, Dayton, and auburn, this team would learn that it's not good enough to just show up and beat a crap team, but apparently that is not the case. Rodney Cooper, Levi Randolph, Retin Obasohan, and at times Trevor Releford came to play, and thankfully that was enough to beat a bad team that started with 6 scholarship players and ended with 4.
We led the entire way, and Releford played well at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game to give us the lead initially, and eventually help put it away. We were able to force a lot of turnovers in the first half with our press but we made some silly mistakes on offense and failed to convert a lot of easy chances. At halftime, we led by 11, and I wasn't too concerned that the score was still somewhat close, as they hung with us for a half in Starkville. I actually expected them to be fired up for this game and for us to pull away in the second half after our press wore them down. I was more concerned that we were playing so sloppy and appeared unfocused.
Speaking of halftime, I did not think it was possible to have a worse halftime show than the goofy inflatable mascots last weekend, but this one may have topped it. It was a heard of about 40 three year old kids dancing around to children's music with basketballs. I don't want to be critical of the three year olds, they are 3, they can't help that they suck, but whoever organized this should be ashamed. It would be one thing if they actually danced, or dribbled, or had some decent music, or even moved around...instead they all had little dots that they stood on while they swung the ball over there head, sat on it, stood up, etc. It was like watching a damned daycare activity. If they did it for free, fine, at least the kids got to go on the court and feel like they are performing, but if someone is actually charging Universities to book this "performance" they should be jailed for exploiting children, and the person at UA who booked them should be fired for stupidity.
Anyway, back to the game, and the 2nd half where our team looked about as coordinated as some of those three year olds at times. I remarked with about 8 minutes remaining that the game had an eerily similar feel to the Mercer game, a shitty opponent playing very hard and inspired in front of a small, disinterested crowd while most of our guys just looked like they were ready for the game to be over. We had no communication on defense. For some reason we even switched to a zone at one point. State started putting pressure on us, and instead of attacking the basket when we beat them, we went back to running the shot clock down to 5 every possession. It was like we were playing the only way that could possibly give them a chance to win, and we found ourselves in a 4 point game with 5 minutes remaining. Thankfully, we forced some turnovers and turned it up a notch to stretch the lead back out to 12 over the next few minutes. Those last 4 minutes of the game was the only time that I really felt the entire team played with intensity.
Congrats to Rodney Cooper on his double-double with 20 points and 10 boards. He won this game for us. Our bigs were horrible. I thought Moussa took a step back this game. He did not even have a blocked shot, but he went after several blocks from way too far away from the basket eliminating any chance of getting a rebound. The bad Nick Jacobs decided to show up, with 3 points and 1 rebound in 15 minutes of play. I have a theory that Jacobs for whatever reason only plays well against good competition. He's had very good games against Nerlens Noel and Johnny O-Bryant of LSU, but gets owned by Rob freaking Chubb of auburn and those scrubs from Starkville. We desperately need the good Nick Jacobs back this weekend.
I'm no expert on the fundamentals of post play. I'm 5'11, I was a guard and have never played the 4 or 5 position in my life. If someone more knowledgeable than me can explain to me why our bigs, especially Jacobs, puts the ball on the floor on the low block after receiving the ball in the post, I would greatly appreciate it. I fail to see what can be gained by having a 6'8 or 7 foot guy, (who let's face it, neither are great ball handlers) dribble the ball that close to the basket. My understanding is when you receive the ball in that position, especially if you have a clear, wide open one step layup as Jacobs did at one point last night, you immediately go up strong with the ball, and finish before the defense collapses. Not to mention the fact that our bigs travel more than Patrick Ewing, but unfortunately do nothing else like him, thus it actually gets called on us. It may very well just be my ignorance, but my perception is that our basic fundamentals in the post are not very good.
Doug Shows and the officiating crew did not have a good night either. In fairness, games that ugly and sloppy are very difficult to officiate, so I can somewhat understand the inconsistency in the judgment calls. They called a double technical that resulted in Trevor Lacey's 5th foul during a timeout. I did not see what the two players did to warrant the technical. Late in the game when $tate was fouling to stop the clock, they had a guy foul out. It seemed to me they were taking longer than the 20 seconds permitted by rule to get the replacement into the game. A couple of plays later, the same thing happened, and this time it was CLEARLY taking longer than 20 seconds. Shows even signaled to his partner to go ahead and administer the free throws, despite the fact that the disqualified player was still on the court. The other official correctly indicated that he could not administer the free throws without defensive players in their proper position on the low block. Finally, well after a whole minute passed, all the while the $tate coach is huddled with his team by the way, he replaces the guy who fouled out WITH THE GUY WHO FOULED OUT EARLIER! Amazingly, despite the fact that at least a minute has now passed, the officials merely pointed this out to the coach, who then put in a walkon substitute, who did not even bother to report to the scorer's table. That sequence may have set a record for number of technical fouls that should have been called but weren't.
The crowd was beyond pathetic. I would estimate no more than 5,000 people were there, and that is simply inexcusable for the 2nd place team in a conference, especially at this point in the season, playing against our biggest rival. I know $tate is way down (and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch), but their 8 players were the only ones in the gym who seemed to appreciate the fact that this was a rivalry game. The only time it got semi-loud was when they cut the lead to 4 late in the game, and the team responded.
Up next, we travel to Baton Rouge to take on a solid LSU team at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be televised on the SEC Network, but if you are in South Alabama (or anywhere, really) try to make it to the P-Mac. LSU still has plenty of good tickets available. This is a HUGE game for obvious reasons, and I'm sure the team would appreciate seeing and hearing some Crimson in the stands. Huntsville stepped up earlier and helped get us a win in Nashville, now it's time for you Mobile folks to do your part. Of course, I'll be there representing the Ham.