Even I thought hair metal stage banter was cheesy.
Even I thought hair metal stage banter was cheesy.
Kyle Whelliston of The Mid-Majority notes college basketball will break your heart. Most of the time, though, it’ll just drive you nuts.
Nobody’s spirit was crushed when the Flying Dutchmen lost yesterday to former NAC (no, Litos, I didn’t make that one up!) foe Boston University, 68-61, in the final sub-regional game of the Ticket City Legends Classic at the University of Rhode Island. (Rant: Go figure, a Gazelle Group tournament that DOESN’T ACTUALLY HAVE A WINNER. I think this is their end game idea for the That Which Shall Never Be Named. It’ll just go on and on and on until Oct. 14. Rant over.)
As disappointing as the loss was—the Dutchmen led by eight midway through the second half, which marks the second time this week they have squandered an eight-point second half lead and lost—it’s probably not an insurmountable emotional hurdle to overcome, especially considering how well the Dutchmen fared after going 0-for-Puerto-Rico last November.
But it was a frustrating step back for a team that looked so impressive in thoroughly outplaying Cleveland State not even 24 hours earlier and a reminder that it’s probably too early to declare the Dutchmen a CAA championship contender (which won’t stop me later this week from spelling out how they can win the league, but I digress).
The good news is there are about 341 other teams in the same position this morning. Because, after all, this is college basketball, and it drives everybody nuts. Here’s the postgame buffet from Sunday (and it will be an actual buffet this time, and not a five-course meal—shocking, that I would begin rambling in a setting designed to deliver a quicker hit blog post. Why am I using so many parenthesis? I don’t know.)
1.) Speaking of going nuts, how is it that we all would have taken a 1-2 trip last week, yet now a 1-2 trip feels so empty and unfulfilling? The expectations were that the Dutchmen would finish off the tournament with a win over Boston U., so when the “1” happened a day earlier than expected against a borderline top 25 team, it raised expectations for not only the weekend but the season.
But losing to Boston U. was another reminder of how the Dutchmen remain raw and inconsistent. The most obvious indicator: On Saturday, the Dutchmen’s leading scorer was a reserve (or, in this case, reserves) for the first time in almost two years and the subs scored more than half the points for the first time in almost three years. On Sunday, the Dutchmen had a single double-digit scorer, Mike Moore, who accounted for the highest percentage of the Dutchmen’s points (27 of 61, or 44.3 percent) since Charles Jenkins had 32 of the Dutchmen’s 59 points in a loss to Florida Atlantic last Dec. 11.
Stephen Nwaukoni, Dwan McMillan and Bryant Crowder, who combined for 32 points Saturday, had just 10 points Sunday while providing reminders of their relative inexperience. McMillan the Whirling Dervish had four assists and three turnovers, Nwaukoni played just 15 minutes due to foul trouble and Crowder played just 12 minutes.
Shemiye McLendon, meanwhile, finally scored his first points of the weekend in the second half and finished with four points but continued slumping by committing three turnovers and forcing Mo Cassara to turn back to McMillan—who had suffered a head injury shortly after Stevie Mejia exited with a hamstring injury—to run the point late in the game.
All that said, the struggles of the reserves may have been concealed by a win if not for one thing: Moore was 9-of-17 while eight of the other nine Dutchmen to get into the boxscore were 10-of-30—not great, but not awful. But that 10th player…
2.) …was Nathaniel Lester, who scored all four of his points from the free throw line and was 0-for-9 from the field in the worst 0-fer for a Dutchman in almost exactly 10 years. Woody Souffrant was 0-for-9 against Bucknell Dec. 29, 2001 while Joel Suarez was 0-for-9 against Syracuse on Dec. 4, 2001.
So those of you scoring at home, Lester’s shooting performances this week went: 1-for-13, 7-for-15, 2-for-9 and 0-for-9. That’s 10-for-46 in four games after going 20-for-37 in his first three games. Sometimes high, sometimes low.
Such ebbs and flows are routine for Lester. In a four-game stretch in January 2009, he went 1-for-9, 1-for-4, 3-for-6 and 7-for-15. And in a four-game stretch spanning December and January of his freshman year, he shot 1-of-8, 1-of-10, 6-of-19 and 1-of-8. It is understandable that Lester’s going to run hot and cold coming back from a year off, and he did contribute by pulling down 29 rebounds this week. But with so many inexperienced players in the rotation, the Dutchmen need Lester to minimize the cold snaps.
3.) The same goes for David Imes, who had one rebound yesterday and just 12 rebounds this week, his fewest over a four-game stretch since he joined the starting lineup, while scoring in single digits every time, including nine Sunday. As usual, effort and determination wasn’t an issue for Imes, who provided valuable grit by playing 25 minutes despite foul trouble and a split lip that required post-game stitches.
And history suggests he’ll revert to form soon: Imes had a stretch of eight straight games late last season in which he scored fewer than 10 points but ended the year by exceeding double digits four times in the final seven games. But the sooner that happens, the better, because yesterday proved the Dutchmen can’t win a whole lot of games with their two or three of their most experienced players rendered relative non-factors.
4.) The loss Sunday shouldn’t diminish some of the positives that did come out of the weekend, which may be looked back on as the turning point in Moore’s evolution as a leader. After accepting a secondary role when Cleveland State focused on him Saturday, Moore pulled a Charles Jenkins Sunday, doing everything possible to will the Dutchmen to win by tying his career high with 11 rebounds to go along with the 27 points, which was just one shy of his career high.
Mejia’s absence in the second half may have been the biggest factor in the loss to Boston U. One day after he scored 10 pivotal points, Mejia continued to play as if he’s shaken off the rust from his redshirt year by collecting four assists with no turnovers in the first half, during which the Dutchmen had as many assists as turnovers (six). Without Mejia in the second half, the Dutchmen had five assists and 10 turnovers. The six days between games will give Mejia plenty of time to get well, though Cassara told WRHU he wasn’t sure how long Mejia would be out.
The Dutchmen also once again showed they have real, live, actual depth. Four players got hurt Sunday—Nwaukoni also left briefly—but the Dutchmen had the bodies to remain competitive, which wouldn’t have happened last year. Freshman power forward Moussa Kone had five points and four rebounds, both career highs, and played eight of his 13 minutes in the second half.
5.) Most of all, this weekend was a reminder college basketball is almost always an imperfect exercise. How many teams bring their peak game every game? One Flying Dutchmen team—the 2000-01 juggernaut—has done that in the last 17 years, though the 2005-06 squad came close to maintaining that focus. Cassara probably didn’t eat or sleep much last night going over how the worst-case scenario of a 1-2 trip felt so much lousier than he envisioned, but following up a seismic win with a loss that negates all those good feelings is pretty normal. Sometimes high, sometimes low.
Of course, that’s easy for me to say. But nobody will mind if Sunday benefits the Dutchmen 14 weeks from now (check the calendar kiddies!).