Damn that radio song.
Damn that radio song.
Been there, done that: Blown leads this year, blown leads against Old Dominion the last few years, later than anticipated postgame buffets. Hooray! With just a few hours to go until the Dutchmen try to win their first CAA game of the season for the seventh time, here’s the buffet from the 69-61 loss to Old Dominion Saturday:
1.) Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Flying Dutchmen digging themselves an even bigger hole, a quick note to marvel at the coaching acumen of Old Dominion’s Blaine Taylor. Old Dominion is 10-5 against the Dutchmen since the start of the 2004-05 season. In five of those wins, the Monarchs came back from deficits of at least eight points, including Saturday’s comeback from a 13-point deficit. And in two other wins, they came back from a five-point second half deficit and a six-point first half deficit. The man can coach, and now that he whom we shall not name is gone to South Beach, there’s no doubt that Taylor is the finest architect in the CAA. This of course is subject to change if VCU becomes a regular visitor to the Final Four or Sweet 16 under Shaka Smart, but at the moment nobody in the league can match the consistency of Old Dominion.
2.) The Dutchmen are consistent too, in all the wrong ways. After another fast start—the Dutchmen bolted out to a 16-3 lead three days after scoring the first nine points against Northeastern—the Dutchmen squandered a second half lead of at least seven points for the second game in a row and the fifth time this season.
The problem Saturday was turnovers and a lack of depth. The Dutchmen had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4/7 in the second half against Old Dominion and had just one assist and all seven turnovers after taking their biggest second half lead at 46-39 with 16:47 to go.
And while Old Dominion got 73 minutes and 32 points from its bench, the Dutchmen received just 31 minutes and two points from the trio of Moussa Kone, Shemiye McLendon and Stevie Mejia. The inability of the reserves—particularly McLendon, who played a career-low three minutes and has just three points in his last three games—to provide a spark proved particularly costly when the Dutchmen twice went eight straight possessions without a field goal and generally looked exhausted in shooting 7-of-26.
3.) The absence of bench production was doubly noticeable because Mike Moore, Nathaniel Lester and David Imes were a combined 14-of-43 from the field. Moore (19 points) and Lester (10 points) combined for 29 points in the first half but just eight in the second half, including two by Moore. Imes hit two jumpers in the second half as the Dutchmen got off to a fast start but had just two free throws the rest of the way.
The good news is Imes was shooting nearly 60 percent (26-of-44) in his previous six game, Lester is shooting 44 percent (47-of-108) in 10 games following his early season slump and Moore still leads the CAA in scoring. But the Dutchmen simply can’t win when their three most experienced players shoot 33 percent combined and nobody else steps up when Moore gets double teamed in the second half.
4.) I don’t know if this is good or bad, but the Dutchmen continue to look like the best 0-6 team in CAA history. The Dutchmen have lost those six games by 36 points. That’s a smaller margin of defeat than any other team to start CAA play 0-5 since 2001-02. No misprint there.
As our good friend Mike Litos noted Monday, the effort never waned on Saturday, to the point that trying too hard might have contributed to the Dutchmen’s second half carelessness. Led by Imes’ 10 rebounds and Stephen Nwaukoni’s eight boards (the fifth straight game in which he had at least eight rebounds), the Dutchmen ended up outrebounding Old Dominion 37-32, no small feat against a program that led the nation in rebounding margin last year.
And there were the stretches in which the Dutchmen clearly outplayed Old Dominion: The beginning and end of the first half (when the Dutchmen scored five points in the final 12 seconds to take a 38-33 lead) and the beginning of the second half. How is a team like this 0-6 in CAA play?
5.) Well, because the Dutchmen have no margin for error. They’re more talented than the average 0-6 team, but with a thin bench on even the best of days and no otherworldly superstar to carry them down the stretch, they’re not good enough to make up for a poor assist-to-turnover ratio or the end-game defense that plagued them against Florida Atlantic, James Madison and Northeastern.
If the Dutchmen have any hope of faring a whole lot better than the previous 14 teams to start a CAA season 0-6—and only three played .500 or better ball the rest of the CAA season and none won more than a single game in the CAA Tournament—they’ll have to begin minimizing the mistakes tonight against Drexel. Or else I’ll have to update the 0-fer file again and I really don’t want to do that.