Feb. 26, 2013
Last week, we played Valparaiso, which sits atop the Horizon League standings. We got down early mostly because they hit some early threes in transition, and even though at one point we were down by 17 points, this team did what it has done all year: NEVER QUIT. With some injuries to some starters, any team could easily just call it a season, and not have very high expectations, but that is not this team. We refuse to do that and isn't even an option for us. We will continue to fight and scrap and expect to win every single game that we play.
We fought back and tied the game in the second half against Valpo, but our efforts came up just a bit short, as it showed why it is the best team in the Horizon League right now. After the game, we could have accepted the moral victory of coming back and tying the game against the league's best team, but we do not believe in moral victories. Despite the loss, we learned that we could play with anyone in the League. Valpo is a very good team, but I think the message that this team is starting to believe and is beginning to resonate with one another is that we can play with, compete against, and beat anyone. In order to do that, we need to put together a full game of 40 minutes like we did when we beat Valpo in our League opener in January.
Last Saturday, we took on a very quick, active, and aggressive Kent State team in the ESPN BracketBuster game. Kent State has some guards that can flat out score the ball, but we got an early jump on them and started the game with a big run to take an 11-point lead. Kent State showed why it is one of the best teams in the MAC Mid-American Conference though as it battled and pressed, and eventually took the lead back just before halftime. Kent State took advantage of our defensive lapses in the latter part of the first half and never looked back. They controlled the tempo, and seemed to score so easily due to a few defensive mistakes on our part. We never gave up and battled right to the last second, but unfortunately, our efforts came up short again.
These two games really need to sink in with this team. We have two games left - at Detroit and at home versus Cleveland State. We need to take the lessons from these two games and apply them to our play right now. It is getting to be that time of the year when anything can happen. Plenty of teams have gone on a run in their conference tournament after a rough year during the season and made some magic in the madness of March. But that cannot happen if we don't buy in to the belief that we can play and compete with anyone, and that we need to be able to come together as a single unit on defense with each part doing its particular job. The second component is crucial. It is the ability to dominate the other team and can create points on the other end. Being able to stop a team consistently on the defense end is the fun part of basketball and knowing that no matter what the other team does, that they are not going to score, is a belief we need to embrace. Buying in to these two simple ideas can help us make a run in March.
We hope to see everyone at our regular-season finale against Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon and hope you can make it to Gentile Arena to recognize our two seniors, Ben Averkamp, and Jordan Hicks, as we honor them on Senior Day.