Tuesday, December 15, 2009

JTG 12/14/09 - The TWEET heard 'round the world

It’s been a tough week for a Jaysker. I had to spend a week dealing with a phantom second on the clock in Cowboys Stadium, and now I have to deal with a phantom technical foul that helped seal the Bluejays’ fate against George Mason.

Let me set the table for you. After being behind at halftime, Creighton took solid control of their game against the Patriots, extending to a three-possession lead in the final minutes. George Mason put on a spirited comeback, including giving Creighton all kinds of fits with an aggressive full-court pressure, and cut the lead to 73-72 with 18 seconds left to play.

The Bluejays were on the wrong end of a blocking call at the defensive end, setting George Mason up for two free throws. Coach Dana Altman informed Missouri Valley conference official Brad Gaston of his disagreement with the decision.

TWEET!

A technical foul is called. Altman insists that his disagreement did not include any foul language, and nothing has surfaced to contradict Altman’s claim. Regardless, George Mason hit two free throws and took the lead. After a turnover, the Patriots extended their lead to 75-72 and Creighton did not score further.

Bluejay Nation, understandably, was incandescently angry with the technical foul. And yes, the referee has no business making that call unless there is a stone-cold, undeniable reason to blow the whistle. Gaston and the Valley owe the Bluejays in specific and basketball fans in general an explanation for the call.

But having said that, Creighton has no one to blame but themselves for their fourth loss in five games. CU had the game in hand and absolutely frittered the game away. Here’s just a few things that went wrong for the Bluejays in crunch time:

- Missed free throws: On more than one occasion, Creighton missed the front end of one-and-one shots that prevented them from opening up a bigger lead and pulling away from the Patriots. For the game, Creighton was only 10-18 from the charity stripe, mirroring the poor performance that dogged them in the Old Spice Classic.

- Offensive confusion: Even after everything that happened with the phantom technical foul, Creighton had the ball with 18 seconds and the ball. There was plenty of time to settle into an offensive set and get a good shot to win the game. Instead, the only way to describe the Bluejays’ attack was one of panic. CU ended up turning the ball over after Justin Carter fell over, with no Creighton player around.

- Lack of aggression: Does 18 free throw attempts seem like a low number? It might. But when you compare it to George Mason’s 44 attempts, you see how gargantuan the differential is. It’s fair to question the refereeing of the game (particularly after the TWEET heard around Bluejay Nation), but the fact is that Creighton settled for the perimeter for much of the game, while George Mason was more aggressive. Creighton’s 29 three-point basket attempts underlines the Bluejays’ satisfaction to remain outside the key.

Against Nebraska, Creighton was in a similar circumstance, with the lead late and needing to put a team away. At home, Creighton looked more comfortable and hit their free throws to grind out a win. On the road, just like in Orlando, the Bluejays collapsed at the end.

As harsh as it sounds, I don’t see how you avoid the conclusion that Creighton choked this game away. For much of the game, Creighton looked strong and athletic, and were the better team on the court. But when crunch time arrived, all that strength and athleticism crumbled.

In some ways, the debacle in Orlando makes the ramifications of this game less dire. We knew before the tip against George Mason that CU needed to win the Valley tournament to make the Big Dance, so the game against the Patriots really would have no effect on their post-season fate.

There were many positives to take from the game for Creighton, and hopefully Altman will be able to rally the troops. CU gets a mid-week softie against Savannah State at the Qwest, and then they go on the road to play New Mexico in The Pit on Saturday. Coming home, Creighton sits at 3-5 with 22 games remaining. That means, to keep their streak of 20-win seasons intact, Creighton can only lose at most seven games the rest of the season.

So the New Mexico game has meaning in part for the streak. But mostly, Creighton needs to get a win on the road against a legitimate (if not overpowering) opponent just for their confidence. Their first road conference game is New Years’ Day, against Indiana State and former Creighton assistant coach Kevin McKenna. It’s a daunting prospect, and we will find out in the next week if some leadership and maturity will emerge from this years’ Bluejay squad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved the use of the word... "incandescently." Nice vocab!