Saturday, December 9, 2006

The Day After

One day after an embarassing loss to Manhattan, it is easy to look back on the game with disgust. While there were no bright spots in this game, I do think that the loss had a lot to do with the team's schedule.

While Coach Cooley could not come out to the media and shift the blame onto the schedule, and while he was correct in saying that they had no reason to not be ready to play, they did play a lot of tough games over a short period of time.

The Stags were coming off of two grueling losses to BC and Providence and could not have been in a great mood. The team was sloppy and could not keep up with a Manhattan team that was just as sloppy. Fairfield should have been able to easily get past the Jaspers, especially with Arturo Dubois on the bench. The fact that the opposing team's leading scorer played less than a minute in the second half, and Fairfield was unable to take advantage of it, was disappointing.

They held on to the ball way to long. I understand that Cooley wants them to run the clock down and play at a slow pace, but they are not taking shots with open looks, and are not moving well enough in the flex offense. Too many times Jon Han or Herbie Allen were stuck at the top of the offense with no options to pass and less than 10 seconds on the shot clock.

I also thought that the final 20 seconds were questionable. Fairfield put Antoine Pearman on the line and he hit just one of two, giving the Stags an opportunity to tie the game. However, Han quickly drove the length of the court and attempted a layup, looking to get fouled, but missed, ending the Stags' chances. In my opinion, it would have made more sense to slow it down and set up a final shot for Van Schaick, Han, or Allen, who all can hit threes.

Now the Stags head into what almost becomes a must win game once again. They are in the same situation that they were in against St. Francis, needing to win for the team's psyche. They cannot come out tomorrow night and lose, it will be a very hard loss to take going in to winter break.

This is a team that has talent. I know some people say they don't have heart and are unprepared, but I do not see that. What I see is a young team, with no truly experienced veteran stars. Mike Van Schaick is a talented player, but he is a streaky shooter, who is not a guy who can carry a team. Anthony Johnson and Greg Nero could both develop into two of the best players in school history, but neither is anywhere close to that right now.

Johnson is the most athletic player on this team by far. The way he can rebound, play above the rim, and work in the flex offense reminds me a lot of Craig Smith at Boston College. Johnson is running similar plays to Smith and I can see that Cooley wants him to be that type of player. But at the same time, he makes stupid mistakes, as a freshman with little experience on the college level would.

Nero is the same way, he is affected by double team pressure, which can shut him down on the offensive end and often makes silly fouls on defense, that take him out of the game. He has shown he is a consistent scorer who could average 15 to 20 points a game, but these last few weeks he has not shown that he is ready to do that.

Finally, I think this Stags team is very inconsistent. Not just game to game, but during the game. Twice during the first half it looked like they could pull away, but turnovers and missed shots allowed Manhattan to get back into it and eventually take over the game. At one point Fairfield's Mamadou Diakhate came up with a nice steal, but then Han tried to force a pass to him and it was stolen. Diakhate fouled the Jaspers player and that helped them get back into the game. Allen also had some poor passes that led to bad turnovers.

Tomorrow night will be a game that sets the tone for how the winter break goes. Will it be a merry Christmas for the Stags?

Game recap should be on soon. Also Frank's game preview should be up on the blog tonight or tomorrow morning.


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