Finally got back from Hilton. Great game tonight. This was the type of Cyclone effort I've been waiting for all year! We battled loose balls, got offensive rebounds, and for a lot of the game played smart basketball. The bad news is we got beat up big time. Gilstrap, already nursing injuries, got banged up on the hip and was cramping down the stretch in the 2nd half. Brackins hurt his other knee. Boozer in the first half, went down hard. Apparently he dislocated his knee cap. They were able to push it back in, but obviously he was done for the night.
While there has been some inconsistency under McDermott, other things have been consistent. Lucca has a big game against Drake each year. Also, ISU hangs at home against a team no one expects them to, but just comes up short (Last year Oklahoma, 2 yrs ago Texas). This was our annual "play out of your mind at home" game. I hope we see more of these the rest of the season.
What really did ISU in this game was the first minute and a half of the 2nd half, where Texas went on a 10-0 run. Texas came out in the press (which they hadn't done yet all game), and forced a handful of consecutive turnovers, which lead to easy layins for the Longhorns. After that point, the game was pretty even.
What probably disappointed me the most about that early part of the 2nd half, was McDermott's comments in the postgame show. He said that we had worked on Texas' press in practice. I can sort of understand the first time turning it over, but it seriously took a few turnovers AND a timeout to get it together.
The other difference in the game was Texas' physical play combined with depth. It goes hand-in-hand. If you're a deep team, y ou can afford to push the tempo, because you are going to have some great reserves contribute with little to no dropoff. I felt like when ISU got down by 8 to open up the 2nd half, they weren't going to be able to really pressure and press on defense. Hamilton and Dendy did a great job defensivley on Pittman, holding him to only 4 shot attempts. Can you believe that we outscored Texas in the post??
All things considered, I was still proud of this team. Part of me wishes we did the few more things needed to win, but the other part of me realizes that expecting this at this point is unrealistic. We had some serious blows, guys were beat up and tired, and they battled all game. Texas just had more talent, more guys, and were deserving of the win. I didn't expect a win tonight, but knowing that if we prevent a few less layins off of turnovers, and shot better down the stretch, it could have been a different outcome.
The challenge for this team is how they will do against other opponents. Having the #1 team come to your place had better inspire you to battle. It's different playing against a middle-tier team in your conference on the road. If we see the effort we saw tonight consistently from here on out, and we're going to knock off some teams, finish top half in the conference and go dancing. That's a big 'if" as we've only seen this for one game. If we revert back to our effort from the past few weeks, it's going to be rough.
As I've said all year, on paper we've got the talent to compete in this conference. It's all mental with this team. Hopefully we continue to head in the right direction and have a great conference season. I know this game has given me some hope.... For now
Up next for the Cyclones is a battle with those Cornhuskers in Lincoln. They too are coming off a big game of their own, losing by 8 to KU. Should be a good test. I hope our guys can heal up and be ready for the challenge!