As Danny Glover once said, "I'm getting too old for this sh*t."
Another key out of conference game, another heartbreaking loss.
First, credit to Marquette. They did everything they needed to do to win the game. They made the plays, created the turnovers and hit the final shot to down State in their house. We had Dominic James pegged as the guy to create for his teammates but at the end he did what senior guards do--hit big shots. He capitalized on a defensive mistake by Farnold Degand to get free for a final look at the winning three and hit it.
Now to State. Ugh. This team is in desperate need of a true, bona fide point guard. It seems like ages since we've had one because, well, it has been. Engin Atsur filled the role admirably two years ago, but calling him a true point is a bit of an exaggeration. It wasn't what he was recruited for.
State's lack of a true point guard reared its ugly head last night. The offense was stagnant for much of the evening, and when the Golden Eagles pressed, our guards looked like deer in headlights. There was too much hesitation to attack the press, and it manifested itself in the turnover column. Eighteen turnovers on the night, the majority of which came from the guards.
Degand--bless his heart--just didn't have it last night. It's got to be very, very tough to come back from a knee injury and play with the kind of abandon you need to be effective at this level, but I just didn't see an attacking Degand last night. I saw a hesitant one.
I think there are good things in store for Julius Mays. He had three turnovers against only one assist, but I saw more from him last night than any of the other guards on the floor. I'm hopeful that he can blossom into a capable option before the year is through.
I've got to address the coaching, too: I have no idea why Costner and McCauley spent as much time on the bench in the second half as they did. Costner was unstoppable all night long, and McCauley's minutes were sprinkled so haphazardly that I think it kept him from getting into a rhythm offensively. At the end, when we needed him to produce on successive trips down the court, he missed two key free throws and turned the ball over. I've been as critical of McCauley and Costner as anyone for the way they handled the Hickson situation last year, but the facts are, right at this moment, they are the two best players on this team. Period. And if you're going to keep your two best players on the bench in crunch time, you can expect a result similar to last night.
Overall, I'm disappointed, but I see signs in this team that they can compete with all but the best teams out there. That means the Pack will probably end the year in the middle of the ACC, battling it out with all the mid-tier teams for 5th or 6th in the league, which will be a major improvement over last season.
I'm not ready to shovel dirt on this squad, by any means.