We don't like to make excuses here, and if you get beat by a good team then you just got beat. I was able to watch the game and this team wasn't 100%. We played 4 teams in the span of a week in 3 cities, and though they're young, that's very hard to do and compete at your best. West Virginia is a good team, they play in a tough conference and played a tough schedule, and we needed to be at our best to beat them and we weren't.
In the future the NCAA should look into starting the Tournament a day later, or staggering the start time of the First Four so that each team would get 48 hours between games. Perhaps they should cancel the postgame presser that ends up forcing the team to leave another 2 hours after the 10pm-midnight game was already over, I don't know.
The first half of this one was uncharacteristic of either team. Both defenses were bad. Both teams shot at or above 50%. Brownell seemed to have dictated the pace he wanted us to play in the 1st half, forcing WV to adjust in transition and not allowing them to set their defense. My only thought is whether that may have tired us a bit more. Had we been mentally and physically rested, I believe it would've worked better.
After Andre Young got his 2nd foul at around 7 min left in the 1st, we had to put in Zavier Anderson. Zavier is usually a pesky defender but he's a liability when he handles the ball. He turned the ball over more than the two times his statsheet says. One set up a 3 and WVU got some other open looks for Kevin Jones off ball screens pretty quickly and the big lead we built up evaporated. They gained their confidence with those 3s. These are just mental mistakes on our part. Bad defense. I didn't think we were very tired physically here at the end of the first, but the defensive lapses piled up here.
In the 2nd, we did begin to look tired physically, or at least not mentally focused. A lot of your hustle is just mental, and there wasn't the hustle on defense for most of the half. Guys that dominated inside were now getting pushed out of the way. We did really well on the boards from my POV in the 1st, but got killed in the 2nd. Our jump shots were weaker, passes were sloppy, and the pace that was set in the 1st just disappeared. Our team was fouling way too much for most of the half.
West Virginia got the game into a half-court set and their defense was very good, so its not all on guys being tired or anything. They fought harder, hustled better, and they deserve their credit. We were kicking their ass inside and they completely turned it around on us.
Even with all that against them, they managed to get it within 1 at the end when they got the trap on Mazzula. That was really the only call that I felt was totally wrong, most of the others were ticky tack shit. It looked like a good trap to me; Mazzula picked it up and sat on it.
The passing at the end really put the nail in, and they were all lazy inadvised passes. Pepper stole 3 from midcourt and that ended this game.
We'd like to hear your thoughts on the last game. We'll be finishing up on basketball here with our Season Review post in a few weeks, and looking to next season. After the jump we have a partial transcript of the postgame interviews thanks to VoodooFive.com.
COACH BROWNELL: Congratulate West Virginia on a very hard-fought win. I thought we played exceptionally well at the start. They certainly made a nice run at the end of the half to tie it. Took a little bit of control in the second half, and we fought back. And then tough call late that went against us when we cut it to three, and they were able to make free throws, and then the bottom kind of fell out and they were able to win.
Tanner, just looking at the game, I don't think I've ever seen a game this season where so many little things went against you guys. Just talk about that, like every ball that bounced, every angle was just against it?
TANNER SMITH: Yeah, that seemed to happen today. We usually get to those loose balls. And we knew rebounding was going to be a big thing for us tonight, and we just didn't get the job done.
Andre, I think West Virginia went on a 21-5 run from the end of the first half to the beginning of the second half. Did that coincide with fatigue or something else?
ANDRE YOUNG: I just think we just had a mental fatigue just occur. I think we just didn't pay enough attention to detail, and we just didn't do a good enough job defensively and getting rebounds because that's how they got a lot their points.
Tanner, the foul call on you late without crossing any lines that you can't cross in talking about officiating, but what happened on that play? You were very demonstrative in your reaction to that call.
TANNER SMITH: I just thought we had him in a good trap. We just didn't get the call. That's just the way it is. But I made a key turnover after that, so it's not like that cost us the game or anything. We had plenty of chances to win the game, we just didn't finish plays.
Tanner, was there a physical fatigue there at the end of the first half, beginning of the second, considering what West Virginia did to take control of the game?
TANNER SMITH: I don't think so. We -- just like Andre said, we had mental breakdowns defensively, and we were playing pretty good defense to start the game, limiting them to one shot, and ended up kind of going away from that, and that hurt our offense, I think, as well, when we can't get out in transition, just push the pace.
Andre, did you sense at some point, I want to say at the end of the first half, it was maybe a 9-2 run, then the big pointer, did you see at that point that it was maybe slipping away from you guys?
ANDRE YOUNG: I thought throughout the game we had a chance to win it. There's a lot of crazy things that happen in these NCAA Tournaments, and you've just got to keep fighting and keep playing until the buzzer sounds. We just wanted to keep fighting, keep trying to play and give ourselves an opportunity to win the game.
Coach, from your vantage point, how big of a factor was fatigue in this game?
COACH BROWNELL: I don't know. We certainly were ready to go early. I mean, 12:15 is less than ideal. I certainly hope they address it for the student-athletes' sake because it's -- there is a wearing effect on the game.
But West Virginia played well, and they made free throws when they got fouled. They were aggressive going to the boards.
We seemed a little bit slow at the end in the second half. We didn't respond like we needed to, maybe as competitively as we've been in certain situations. I mean, we didn't lose the game because the game started at 12:15, but I don't know if we were a half step slow. There were a couple times when the lasting -- we're just not as deep, so it's hard for us. We don't bring a lot of guys off the bench to be able to rest guys for very long. Sometimes there's a little bit of a drop off in a game when you're playing a quality team like this, there can be.
But West Virginia played well. They only turned the ball over 11 times, made free throws, were very opportunistic offensively, and they guard you. So our defense let us down.
With the last couple minutes in the first half, do you feel like momentum was strongly in their favor to start the second half?
COACH BROWNELL: I don't think it started that way. I think it ended that way at the beginning of the first half, but when you have a 20-minute halftime, you're starting fresh. They just came out and made a couple plays to start the second half, and we got on our heels a little bit, and we responded and cut it to three late. You know, something goes our way on that possession, we might be doing the interviews second instead of first.
With that said, though, how key were Dalton's steals there?
COACH BROWNELL: They certainly iced the game. It's not the normal way you would attack a one-three-one and obviously that's why Coach Huggins went to it. He went to it to slow the game. He went to it to try to keep us from -- make us make more passes late. You know, it would have been different if he did it with ten minutes to go and we had time to try to use the clock and do all those kind of different things. But my guys were trying to score quickly, we needed to score quickly. Certainly they were big plays, and obviously that's why coach does a great job is he went to that with four minutes to go or whatever, or three minutes to go, and we were having some success offensively, and it just forces you to play around it and probably risk some passes that you shouldn't risk, and he knocked a couple balls away, and that iced the game.
Just a moment ago you referred to something about if that possession had gone our way it might have made a difference, talking about the foul on Tanner. What did you see on that particular play?
COACH BROWNELL: I don't know, I just thought there was actually a possession with Devin in the middle where we cut it to three that was right in middle of the court. I didn't think there was much contact, so they got to go to the foul line. It's a one possession game. We have momentum and now he makes two free throws and now it's back to five and they can go back and play zone and everything changes.
That's how these games are, folks. I mean, it's a play here, a call there, a turnover, a missed shot, a made shot. Momentum just changes like that in these games, and all of a sudden the team that's behind, if we get that basketball back with a chance to take the lead or tie it to cut it to one that building is going to go in our favor and it's going to get crazy.
West Virginia opened up the second half with a 10-2 rebounding advantage. Does that speak to -- Andre was talking about mental fatigue. Does that speak to that?
COACH BROWNELL: Just lack of attention to detail. We told our guys that was going to be the most important factor in the second half, and that's obviously what Coach Huggins coaches their team to do. They're a tremendous offense you have rebounding team. We got some offensive rebounds, as well, but in crucial times when we needed a stop, the last thing you've got to do is rebound the ball, and we didn't do it. They got three or four put-backs and those were probably the game changers in terms of -- easy baskets like that really take a lot of pressure off your offense. You then don't have to make guarded shots or make plays. That's why free throws and put-backs are so important, because they don't make you make shots, you don't have to make plays, you just lay it in or you go to the free-throw line and make it. There was way too many free throws and way too many put-backs for us to win today.
Can you just -- now that the season is over kind of take a second to talk about this year and what you guys did accomplish.We're very early in the tournament at this point, but games seem to be running a little bit longer this year. Is that something you guys noticed and made note of?
COACH BROWNELL: It was a great year for us. We were picked anywhere from 7th to 12th in the ACC, and more people had us 9, 10 and 11 than anywhere else, I would say.
Proud of our seniors. I think they really led us. I think they served as great ambassadors for our team, and we improved a great deal from start to finish. And as a result we were playing really good basketball here down the stretch, and for those guys to be a group of seniors that have gone to four straight NCAA Tournaments, there's not many schools in the country that can say that.
COACH BROWNELL: Yeah, they are running long. The 20-minute halftime is too much. I understand why we're doing it, but it's a lot. You know, it's almost like starting back over. You can tell your guys some stuff, and there's not enough to tell them to fill 20 minutes. They can get a drink and do all that. The timeouts were longer, and I don't have as big a problem with that. That's part of it, too. But I wish they'd go back to the 15-minute halftime. I just feel like halftime is really long. We've been in two of them now, and you're almost sitting around waiting by the time you tell your guys a few things on offense, a few things on defense, and then you wait five or six minutes to go back out on the court. You'd like the pace of the game to go and get back in it.