You readers were awesome last night. The burdens of worked forced me to follow three different games (Purdue-Iowa, Kokomo-Westfield, and Miami-Wisconsin) via phone and text. Fortunately, McCutcheon high school had the Purdue game on in the lobby. I got to watch most of the craptacular first half while the teams were warming up. That made me mad.
I mean come on. This was a 5-7 team we were playing. Were we intimidated by the empty seats? Did that throw off our shot? In truth, our struggles were simple. We weren't hitting shots while Iowa was hitting 27-footers with absurd regularity. Even though I was mad, I was surprisingly assured that we would pull it out in the end. As I sat down to cover the game one of the stat guys for the visiting team had the gametracker running on his phone. We started to pull away, as we should have, and all was well.
Maybe this is a Milton Berle game (i.e. we only pulled out enough to win). I am watching the replay on Big Ten Network right now and it certainly looks like it. If it is, oh well. It still goes down as a W.
I think we learned last night that there are no easy road games in conference play. Here we were, playing the worst team in the conference, but it was still a struggle for most of the game. Sometimes you have to survive these games though. I think back to last year's Penn State game at Penn State. It was a similar situation in which there was barely a crowd and Purdue struggled all night. Our depth was a major plus this time (even though we are allegedly not a deep team). While Robbie and E'Twaun did most of the heavy lifting, everyone else contributed. That depth wore Iowa down.
Positives from the Iowa game:
Patrick Bade - Once again, Patrick leads off this category. He took another step forward last night by being aggressive against a Big Ten team. Again, I didn't get to see much, but from what I saw Patrick's confidence continues to grow. As we continue to wait for Sandi Marcius that is a nice luxury. Now we can develop a backup for Patrick as opposed to one for JJ. It is clear Patrick is ahead of him now, but that means anything we get from Marcius if/when he returns will be a huge bonus.
E'Twaun Moore - I can get very used to seeing him take over games in the second half. Judging by the comments on last night's game thread, so is everyone else. He is becoming the guy we go to when we absolutely need a basket.
Robbie Hummel - Congratulations on the new free throw mark. Any time you break a 30 year old record is impressive.
Team defense - I like keeping teams below 60. It erases a lot of mistakes on offense and aids a cold shooting night. As we saw last night, it also pisses off the home crowd quite easily. It is amazing how when good defense is played people cry for fouls even when there is no contact. We are excellent at that skill. Take note, West Virginia.
Mark Wohlford - I'm starting to feel sorry for Mark. He keeps getting called for fouls with less contact than Kramer, yet Kramer doesn't get called. It's becoming ridiculous. His contributions though are great. Any scoring we get from him is a bonus. His defense allows Kramer to rest without giving our opponents a break.
Negatives from the Iowa game:
First half shooting - The final percentages look alright thanks to a great second half, but eventually these slow starts are going to hurt us. We also weren't assisting on baskets in the first half. Our offense tends to go through too many moments where there is no flow and last night's first half was one of those moments. Maybe we really are missing LewJack
So it is finally here. The Big East's best against the Big Ten's best in a regular season showdown. Since Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, and Syracuse are allegedly separating themselves from everyone else we have a chance to joint hat group. This is a huge game. A win means we have the inside track to a number one seed with four quality non-conference victories (Wake Forest, Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia). Last year we had just one in Boston College. Remember also that Texas and Kansas must play each other at least once, maybe even twice. Kansas has a trip to Tennessee as well on January 10. I think we'll be going hard for the Volunteers in that one.
If we win the Big Ten regular season title with a victory over West Virginia I have hard time seeing how we don't have a number 1 seed. The first step towards that Big Ten title was taken last night with a conference win over Iowa. That win counts exactly the same in the standings as a win at Michigan State would count.
I'll have much more on West Virginia over the next few days, including a possible podcast tonight with The Smoking Musket.