It is hard to write when I am emotion-filled after a game like this. For the second straight game I have no doubt we were better than our competition, but for the second straight game we fell short. Good looks that have been falling before this two-game skid weren't falling. That's the only real difference right now. We didn't cave in the face of two tough road environments like people will say. We came up just short against two very good teams because we couldn't hit shots that we have been hitting. Both West Virginia and Minnesota clogged the lane, cutting out E'Twaun Moore and others from driving to the basket. We're afraid of contact, letting teams dominate the free throw statistics. If we drive with confidence we cut into a 26 to 7 free throw edge.
Our opponent also hit the tough shots they have needed to hit. That's the most frustrating part. We played good defense, but players like Kevin Jones and Blake Hoffarber have been knocking down ridiculous baskets while we have Kelsey Barlow missing wide open layups. I have to credit both the Mountaineers and Golden Gophers for doing what they needed to do, but none of it matters if E'Twaun Moore is present in Minneapolis and if we make the conscious decision to rebound today.
I'm just terribly frustrated now because I was confident that we were going to win both of these games to make a statement. I stated you could write down we'd win both. I look like an idiot for getting my hopes high, so it hurts even more to lose both games. Now we will be written off again. I wrote that I didn't fear West Virginia before this game and I still don't. It's easy to win when Deniz Kilicli is allowed to walk with the basketball every time he touched it and when several +1's are awarded with no contact whatsoever. The most egregious was the one on Casey Mitchell with 5:28 left that broke the 52-52 tie. Somehow Lewis Jackson managed to commit a foul without making physical contact on Mitchell or toughing the ball. Mitchell hit the shot, nailed the free throw, and West Virginia never trailed again. They hit tough shots, which doesn't happen every game. You have to credit them for that.
I am not sure what this team is missing right now. The West Virginia loss is more troubling because they are sloppy team that turned the ball over a ton. They got by on hitting tough shots, getting to the free line repeatedly, and by crashing the offensive glass. Minnesota was at least a bad matchup for us. We got outhustled by a worse team that we should have dominated today. They beat us at our own game.
At least it isn't a conference loss. We have plenty of time to get several great wins in order to improve our overall profile. If this becomes a lesson where we learn how to win, so be it. I do not fear any road venue in the Big Ten, and if we play the style of ball we are capable of playing, it will be difficult to beat us.
I really don't know what to say about this. I haven't been this angry about a basketball game in some time. I can't stand it when players like Kevin Jones hit shots and dance like idiots when the game is far from over,t hen they still come through. Mostly I am mad because Jim Burr's drunken recollection of events today swayed several possessions. We can't blame the officials, however. We have to hit shots and regain confidence in some of our shooters. Ryne Smith has been found out, so someone else has to step up. D.J. Byrd has no confidence. LewJack has become the third scorer of late. Travis Carroll is getting better each game. We don't need major fixes, just minor tweaks to change a handful of possessions per game. Nothing major is wrong, so we will be fine in the long run.
I think we see that beginning Wednesday when a revitalized Penn State team comes to town. I like our chances in that one and against Michigan State at home, building momentum for the trip to Ohio State. Sure, we're going to drop about 7-10 spots in the polls, but we will come back. A 3-0 run over the next three games gives us three solid victories and control of the Big Ten race. Do that, and this stretch is forgotten.
Until then, it's going to be painful to hear about how we're done.