It sure feels good to get back on the winning track. Coming off of a disappointing loss at Marshall, it was very important for us to put together an effort that would net some positive results. At Marshall it just seemed that everyone had settled into a routine. The starters didn't come focused and the bench players didn't come in with energy. We made a game that should have been a nice road win into a dogfight that turned into a loss. I've been around long enough to know that there are nights when things just don't fall into place for you. What good teams do on those nights is find a way to grind out a win. We didn't do that. We allowed a team playing without its best player to bring more to the fight than we brought. When you do that, other factors enter the equation - the crowd, the officiating, etc. Winning on the road is never easy, but we made it much harder than it should have been by not coming ready to fight. Following the game we went back to our hotel and watched every possession - and a few possessions we watched several times - so our guys could see what our lack of effort and focus had cost us. In addition when we returned to Birmingham on Sunday, we went straight from the airport to the Bartow Arena floor to practice. That's pretty significant since Sunday is normally our day off. It was amazing how much each guy still had to give after a long plane trip. It showed us - and more importantly the players - that when you think you have no more to give there is still something in the tank. The practice was physical with some hard screens and fouls designed to get everyone's attention. You might ask why it took a loss to get that out of our guys. That one is hard to explain. When you're dealing with young people, things are not always predictable. What we knew as a staff was that we need to shake things up. Some of our guys had settled into a little "comfort zone". We needed to change that!
And change we did. By shaking up our line-up against ECU we gave some other guys a chance to stake their claim at more playing time, and we sent a message to some other guys. If hearing your name called at the beginning is important to you then you have to earn that privilege...and keep earning it! If being on the floor in crucial times means something to you, then earn that right! It was great to see the "new starters" contribute and the former starters cheering them on. That's what a team is all about. We saw some missing fire return to a few guys as well. That will be key as we hit the meat of our league schedule. It took us 25 games to get our 13th victory a year ago. We have it now in 19 games. That's not where we thought we'd be, but it still keeps our goals in front of us and very much in sight. Stay tuned.
Thanks to the fans who came out last night as well. Let's continue this Bartow Arena streak...GO BLAZERS!!!
Assistant Head Coach