Week ago I'm not sure I would have put as much significance on tonight's game against Eastern Kentucky as I will in this blog. Don't get me wrong there is a sense of urgency every time we step on the floor. You only get about 30-40 times a year - if you are fortunate enough to go the distance - to put the uniforms on and perform. That time goes so quickly so you have to take advantage of each opportunity. We haven't done that since the Stetson game eight (8) days ago. Our trip to Daytona Beach to complete the Glenn Wilkes Classic produced three (3) losses on our record, and one very important loss to our squad. Senior guard Paul Delaney III went down with what has now been diagnosed as a torn ACL and will be out the rest of the season. It was a devastating blow to a young man who had looked forward to final collegiate season. He was excited about the pieces around him and how he would be able to help lift this team above last season's record and deep into post season. Our hearts go out to PD3 and we will pray for a full and speedy recovery. We have some of the best doctors attending to him; our trainer Bryan Koch already has him working on some things to speed the recovery process once surgery takes place; and our strength and conditioning coach Lou Deneen is chomping at the bit to work with Paul to get back to full strength.
On the court in Daytona Beach we just didn't get the job done. Our game against Florida State probably should have been the final game of the event as it seems everyone blew that game up as the marquis match-up of the event. Perhaps both teams bought into that hype as well. In a game that saw the score tied 12 times - including 35-35 at the half - and the lead change 16 times, FSU was able to pull away on the strength of Isaiah Swann's 3-point barrage in the second half. We had held him in check in the first 20 minutes but he found a way to get on track as good players do. Talking with the FSU coaches after the game they felt we had taken them out of everything they wanted to run in the first half so they went to their motion offense solely about midway through the second half and that made the difference. It was a tough loss for us, an emotional loss. But what we could not afford to have happen was for FSU to beat us a second time during the same event. What I mean by that is we could not afford a hangover from the first game to linger and cost us the next game. It was especially important because we had the shortest turnaround time of any team in the event from one game to the next. Against Georgia Southern you could see the effects of that quick turnaround as our warm-up was sluggish and the energy level palpable but not anywhere near where it had been the previous night or where it has to be every night to win a college basketball game. We addressed that in the locker room before we came out the second time. We managed to grab an 8 point half time lead but that lead was not as comfortable or as it should have been and I think it gave Georgia Southern some confidence going into the second half. We had some chances to seize control of the game early in the second half but didn't take advantage of them. Then the devastating blow to PD3 seemed to take some of the wind out of our sails and we struggled to regain control of the game. Some missed opportunities led to a 2 point loss and a very subdued locker room. The final game of the event would put us against what most would say was the 3rd best team going in. They proved to be the best as they went 4-0 in the Classic outlasting us in a real battle 74-69. Our energy level was back. Our intensity was back. We needed some guys to step up and replace the contribution PD3 would have given us. That was a struggle and is something we must get ironed out going into tonight's game and for the remainder of the season.
What's important tonight is remembering what it takes and what it feels like to close out an opponent. The mind is a powerful tool especially for young people. We have a group of guys who are aware of what's at stake. We need to get back on that winning track. There are plenty of games ahead but none more important than tonight's. Come out and help us get that winning feeling back again.
Assistant Head Coach