Ok I don't quit forever, but seriously you guys, I am absolutely heart-broken. More heartbroken than when my high school girlfriend dumped me. More heartbroken than when Kelly dumped Zack at the Costume Ball. If you're the typical white trash, snowmobiling, duck-hunting cretin who lives in this state, try to remember how you felt after the '99 NFC Championship game - that's how I feel now. In a season that has been nothing more than disappointment after disappointment, the team had one last chance to salvage the season and had it in hand. Then it slipped away like a fart in the wind.
And for one rare occasion, I'm actually not upset with any of the players. They absolutely played their asses off tonight. Ralph was the man we've always wanted him to be. As Bogart texted me at one point, "Ralph has arrived." He took on the challenge of going against JaJuan and bested him at every turn. Devoe stepped up big time and showed what he can do, taking the offense on his back down the stretch. Overall, just a great game by the players.
But at some point, we need to start thinking critically about the decisions Tubby Smith made, and it's awfully hard for me to come up with a way to not blame him for this loss.
The timeout with four seconds left is your most obvious, and most egregious error. I fail to see any reason to stop play there, because how often are you going to be able to come up with a good shot with only four seconds to play? And yes, the Gophers actually ended up with a great shot which Joseph unfortunately missed, but how can we give Tubby any credit for that? Devoe made a great one-on-one play, and that's all it was, Devoe on his own. he got no screen, there was no ball movement, there was no pick-and-roll. It was just Devoe with the ball, make something happen - which he did, but how was it any better than the shot he got before the timeout was called (which he made?) Tubby called a timeout in a similar situation late last season (Michigan, maybe?) which cost the team the game because they couldn't get a good shot in the halfcourt set. Earlier this season, he let the team just play, and even if it wasn't the best look, Westbrook hit the jumper to beat Penn State. Tubby needs to learn to let his team play, especially when the half court offense is so poor. Awful call.
Perhaps worse, and inexplicable to me, was having Colt Iverson in the game down the stretch instead of Westbrook. And I'm not even talking about the bizarre airball lay-up thing, because it's kind of like throwing a monkey a Rubik's Cube - what's more likely, that he solves it or humps it? And I'm not really even a fan of Westbrook, but any jackass knows that he is the only player who can get to the rim on this team, which he showed with thirty seconds left. He needs to be in the game down the stretch.
And defensively, what does Iverson give you that you need? I'm boggled. On Keaton Grant's huge shot with just over a minute remaining (which was a really, really tough shot, I'll grant you) Ralph was the one trying to run out on him. Why Ralph? Say Westbrook is in there instead of Colton, then Ralph is on the inside and someone like Damian is closing out on the perimeter. You think DJ couldn't get there before Grant got the shot off? And on the game winner by E'Twaun Moore, guess who the defender who got beat on the baseline was, causing the poor defensive rotation?
I won't even mention some of the groupings we saw in the first half. I mean, I think everybody knows that Rodney, Cobbs, Iverson, Sampson, and Carter isn't going to work out.
No, give credit to Purdue where it's due - both Moore and Grant hit very tough shots, and the Gopher players gave it their all and played a good game. This one is on Tubby.
You broke my heart.
I'm updating this to include a couple of really awesome pictures of Ralphie's three-pointer that Dan from Horan Horan Design sent me. He was sitting in front of us with his super fancy camera and was kind enough to share these with me. Very cool shots, and make sure to check out his site.
Needless to say, I was far more pumped up for these at the time than I am now, as I stare at the staple remover on my desk and try to decide if it would work as a cutting tool, just so I can feel again.
Thanks again, Dan. Great pictures.