I know that if I had written this post immediately after the game last night, what you would read would be a lot different. Because, make no mistake about it. Last night hurt. Hurt a lot.
There aren't many times you get the opportunity to go into the barn of an ACC team, expected to contend for an NCAA tourney berth and walk away with a win. But that is exactly what could have, and possibly should have happened last night. Because for 35 of the 40 minutes of action (and I might be a little conservative in the number) the Mount was the better basketball team. It played better defense. It protected the basketball better. It hustled more. And it created better scoring opportunities.
Still, in the end, the fact that the Mount missed some shots that I'm sure they feel they'd make today, earlier in the game, allowed the Hokies to make some key shots late and rally for a 62-57 win. Malcolm Delaney's three foul shots with under a minute to play finally gave the Hokies a lead they would never relinquish. Jeremy Goode's open, yet not wide open three-pointer, bounced off the rim a few seconds later and the Hokies were able to walk away with the W.
It was refreshing afterwards to see Milan Brown say, "we are done with moral victories." He is 100% correct in the fact that the Mount must believe that every night it walks out onto the floor they have a chance to win the basketball game. And the schedule, although it is loaded with quality opponents, many on the road, does not present this team with unwinnable games.
So let's take a look at what went right last night....
1) Jean Cajou stepped up when he was needed in the second half. This team is going to need another scorer. Jeremy Goode is going to get his points, and he's going to create points and opportunities for other. But there are going to be times when it is necessary for someone else to step up. Cajou did that last night.
2) The defense and rebounding was so much better than it was on Friday night versus Loyola. Credit the coaching staff for making some adjustments at key spots. And also credit the players for getting it done. Defense and rebounding is about desire. And it was obvious that the players knew their assignments. I can only recall two specific times where the Tech offensive rebounding made a difference. Also give credit to Kelly Beidler for slowing AD Vasallo down. He's a solid offensive player, better than most the Mount will see and Beidler seemed to really contain him.
3) I also liked the continued development of Shawn Atupem. He continues to score points and provide an athletic option down low. Tech made some adjustments to take him away, but I think he surprised them early.
4) Also give credit to the deep bench. Obviously, not a lot of minutes out of the bench. But I thought that Lamar Trice and Tayvon Jackson really gave quality contribution when they were in the game. The fear when you're playing a level or two above the normal level, is that by taking the starters out, the level of play really drops. But that was not noticeable last night. In fact, Trice even got into the lane made a great pass and looked comfortable on the floor. Jackson picked up a bucket.
From this, this team will get better. Last night was part of the process. It demonstrated how far along in the process this program has traveled. But it also showed that there is still ground to be covered. I have confidence in this group that the development will continue, and that they next time they are faced with a similar circumstance they will have a better chance to persevere.
Last night hurt, that's a good thing.