The Panther Express is off to Cortland State to take on the fire-breathing RedDragons in round two of this newly formatted ncaa. 'TheBoys' survived some very shaky 3-ball shooting (what else would you call 3-for-18) vs. Curry, mainly because they demonstrated an iron will, and a refusal to even slightly fray with the game -and the season - on the line. And since we had gotten to the half in front 31-19, it was too late for any remedial lamaze sessions. So a few of the rookies had to either close their eyes, or breathe into paper bags starting as early as the 12:42 mark in the second frame, when Curry got to within one. The post season shows how much a team has accomplished and why. But it is not for the faint of heart. Time and again- and the running box score says it happened SEVEN times (before the 4:10 mark when we had stretched it to 53-50) TheBoys refused to let them get over the hump.
That is not only imposing your will under fire, it demonstrates what's been said in this corner throughout the year. That Midd has the best G. trio in the land. No mistakes when there's no room for a single mistake. And how many big stops? Enough. And just when it finally looked like real separation was a possibility, Lambros nails a trey from their bench down 54-61, with 1:50 on the clock to give Curry a last hope. JeezLouise! But they were always fighting uphill, and never got it to a tie, although there were three chances in the last 1:22. That real demonstration of will, creates the way to win at crunch time, which is maybe the signature of this group. It is one where their record just can't be dissected by statistical categories. That having been said, no play this season was bigger than Joey realizing that a ten-second back court violation was about to be called, even though the 35 clock had not reset and it showed :33. He calls time out, still Midd's ball, clock reset to :26. Season saved. Poise. Defined as optimum performance under maximum pressure. TheBoys have it, and it's why they're moving on.
To survive at Cortland, we're simply going to have to put the ball in the basket more than the last two outings. Against Williams and Curry somehow we kept ourselves in the game despite going 11-48 from 3-land. Anything resembling 35% means TheBoys are capable of putting another nine points on the board in either game, that certainly would create breathing space. Cortland wants to get the game up around 80, maybe 80-plus, spread the floor and crank up 3's. We can defend- thinking from my skybox is that Nolan can use his size and talents to control either Winter or Smith, and see how that disrupts their offensive flow. They have a lot of guys who can score, but TheBoys know how to defend and we may be able to control the game inside with LongJack, Pedro and Jensen on the boards. LongJack has been climbing the national leader board in 'blocks' and is up to #11 nationally. Pedro has been effective (he's in the national leaders in FG pct.) all season down low, and that should continue against a group that is not overly big. Like the way that NateB. is coming back and can give minutes of key defense as well as get to the rim on offense. And if you weren't sure of just how tough or committed James is- go back to the video and look at the block he makes with under 2:00 to go saddled with four fouls. Another demonstration of finding a way.
Cortland is to be respected. They are untouched at home (13-0), but we're not the Washington Generals trying to match up against The Globetrotters. And they don't have the kind of Bigs (like Palleschi, Mayer, or Kaasila/Williamson) that have caused problems this season. We're capable in an open floor game. Maybe if we take it to the hole a little more, we make them play more defense than they want to, and maybe we can expose that as a shortcoming. Certainly in an open floor game, Midd will have plenty of 'looks', but maybe we use our inside guys more, and let our cutters create something. We've got the talent to make it happen. My take is that Cortland is 'do-able', and The Panther Express keeps rollin'. Then it is possible that Pepin comes back into focus for next weekend.
And remember;" down 'TheAlibi' stairs, out the door of the bus, over the media table, and off Alex's clipboard, nothin' but net!" Be well. Clubbo.