With the NCAA Tournament tipping off today and the Tennessee Volunteers traveling to Birmingham in preparation of its first game tomorrow, I thought it would be a good time to dig into the archives (March 23, 2007, 2:37 a.m.) and revisit the lessons we learned a year ago when we lost to Ohio State but gained a future rallying cry:
A battle lost, a deferred victory ensured.
The Tennessee Volunteer basketball team lost its initial skirmish with flair, dominating Ohio State for the first half and getting dominated the second:
|1st half||2nd half||1st half||2nd half|
|Field Goals||19-34 (56%)||11-28 (39%)||13-27 (48%)||14-24 (58.3%)|
|3-Point FGs||9-15 (60%)||7-16 (44%)||3-10 (30%)||5-12 (42%)|
|Free Throws||2-5 (40%)||6-12 (50%)||3-6 (50%)||20-29 (69%)|
|Rebounds||19 (6 off, 13 def)||15 (4 off, 11 def)||14 (3 off, 11 def)||19 (5 off, 14 def)|
Pretty much any Vol fan who voted in last week's poll can claim prescience. The question this week asked: "How do the Vols fair against the Buckeyes in San Antonio?" Here's how the voting broke down:
- Money -- 30%
- Mun-nay! -- 16%
- Mun-nay!!! -- 30%
- Broke -- 23%
During halftime, with Tennessee leading the Buckeyes by 17, I grabbed the following graphic to use in the post-game post. Working title? Brilliant!
The Vols were indeed brilliant. In the first half. Not only did the Vols have a substantial lead, they also had Ohio State's two best players in foul trouble.
Unfortunately, the 23% of voters who chose "Broke" were also correct. Everything that went right in the first half went wrong in the second. I won't catalog them here. It's late, and we can all sort through the carnage together tomorrow. Or never. Either way.
But here's the thing. We have a young team. They're good, and they can use the pain of this game as a rallying cry to propel themselves to bigger and better things if only they learn its lessons. Here's the short list:
- The importance of free throws cannot be overstated. We've been saying for months now that at some point our inability to hit a decent percentage of our free throws would do us in. Tonight was our lucky night.
- The importance of getting an opposing team's star player out of the game is almost always overstated. Didn't the football team learn this the hard way in the 2001 SEC Championship game? Tonight, we devoted a great deal of time and attention to getting Greg Oden and Mike Conley into foul trouble. We largely succeeded -- and it really didn't matter.
- You're at risk of losing a lead you're trying to protect if you change something. To be fair, I'm not sure that we changed anything on purpose tonight. We just started missing the same shots we were hitting in the first half. But it did appear that our defensive intensity wasn't the same in the second half. Do not let good teams off the mat until the clock reads all zeroes.