I can still feel the lingering pain from the Seton Hall loss. Not because of the blown 15-point halftime lead. Not because it was the first loss of the season. Not because it was a game they should have won.
No, it’s because I’m writing today’s Running Game Diary at an agonizingly early hour – 9:30 a.m. Ugh. Glancing at the bracket, which appears even more confusing in my semi-conscious state, it appears that if SC had won against the Pirates, they would either be playing at 3 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. (pacific coast time) today. I guess the one silver lining, for me anyway, is that I’ll get to follow my fantasy team from the very start of the 10 a.m. games, something I haven’t done all year because…well you can probably guess.
9:27 – The Chatanooga/Fairfield game for seventh and eighth place ends. Thank goodness, ‘cuz I was falling asleep again. A quick FYI if you (understandably so) can’t decipher the tournament’s bracket – the Trojans are playing for fourth place. Should they not be able to win, they would go home with a less-than-dignifying sixth.
9:30 – To kill time before the game starts, ESPNU switches to “Inside the Big East.” My level of consciousness goes from “sleepy” to “comatose.” I’m taking a power nap.
10:01 – And we’re back! Quick recap for those that didn’t know – SC advanced to this game by blowing out lowly Chattanooga. Taj Gibson has continued his dominance, averaging 18 points and 16.5 rebounds per game.
10:02 – Leonard Washington is off to a fast start, grabbing a couple rebounds and doing some work under the basket. Mizzou has shown early that they like to shoot the three and apply full court pressure, something that seemed to bother the Trojans against Seton Hall.
10:08 – At the first media timeout, SC leads 11 to nine. As we return from the break, I still can’t get over the “Puerto Rico: no passport required for US citizens” ad.
10:12 – Uh oh. Gibson picks up his second foul with 15-plus minutes still to go in the half. This will be a good test to see how the team responds, as they have depended so heavily on Gibson’s presence on the boards and in the paint on offense.
10:16 – Just about half of Mizzou’s shots have been three pointers, but the Trojans are defending them well, and running off of the long rebounds. Daniel Hackett draws a foul on a fast-break lay-up and will go to the line to shoot a pair with SC leading 17-13 at the 11:54 mark.
10:21 – “Daniel is maybe even more Italian than he is Californian,” says announcer Fran Fraschilla. I wasn’t aware California was a country.
10:24 – With 9:45 left in the half, Mizzou scores its first basket from the paint. For whatever reason, no one on the Mizzou coaching staff has pointed out that Gibson is on the bench still.
10:25 – I hate when people say the “toe on the three point line” shot is the worst possible one a player can take. No, the worst shot you can take is a full-court, eyes-closed, back-to-the-basket shot on your own hoop.
10:27 – Gibson returns for about 30 seconds and picks up his third foul because a Mizzou player falls on him. He probably won’t be getting 18 and 16 today. SC has been okay without him so far, as they lead 25-19 with 7:41 left in the half.
10:31 – Returning from the break, ESPNU shows a clip from commentator Fran Fraschilla’s basketball clinic yesterday. The main lesson that he taught was that, unlike in soccer, you can’t kick the ball.
10:35 – Kasey Cunningham gets in the scoring action, converting on a fast-break lay-up. The Trojans are looking a lot more efficient in breaking the Mizzou press.
10:37 – I have a hard time believing that any of the people in the stands had to buy tickets to watch this game. My AAU games in high school were better attended than this.
10:45 – Hackett is makin’ it rain from downtown, which opens up the inside, as he dumps it down to Cunningham and the Trojans are maintaining a nice 9-point cushion, as they lead 41-32 with just over a minute and a half left to play.
10:48 – Cunningham comes up short on a dunk, but is bailed out by a foul. “The elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top anymore,” says Doug Sherman. Ouch. Cunningham has had an efficient nine points in nine minutes off the bench.
10:50 – A vicious over-the-back, basket interference, put-back dunk by Mizzou cuts the SC lead to six at the half, 43-37. This game has gone just about as planned. Unlike the Seton Hall game, I just hope the Trojans remember how to score after the intermission.
10:55 – I’ve never seen more infomercials than on the ESPN networks, especially for “collectible” items. Who honestly wants to buy a silver coin or a toy truck for 50 bucks?
11:02 – Quick sidenote – I autodrafted in my fantasy football league because I forgot to show up for the online draft and I’m sitting pretty in first place at 10-1. My starting running back, Matt Forte, has 90 yards and two scores halfway through the second quarter today. Whoo!
11:07 – Gibson is back in the game at the start of the half. Nice to have you back, Taj. Lewis hits a three, steals a pass on defense and leaps over a falling down Tiger for a layup. Lewis 5, Mizzou 0 is a nice way to start the half.
11:14 – The video screens on the front of the press bench show the “Big East” logo. Why, I really don’t know.
11:16 – Gibson goes to work on Leo Lyons – after catching the ball in the post it takes a simple power dribble and spin move to push Lyons out of the way for a two-handed flush.
11:20 – DeMarre Carroll hits a three to cut the SC lead to five, 53-48. Carroll has 22 points and is keeping the lions within striking distance. The fifth year senior steps back and hits another three off of Miguel Paul penetration, 55-53 Trojans.
11:25 – Paul ties the game up at 55 with a long jumper. I tend to get superstitious about this stuff, so if the Trojans blow another double-digit lead in the second half I will seriously consider stopping the Running Game Diaries. I refuse to be the reason for SC’s downfall.
11:32 – On a driving lay-up, Cunningham goes down clutching his knee. Cunningham has had knee injury problems in the past, most notably his torn ACL and meniscus which kept him out of the majority of last season. Hackett and Lewis help their teammate to the sideline, as just about everyone on the USC sideline cringes at the thought of Cunningham facing another potential season-ending injury.
11:36 – A two-point Trojan lead is quickly erased by a three-point play the hard way as Keith Ramsey gets an and-one putting the Tigers on top, 62-61.
11:40 – It’s 63-63 with 7:25 left and a media timeout with Lewis going to the line for two. If nothing else, the Trojans are getting plenty of close-game experience.
11:44 – The Tigers take a four-point lead on a Lyons jumper. SC hasn’t gone much to Gibson on offense, maybe a result of his four fouls.
11:48 – The Trojan offense is playing more out-of-control than Lindsay Lohan on a coke binge, as two turnovers in Mizzou pressure lead to two more Tiger buckets and SC is facing a seven point deficit, 74-67 with just under five minutes left.
With all the second-half turnovers, the Trojan offense was more of a mess than this psycho.
11:52 – Carroll hits a crushing three with the shot clock winding down and Smith loses the inbounds pass out of bounds. I know I’m being pessimistic, but with 3:06 remaining and the Trojans down eight and Mizzou getting the ball, I can’t see the team making a comeback.
11:56 – A horribly ill-advised pass by Lewis is picked off by J.T. Tiller and turned into a lay-up and the foul. The Trojans have seemed to be two drastically different teams in the first and second halves of their two losses in the tournament.
12:02 – I’d go back to bed, but I’m too frustrated. I wouldn’t say that the Trojans gave away two wins in this tournament, but there’s definitely something to be said about the team’s ability to close out games in the second half. At least the team will have some time to try and recover before they return to the friendly confines of the Galen Center on Thursday to play Tennesee-Martin.
12:03 – At least my fantasy football team is winning. As always, Fight On!