Okay, first of all, the game should not have been played on that court. No basketball game should be played on top of ice. Alltel has an ice rink. They put some insulation on the ice and then a court on top of the ice. The arena was cold, and the floor extremely slippery. I vote not to play in that setting again.
Yes, the crowd was great. They did the proper job. It was sad that the band was stationed in the mezzanine and not courtside. The sound was awful and the drums could not be heard because they were actually put outside the confines of the arena and more in the concession area than in the arena. That is a bad situation.
These two situations did not give OSU the victory, but it didn't help.
Poor play by the bench was the number one culprit. Because the reserves did not play well, the starters had to play too much of the first half, and tired quickly in the second half.
I think you saw the big reason why Nolan didn't play a lot of 40 minutes of hell earlier this season. He doesn't have the bench to do it ... at least he doesn't as long as T. J. Cleveland and Teddy Gipson continue to struggle. The strength of this team in preseason looked to me the four senior guards. Right now, two of them are playing well, Brandon Dean and Jannero Pargo. Earlier, T. J. and Teddy were playing well, but the other two were struggling. If all four get going, they can play the up-up-and-away tempo that carried the team for the first 10 minutes against OSU.
Besides Dean, Pargo and J. J. Sullinger, no one else was effective for the bulk of the game against OSU, and Dean was not the same after slipping and straining his hamstring on the wet spots on the court.
OSU is a much stronger team. I loved the nine players I saw. We had about four play well. We did force some of OSU's great players into poor play, but not consistently enough.
When OSU took away Pargo with the double teams, we had nothing. Sullinger was spent and Dean was hurt. There were no other players who could provide any offense. The high screens were not effective, because OSU never honored the roll of Gomez or Satchell. What were we going to do, give it to Gomez or Satchell when OSU turned them loose? No, OSU knew that, and just kept two men on Pargo, and left the screener free. Until we have complete players on the floor at all positions, and the reserves are also complete players, we can't expect to beat a top 10 team with 40 minutes of hell. It won't work.
Mike Jones, Carl Baker, Blake Eddins, Alonzo Lane and Larry Satchell aren't getting it done. Don't know if they can get it done. All lack something. I've seen each have flashes of brilliance, but not consistently. Blake played hard yesterday, but his shot ... his only true asset ... has been missing all season. Cleveland and Gipson are both making turnovers, and not hitting their jumpers with consistency.
So, what's the answer? I don't know. I do believe some of those that didn't perform well yesterday will find their game at some point this season. But, will one of those on fire right now cool off? It could be.
This team is going to win some games. They are going to continue to look for ways to improve. That's Nolan's nature. He will keep coaching them, pushing different buttons.
It was sad to see the team lose such a big game after playing so well for a good portion of the first half. I was amazed at some of the things they did ... both good and bad. It was a spectacular game, full of great plays on both ends.
Am I disappointed? You bet. I would think Nolan and the team also feels great disappointment. That's why he talked and lectured to them for 30 minutes after the game. I had planned to visit with players and coaches afterwards, but ended up heading back to Fayetteville when the locker room stayed closed for so long and did my Christmas shopping when I made it home.
But, it's not going to keep me from enjoying Christmas. In summary, I wish all of you a Merry Christmas, and promise that it's not all bad right now. The NCAA investigation is going to be tough, and produce some problems for Houston Nutt and his staff in the coming weeks. The good news is that it's a staff with much charm and recruiting ability, and they will do their best to minimize the effects of the investigation.
My challenge to all of you is to find a way to enjoy the Christmas holidays, and your families.
Commentary: Happy Holidays
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