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01.27.2011 / The Jays stay Positive after Suffering another Late Game Loss. Posting by Brian Kooienga, Creighton Mens Basketball Graduate Manager

After suffering yet another late game collapse on the road, you might wonder how the Creighton Bluejays mens basketball team finds a way to stay positive, upbeat, and aggressive in their pursuit of a conference championship. The answer to this question is not a simple one, but there is indeed an answer.

"The good thing about this group of guys is that they are taking full responsibility for the way they are playing and they know they can get better and they are practicing with a purpose."

The drive, the energy, the passion, it comes from within. Everyday in practice there are times when a drill gets out of control, play becomes sloppy, or shots just are not falling, and it is up to themselves, the seniors all the way down through the redshirt freshman to find a way to get the practice back on track.

The good thing about this group of guys is that they are taking full responsibility for the way they are playing and they know they can get better and they are practicing with a purpose because they have seen how their lack of focus and late game fatigue has cost them all four of their conference losses. As we enter the second half of conference play and start gearing up for the March to the Arch and head down to Saint Louis for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in March, Jays fans please understand that these young men are trying their hardest and want to win these games more than anything in the world.

Looking back on the Missouri State game that happened this past weekend, it is very easy to become frustrated and upset, and it makes perfect sense. There were about five key plays that summed up the overall frustrating afternoon. These plays, so uncharacteristic from the season long patterns and playing styles were just another example of how far this team has to go and how much they can learn and grow from their miscues. 

The most frustrating part of last Saturday’s game was that it appeared that all of our starters appeared to have a breakdown at some point in the second half, and they all came at absolutely critical parts of the game. Kaleb Korver, who was shooting 100% from the free throw line missing a free throw. Gregory Echenique missing out on one last rebound when he is by far the most terrifying and physical big man in the league. Darryl Ashford, fighting the flu and missing two free throws late in the game. And finally, Antoine Young, our battle tested and trusted point guard losing the ball as the seconds ticked off the clock. These plays don’t happen more than once or twice in a week of practice, yet in that pressure cooker of an arena, the crowd yelling, the momentum changing sides, and the way in which we were making our mistakes as a team, it was tough to watch and be a part of. The good news is that this has been an extremely productive learning experience. To give the league leading team all that they could handle and more for 99% of a game, while frustrating that we did not get a win, I believe we have learned that not only can we compete on the road, we should be winning in these venues and playing with more confidence. 

Looking forward to the next game, a road battle against the University of Northern Iowa, this is a very interesting matchup for about a hundred different reasons. They are:

  • Freshman phenom Doug McDermott actually signed to play there until his dad, Coach Greg McDermott landed the Creighton job last spring
  • Coach Greg McDermott used to coach at Northern Iowa
  • Nearly half our staff graduated from UNI (McDermott, DeVries, Crawford)
  • There is a lot of “Iowa Connections” on these rosters Korver, Harriman, McDermott, Kerwin Dunham, Austin Pehl
  • Finally, these teams have been the class of the MVC for quite some time and both teams need a win to get back into the conference race

Look for this game to be played at a slower pace and scoring to be in the 50’s. It has been a solid week of practice for the Jays and I believe that they have made the corrections that need to be made and the attitude of the team is where it needs to be. They understand that to keep playing into mid-March and into the NCAA tournament, they cannot afford to miss these opportunities. Look for a much more focused and sharp Bluejays team on Wednesday night and hopefully we can manage our 4th road victory in conference!

Go Jays! Brian Kooienga

What did you think of the Jays game this past weekend? Can the team rally past this loss and still pull out a Missouri Valley Championship? Join in the conversation NOW and post your comments.

Posted at 01:25 PM | Permalink
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