The USF Dons are one of the youngest basketball teams in the country and last night they showed their age in their loss to Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals in Las Vegas.
USF trailed for most of the game, by more then 10 on a few occasions, but were never completely out and battled back to within two points with less than two minutes to play.
With an opportunity to tie the game, junior guard Rashad Green barreled down the left sideline. Gonzage big man Robert Sacre was waiting for him, camped under the basket like a statue. Green tried to maneuver around Sacre, but clipped the 7 foot Sacre’s left shoulder just enough to cause the offensive foul.
Watching from home, the game was televised on ESPN 2, it appeared that, although Sacre was hit, he pulled an acting job worthy of The King’s Speech. However, the left handed Green was on the left side of the basket with an easy stop and pop jump shot from no more the six feet out. Part of being an experienced player is recognizing what the defense is giving and reacting to it.
Just a few ticks later, Green dribbled along the baseline, with another chance to tie the game. The ball was poked away from behind, one more of the Dons total 16 turnovers. At that point the Dons were down two points with more then a minute and a half to play.
But the Dons fouled anyway, stopping the clock, but also leading to two made free throws for Gonzaga. Again, while watching the game at home, you could see coach Rex Walters urging his team not to foul. Clock recognition, is also part of winning, and comes with experience.
Finally, the game ender came with eight seconds left and the Dons down three. Gonzaga was throwing the ball in from the baseline and Rashad Green came up with a big steal, knocking the ball away, and diving on the floor to recover it. Green called a timeout, which the Dons did not have, leading to a technical foul, two more points for Gonzaga, and the end of the game.
On the game tape, after Green falls on the loose ball in front of the Dons bench, you can see freshman guard Marko Petrovic calling for a timeout and after the referee’s awarded it to the Dons, Petrovic is the only person celebrating.
Usually, it the duty of an assistant coach to alert the team how many timeouts they have left. Still, the players have to be able to think quickly and make the right choices.
As heartbreaking and disappointing as the game was last night, there is a silver lining. USF returns its entire starting lineup next year, including all conference selections Michael Williams, and Rashad Green, all conference honorable mention Perris Blackwell, all freshman selection Cody Doolin, and most importantly, the should have been WCC coach of the year Rex Walters.
Winning is relatively new for the Dons, and though they have done it more this year then any year since 1982, it something they will need to learn to do better. Next year the team returns one year older, one year wiser, and one can only imagine, hungrier than ever before.
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