So how about that for an answer? Going into the game I thought we had a real chance to beat Butler even without Ed, I'm not sure I though we had a chance to win by 17 and run away and hide when it mattered. We looked tough, mentally sharp, and bloodthirsty at times. That BLOB to end the first half was vintage Coach Mack and it ended up being vital in giving us the cushion we needed in the second half.
If you weren't sure we had a chance to win by 17, I'll bet that 19-point margin was pretty sweet for you to see. We shot the eyes out of the ball from deep and got it into the middle. We basically took a mediocre defense and carved it to pieces despite missing one of our best players.
I thought Coach Mack was brilliant. You mentioned the baseline out, but his handling of Larry was really good. We got 11 minutes out of him with an ORtg of 98 and 2 steals. He was really good at lifting the energy level of the team, especially on defense. Then Coach Mack got him out before he burned the whole thing down.
We split a really tough week made worse by Ed's injury. I would have hoped to be closer at Nova, but I would have expected Butler to keep it tighter at Cintas. We should be able to ease Ed back into it with St. John's and DePaul our only games until we take on Marquette two weeks from today.
It is nice to have a couple of the worst teams in the conference coming up to get Ed back to 100%. I thought LAJ and Kaiser were very big for our energy in the second half since JP's usual spark was dulled by foul trouble. It was nice to see everyone feeding off the hustle plays and riding that wave to the game deciding run. I don't know that we have ever had a team that so consistently just grabbed momentum and put teams away like this.
Here's some food for thought: we started with a double post and ended with Jalen collecting one foul in 28 minutes of play. Wideman and Chrabascz both draw a decent amount of fouls, but nothing spectacular. Was Jalen's ability to stay on the floor just a function of opponent personnel, or does having James out there protect Jalen from foul trouble?
Maybe we write this off as something we just saw because we were playing Butler, but maybe it's something to actually draw a conclusion from. If it is, that's a whole new wrinkle to personnel management on this team. Are you willing to chop minutes from someone smaller to play Farrnolds together and potentially get 28 minutes of Good Jalen?
Yes, I am. I don't think we need to do it all that often, but the option to play them together gives us an even deeper rotation of legitimate lineups. With Myles looking like a legitimate point if need be, we can run a double post when Ed needs a rest rather than leaning on LAJ. To go back to what you said earlier, maybe Larry is better as a spark plug for brief periods of intense defensive pressure.
Butler also was running two posts as well, which is a big factor for me. You don't want one of those guys trying to chase Kris Jenkins all over the perimeter, because neither of them guards the perimeter well. Widemam and Characters (or whatever) both at least tried to spend part of the game with their backs to the basket.
I thought we also saw that, while JP is an all around better player, Larry can bring an energetic lift to the team if someone tries to slow us down. He struggled to guard and of Nova's guards, but did a number on Lewis. To what do we attribute that? Simply better players, was Larry worse Thursday, or was it a better physical matchup?
I think a lot of it was Larry being worse on Thursday. Maybe he was more shaken up by the injury than we thought and that's why he looked in over his head. He ended up on Dunham on a switch yesterday and Dunham tried him left, tried him right, and then ended up settling for an 18-foot fadeaway that he left short. That was pretty good defense for a guy being put on an island against a dude who has four inches on him. Coach Mack said in the presser that Larry is an emotional player; maybe he was way out of it Thursday.
The conference should have four teams ranked in the top 15 or so this week and Georgetown and Seton Hall won't be among them but will be 2-0 in league play. How many teams in the conference can harbor reasonable tournament hopes right now? Are we going to put half the league in again?
Also, apparently Larry told Ed he'd put one down for him and that's why he went so big on that dunk at the end. That's awesome. I love this team.