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    Missed Connections Leave Little Room for Error

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    Drew Crawford missed a three a mere 23 seconds into the game and then, just under two minutes later, Reggie Hearn missed another. John Shurna was the next to toss up a three for the 'Cats and he missed from the top of the circle, and then there was Crawford missing one more three from the left corner.


    Less than 48 hours earlier, in their rout of Mississippi Valley State, the 'Cats had buried 20 of their 39 three-point attempts, but on this Sunday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena they were up against a different kind of animal in No. 7 Baylor. These Bears played a zone defense, that is true, but it was hardly the passive kind featured in old black-and-white movies.


    They instead used their quickness to challenge the ball and their length to clog the air space and their overall athleticism to create havoc with the 'Cat offense. Never did that offense, as it often does, resemble that proverbial well-oiled machine. Instead, on this afternoon, it struggled to find a rhythm as desperately as that dancer cursed with two left feet.


    "That's about as bad as you can play, offensively and defensively," Bill Carmody would say minutes after his 'Cats 69-41 loss to the Bears. "We weren't able to stop them and couldn't put the ball in the basket. They had a lot to do with that. We knew they would be playing zone and told our guys they would be getting shots that would be open, but they'd be from different spots. I think we did, I'll have to look at it, but not in the flow of thing."


    "They were definitely the most-athletic team we've seen this season...," point Dave Sobolewski would soon add. "But starting out missing shots determined the outcome."

    Just consider, for proof, these few factoids from the opening 20 minutes, which is when the 'Cats were effectively sent on their way to their first loss of the season. They would get their first field goal of the day at 18:17, but not get their second until 14:55. They would hit their first three of the day at 13:26 and their second at 11:33, but not hit another for the remainder of the first half.


    Shurna would get his first field goal of the day at 14:55, but over six minutes would pass before he got another and then he managed just a single free throw for the remainder of the first half. The 'Cats would get a right wing jumper from Crawford at 5:45, but then manage just a trio of free throws for the remainder of the first half.


    Only once in this half did the 'Cats score field goals on back-to-back possessions. Four times in this half they had shots blocked down low. Often in this half they were a step behind the Bears, who got 11 of their 16 field goals on either dunks or layups in these 20 minutes. Then, in the most-telling stats of them all, at the end of the half they were a frigid 8-of-28 overall (28.6 percent) and an arctic 2-of-13 on their threes (15.4 percent) and down 17.


    "It's a good team. We ran into just a buzz saw ... They smacked us pretty good," Carmody would later allow, and that saw continued to buzz the 'Cats right to the end. Never would they get closer than they were at halftime and once, as this one limped toward its conclusion, they fell behind by 32. Never could they establish an inside game, ending with just a dozen points in the paint (where they also had nine shots blocked), nor could they stop the Bears in the paint, where they scored 46 of theirs. Never did they rediscover that touch they displayed on Friday, ending 14-of-58 overall (24.1 percent) and 4-of-26 on their threes (15.4 percent), and never did they catch up to the Bears, who simply ran away from them.


    "('Cat football coach Pat) Fitzgerald always says just flush that," Carmody would say when this one mercifully closed. "I really don't like it. It's a little too graphic for me. But I think that's what we have to do with this one."


    "We have to compete a little better," Crawford would then conclude. "We were expecting a fight out there, but we didn't compete like we needed to. Especially against an elite team, that's who we want to play, we just have to compete better."

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    If the team doesn't make the NCAA tournament this year, Carmody should be fired. He is unable to recruit prime talent as demonstrated in the game today. He has had 12 years. His offense works as his players always have wide open shots, but the lack of skill is evident whenever we play quality teams. There is no quickness and the rebounding most of the time is atrocious. The SI poll of players a couple of years ago revealed that Carmody is the Big Ten Coach players would least like to play for. Nice guys finish last. And Carmody is clearly a class act. But 43 straight years of not finishing in the top 5 of the Big Ten is enough. We can do better.

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