UTSA 74 McNeese St 78, OT: Season’s Over
This game was a microcosm of the season. There was the exciting, point-filled start where Melvin Johnson III showed why he has won awards and deserves more than the bench. There was the turnover-causing defense that looked to earn Brooks rave reviews at the coaching clinics. There was the hot shooting that has defined this team and partly earned them their Southland title a year ago.
Then came the second half. There was the frustrating defense that was exploited for easy threes. There was the inconsistent (or non-existent) rebounding that allowed back-breaking second chance points to a McNeese team struggling for a spark. There were the missed free throws that signaled another mental collapse, or worse — a team with no heart.
And then? Well then Kannon let fly the game-tying three with 5 seconds left. It brought me out of my increasingly foul mood. It gave people hope. . . until they continued the second half spiral for five more minutes.
In the end, it was unsurprising, yet still disappointing. Questions like, “Was this team really as good as we thought it was? Or were we hyping a team that just got hot for a month last year?” were brought up.
The real question is if the team bought into said hype. There were more than a few questions about motivation and effort all year. Brooks changed the lineup, he screamed, he coddled, he coached. Nothing definitively worked, yet it never really looked that terrible. There was just a feeling of being stuck.
I held out hope that they could turn it around. People told stories about how UTSA looked like this last season and then something clicked, and voilá: a Southland title.
It certainly seemed possible after that performance against UT-Arlington. . . if you completely ignored the second-half near-collapse. That means we shouldn’t be surprised at all. This was the exact kind of game as UTSA has played for a month or so, just with better scoring in the first half this time.
The only bright side is that our guts were punched early in the tournament and not on the national stage, in front of thousands, in crystal-clear HD.*
*I’m only kidding. I’d much rather have played on Saturday even if it meant losing.
So what now? On paper, it still looks like a quality team. In reality, they need a leader that can also double as a productive member of the team. Jeromie Hill is a grinder, but not quite talented or vocal enough to lead this team to the Big Dance quite yet. Melvin is incredibly moody and unreliable.
So who is left? Mike Hale? Iggy? Kannon?
Kannon has the ability, and after proving his worth throughout the year, he certainly can command respect. He has mine. He should have his teammate’s. In fact, I could conceivably see him taking over as the go-to option . . . if he hadn’t taken that spot already. Still, taking last shots is a long way from commanding the locker room.
That might not even be the problem, anyway. Maybe we are all offense and spot-up shooters and not enough tough, disciplined defenders. Is the re-addition of Larry Wilkins going to make UTSA a fortress? Probably not. He’ll go a long way in bolstering the rebounding effort from what I’m told.
Maybe that is all that is needed. They say God is in the details. Sometimes you lose because of the details. You know, stuff like boxing out.
Editor extraordinaire, UTSA grad student. Twitter