People tell me all the time that you're not supposed to lay any appreciable amount of blame on the officials when your team loses a game. That's a loser's lament, they say. You shouldn't make excuses for a defeat, they say. The whistles even out over time, and generally don't benefit one team over the other, they insist.
Here's the thing, though.
When you're watching a nip-and-tuck, back-and-forth game like the one involving YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles and the radioactive popsicles from Notre Dame last night, and the game's effectively a rugby scrum for the first 15 minutes of the second half, with dudes getting straight-up mugged every time the ball gets into the paint, only nothing's being whistled because Jim Burr and Pat Driscoll (who's now playing the Laurel to Burr's Hardy with the long-overdue retirement of Tim Higgins) are too busy throwing fans out of the game to pay attention to the action on the court, and the Irish are leading by two with about five minutes left when Trent Lockett takes a feed on the break and gets leg-whipped by Jerian Grant, only there's (again) no call because Burr has now devolved to the point that he's waddling up the court like a morbidly-obese emperor penguin looped up on Quaaludes and Jameson, and then immediately on the other end Burr and Company whistle MU for three of the tick-tackiest fouls you'll ever see in about 20 seconds, and that puts ND in the bonus and then a four-point deficit balloons to 7 when Marquette somehow loses sight of Pat Connaughton, and then it's all over but for the final margin ...
What are you supposed to say? That the wild shift in how the game was being whistled had no effect on the outcome? That it's the players' fault for not recognizing that the chucking and grabbing and Greco-Roman wrestling that was A-OK for the majority of the second half was now off limits? Them's the breaks, better luck next time?
Listen: I know that Marquette played poorly, especially on defense, after an early 17-4 run in which Notre Dame threw up brick after brick after brick. I know that Coach Buzz didn't have his finest hour either, letting the offense grind to a halt for far too long when Derrick Wilson was in the game and MU was effectively playing 4-on-5, and giving Juan Anderson way too many minutes and Steve Taylor way too few, and leaving Chris Otule on the bench when Marquette was getting mauled in the low post in the waning minutes of the game.
Still: I don't know how you can claim that how the game was called had no influence on the final score. The game was being officiated one way, the players adapted their play accordingly, and then, without warning and within 20 seconds, it had changed completely. That's not an excuse. That's not whining. That's just what happened.
My point (if I have one) isn't that Marquette would have certainly won the game had it been officiated consistently. I just wish they'd been given the chance, is all.
Anyway: that sucked. Onto the other notes:
- We saw Coors Field Junior Cadougan and Road Cadougan all in the same game last night, as Junior ripped off seven quick points to start the game, went comatose for the rest of the first half and part of the second, and then finished with 14 points, 3 rebounds, an assist and 3 turnovers.
- The problem, of course, is that when Cadougan cratered in the first half, there was no good option to spell him. You know that phrase about certain players injecting life into an offense? Whatever the opposite of that is - vampiring life from an offense? Soul-sucking the life from an offense? - that's what Derrick Wilson does. There's no movement, there's no paint touches, there's no sense of urgency; it's just Wilson dribbling into trouble, giving the ball up on the wing, then getting it back and dribbling out by mid-court, and then a rushed shot with the shot clock winding down. It's just ... it's just bad. And it's gotten to the point that I'm wondering if playing Jamil at point forward when Cadougan is out isn't a better option.
- Vander Blue had a similar outing to Cadougan, showing flashes of brilliance sandwiched between freshman-year-Vander mistakes. The 12 points are OK, and the 12 attempts from the field are fine, but one board, one assist, no steals in 36 minutes? That ain't gonna work.
- I'm not sure how, exactly, you manage to lose Pat Connaughton on the floor (unless, of course, you lost him in the background because his skin is damn near transparent), and I'm really not sure how you manage to lose him 10 times on 3-point attempts. I know that Coach Buzz's general philosophy is to double on every paint touch, but isn't part of coaching adapting your philosophy when a guy has a hot hand, or the opponent is doing something specific to exploit a hole in your game plan?
- Jamil Wilson likes playing in the second half against Notre Dame. I like watching Jamil Wilson play in the second half against Notre Dame. I would like to give Jamil Wilson goggles with a lime-green filter to make him think he's playing in the second half against Notre Dame all the time.
- Garrick Sherman is horrifying.
- So was Trent Lockett's stat line.
The one-and-done awards:
Vander Blue Grown Ass Man of the Game: Jamil Wilson had it working last night, hitting two 3-pointers, a few mid-range Js, and an awfully-nifty, Association-level reverse layup that made Jay Bilas blush. For the night, Milly had 16 points, 4 rebounds, and a steal.
Joe Fulce Undersung Eagle of the Game: If it's possible to leave everything on the floor in just 14 minutes, Chris Otule did so. Big Chris snagged five rebounds (two on offense) in those 14 minutes and turned in a very good defensive effort against the Klopek Krew that masquerades as Notre Dame's front line.
Davante "Big Smoove" Gardner Smoove Play of the Game: With Marquette up by 2 with a little less than 10 minutes to go, Trent Lockett snared an offensive rebound on Jamil's missed jumper and found Vander in the corner. Van ducked and darted into the lane for a pretty floater that gave Marquette a short-lived four-point advantage.
Up Next: SELECTION SUNDAY, which I keep reminding myself wasn't even on the radar when the calendar turned to 2013. Good times, y'all.