Friday November 24th, 2017 was the first definitive sign of the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, there has been slivers shining through here and there through the first 5 games, but they only seemed to dim as quickly as they had shone. But during game six there wasn’t any doubt that a light could finally be seen.
The team took a huge step forward in their game against Eastern Michigan. They seemed to be playing with more confidence on both ends of the floor, and they were definitely playing with more awareness.
The turnaround this unit has made in just six games is nothing short of remarkable. I sat in the 2nd row on November 10th and watched them get completely taken apart by Indiana State. And on November 24th I sat in the 14th row and almost couldn’t believe that in just 14 days I was watching the same team. Well, in a sense I wasn’t, but I was watching the same players.
There are going to be naysayers that say it was against Eastern Michigan, but to that I say at this point in this journey, I don’t care who it was against. Because at this point this team is playing against themselves as much as they are playing an opponent.
They played within themselves for the entire game. And what I mean by that is, they didn’t force things that weren’t there, and they ran the offense until an opening presented itself. They moved with a purpose, and they shared the ball. And maybe most importantly, they hit the open shots that being patient on offense created for them.
Defensively they are talking more, and have a much better understanding of where they are supposed to be, and what they are supposed to be doing. Their lack of length still hurts them when trying to recover after helping, or fighting through screens, and it will for the remainder of the season. But they are doing much better than they were 2 weeks ago, and I think they will eventually reach their potential.
The schedule gets tougher immediately with #1 Duke coming to town Wednesday night, and it doesn’t get a whole lot easier after that. But this team is starting to see how they have to play to give themselves a chance, and they’re starting to do that on a more consistent basis.
It gets so much easier to put in the extra work, and to take a few butt chewings and/or benchings, when you start seeing positive results from going through all of those things. When that happens, players start buying in and the game becomes easier, and also fun again.
Friday night was the best 40 minutes of basketball this group has played. Everyone that played contributed something. There were a lot of positives to take home with me from Assembly Hall. Yes, the tunnel back to the top is still a long one, but at least it’s a little more well lit now than it was 14 days ago.