Exhibition games are scheduled to help teams gain experience and learn as they prepare for their official regular season. Well, last night, we learned a lot. Did I ever think we would do so in a loss to Indianapolis? HECK NO! Do I think we will become a lot better because of it? Definitely!
Our staff’s disappointment in how we played actually outweighed our anger with the result. We were flat out embarrassed with the way we lost. We did not play with the passion, poise and purpose that Coach Pearl always instills in his teams—the way that has enabled our program to be one of the most successful programs in the country over the last 5 years. Give credit to our opponent, they played that way. They played with better effort, within themselves, as a team and executed the “score early or score late” offensive game plan that enabled us to beat some very good teams last year (Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio State). Unfortunately this time, we were the team that got beat. We were the ones who did not have great practices leading up to last night’s games and it showed. It’s amazing how similar our practice stats reflect the combined stats from our exhibition season. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.
I’d be lying if I said the loss didn’t hurt. This time my lack of sleep wasn’t because of my crying baby. Rather, it was because I was up all night thinking about our poor performance. However, these thoughts really have me more excited to go to practice today because I want to see how we respond. Last night when we faced some in-game adversity we didn’t respond very well. One turnover or missed shot affected our next play waaaay too often. It either had a negative effect on our next shot or even worse our next defensive possession. You can’t play like that. (Well actually, you can play that way you just can’t win that way.) In this game you have to have a short-term in-game memory.
Now, as we let that piece of humble pie digest, is the time to evaluate our performance, decide what changes we need to make and then go out and get to work. I am confident we will do that. There isn’t any other group of guys that I would rather embark on this season with than the ones we have within this program. I am confident they will learn from what they experienced last night and then saw in film this morning and make the necessary changes and personal sacrifices required to help our team improve. We are all accountable. Coaches and staff included. As we begin preparing for Chattanooga today, I know our focus will be different as we are all eager to get that nasty taste from last night out of our mouths.
Leadership, effort, commitment and sacrifice were necessary for us to achieve our team goals prior to last night. That’s still the case today and will continue to be the case the rest of the season. However, after what we learned last night, it’s all about where we go from here. Will we refocus and recommit to our principles and each other as we allow this to be added fuel for our drive to succeed? Did Syracuse not lose to a D2 team last season during their exhibition season? I’m pretty sure they finished 30-5 and advanced to the Sweet 16. If we learn, why can’t that be us?
I hope to see you all on Friday night!