Sports Commentary 2/26/13: Hardwood Chess
Thoughts on CCSU-Quinnipiac Men’s BB in New Britain last night..
Time doesn’t stand still at the end of college basketball games, it just seems that way as 60 minutes of basketball becomes a one minute chess game between two coaches. With that last minute ticking off at Detrick Gym in New Britain last night, in a very important Northeast Conference game for the Central Connecticut Blue Devils, faced with the prospect of missing the league tournament for the first time in 15 years, Quinnipiac had the ball, a one point lead and a chance to up the ante and take the game clock out of the equation. With 25 seconds left Central took possession off a defensive stop under the Bobcat hoop and what started as a 60 minute basketball game came down to a 25 minute mind game. Central’s sophomore sensation Kyle Vinales quickly dribbled into the front court. Dribbling in front of the bench he had a brief discussion with coach Howie Dickenman. “I asked him, ‘Do you want a timeout?’”, said Vinales, “He said, ‘No, make something happen.’” So Vinales did, hitting a 28 foot three pointer with five and a half seconds left to put Central up two. “I tried to take my man one on one”, he said of Quinnipiac guard Zaid Hearst, “I made a move, he backed up and I shot it. I knew it was going in.” It was Dickenman’s call that Vinales made good on. “It was in his hands so I didn’t want to call a timeout”, said Howie of his reason for just letting the play go, “I’m always concerned about timeouts because it gives the defense a chance to group, then you have to inbounds the ball from the side.” Of that Vinales dagger, Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore says his guy, Hearst, was in a tough situation, “You can’t let him rock into the shot, but if you overcommit he’s off by you at seven seconds and something else is going to happen.” Central by two, Quinnipiac timeout. 5.5 seconds for the wheels to turn. Moore knew what he wanted to do, Dickenman knew what he wanted to keep him from doing. “I put two players on (Dave) Johnson”, he said of the speedy Bobcat guard, “Because he can really go. When you can go at that speed, we don’t want our players to foul.” Quinnipiac got the ball in on a short inbound play under the hoop, but not to Johnson, closed out by the Central defense because Dickenman had done his homework. “We run that action a lot at the end of games”, said Moore, “I try to put it in a speedy guys hands. I get nervous if you throw the ball past mid court because all of a sudden you go from having the ball, to putting up a 50-50 ball you might not have. I like to put it in our guys hands closest up the court, the risk is you have a lot of ground to cover now.” Evan Conti took the ball coast to coast and put up a seven footer from a tightly packed crowd in the lane that hit off the front rim at the buzzer. “I don’t think they wanted Conti driving the ball”, said Dickenman of his decision to keep it away from Johnson. “In hindsight I wished we took a three in a little cleaner area”, said Moore, “But he saw a little crack and he took it too deep and Central was really good. They retreated and did a good job defensively.” 60 minutes of basketball came down to 25 seconds, two possessions. This one they could have played on a chessboard. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.