In a long-running rivalry that has been lopsided of late, San Francisco and St. Mary’s provided a little bit of a stir at the finish of their game Monday night.
The Gaels used a big second half to defeat the Dons 69-56 for their 18th win in the last 19 games between the two Bay Area rivals. The end of the contest saw some words exchanged after the buzzer between a couple USF and St. Mary’s coaches, as well as a few unpleasantries between players from both teams. At issue was St. Mary’s reserve Jock Landale attempting a dunk while getting fouled by Tim Derksen on a hard (SMC might argue it was reckless, though that is debatable) challenge on an attempted shot block at the buzzer. That came after the Gaels rebounded a late San Francisco missed shot and then under pressure made an outlet to Landale, who attempted to beat the buzzer with his rim run.
(Steve Kroner had an excellent explanation and overall wrap-up of the game here for the San Francisco Chronicle)
Overall, the encounter at the end was benign, little more than a minor tiff. In fact, it’s good to see rivals acting like, well, rivals. But it does bring up the ‘issue’ of how teams play out the final seconds in games that have been already decided.
The issue with it is that, in this game and in most other instances, there should be no issue. There’s nothing wrong with reserve players who don’t play many minutes taking advantage of the little playing time they receive. That’s what Landale did for St. Mary’s. And there’s nothing wrong with the opposing team playing hard until the final buzzer. That’s what Derksen did for San Francisco.
There are most certainly times when sportsmanship should prevail. A team leading by 40 doesn’t need to be running and gunning, pressing or jacking up three-pointers. (Blowouts are a great time for winning teams to work on their passing, ball movement and interior play, not to see if they can set the school record for three-pointers.).
Many times, though, sportsmanship or some unwritten code are invoked when there’s no need to. Many reserves work every bit as hard as the regulars in the rotation. If they finally get in the game, why should they be forced to suddenly put a governor on, or just dribble out the clock out of some faux sign of respect for the other team?
On the other side of that, a losing team should never quit. Losing by ten is better than losing by 12, losing by 18 is better than losing by 20. One of the most frustrating things to watch as a fan is when a losing team just dribbles out the last seconds of a game, not making an effort to play to the end.
No winning team is obligated to bleed out the final seconds just because they’re ahead. And no losing team is obligated to wave the white flag just because the winning team has decided they can’t catch up. In this case, it was just two teams playing hard to the end, and as long as it’s done safely, there’s never anything wrong with that.
- Duke got a final tune-up for ACC play with an 86-69 win over Toledo that was closer than the final score. One can quickly tire of the overdone hyping of freshmen, but it has to be said that Jahlil Okafor is a lot of fun to watch. The big guy had a career-best 27 points and flashed a buffet of post moves and shots.
- Gonzaga eased past San Diego 60-48 despite going seven minutes without scoring in the second half.
- BYU got its offensive machine cranking again with a 97-88 win over Portland. Tyler Haws, Anson Winder and Kyle Collinsworth scored 24, 22 and 21, respectively, in a game the Cougars needed after dropping their WCC opener at home to Gonzaga.
- LSU is worth keeping an eye on. The Tigers dumped Southern Mississippi 87-67, with Jarell Martin scoring 24 and finishing a rebound shy of giving the Bayou Bengals three players with double-doubles (Jordan Mickey finished with 14 points and 10 boards; Tim Quarterman added 12 and 14).
- VCU hasn’t been talked about much since falling out of the rankings, but the Rams have now quietly won five straight since falling to Virginia at home, the latest win a 72-63 triumph over stubborn Cleveland State.
- TCU coasted to 13-0 with a 60-45 win over Tennessee State. The Frogs’ schedule begins getting tougher starting now: up next is a home date with West Virginia on Saturday.
- Valparaiso is now 13-2, one of the top win totals in the country after ripping James Madison 79-52 on the road. Eye-opening result to beat a decent CAA team by 27 on the road.
- Old Dominion is 11-1 now after a 69-35 win over Mount St. Mary’s.
- Stephen F. Austin is up to 10-3 after a 61-57 win at Cal State-Northridge.
- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin will miss his third straight game when Cincinnati travels to face North Carolina State on Tuesday (4 p.m. EST, ESPNU). Associate head coach Larry Davis, a former head coach at Furman, will coach the team again against the Wolfpack while Cronin continues to recover from an unruptured aneurysm.
- Hawai’i guard Garrett Nevels is scheduled for surgery on his right hand on Wednesday. However, the injury hasn’t caused him to miss any time yet, for Nevels started and played 23 minutes (scoring four points and adding four assists and two steals) in the Rainbow Warriors’ 71-57 win over Southern last night. He also is planning to play in tonight’s game against Prairie View A&M. Nevels talked interim head coach Benjy Taylor into playing last night and played left-handed, and it’s unclear if he’ll miss any time after the surgery. Nevels (12.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) was the team’s No. 2 scorer and third-leading rebounder entering last night, so obviously Hawai’i would love if he can return to health quickly for Big West play.
Maryland at Michigan State (5 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Some talk about the Terrapins being the second-best team in the Big 10. Maryland has looked really good early, but now it’s time for some road games, of which the Terps have played exactly one so far.
Iowa at Ohio State (1 p.m. EST, ESPN2) Or perhaps Ohio State is the Big 10’s second-best team? The Hawkeyes could really use this one.
Davidson at Virginia (6 p.m. EST, ESPNU) Clash of styles features one of nation’s highest-scoring teams against one of its stingiest defensively.
Mississippi at Dayton (8 p.m. EST, CBSSN) Not inconceivable in the least that both of these teams could wind up on the bubble battling each other for an NCAA at-large bid in March.
Florida Gulf Coast at Pittsburgh Another tough road test for FGCU, but a good test, for both teams.
Have a terrific Tuesday.