I have this emphasis thing. Ask my wife. I often have these moments where it's so important that I accurately emphasize something. I'm having one of those moments right now. I need you to understand how quiet it was in the State Farm Center today.
I'll start with the disclaimer but it still won't matter: this is not a shot at the crowd. My point here is not "this game was great! why wasn't everyone cheering? GET ON YOUR FEET PEOPLE!!". I totally understand the "why". I feel it too. We're just shellshocked by so many losses and, for the lack of a better word, don't feel "safe" to cheer. Call it fan PTSD.
But I just can't get over how quiet it was in here. Yes, there are reasons, but even if you told me those reasons a few years ago, I would have never anticipated this building would be this quiet. Here, I'll list the reasons to get them out of the way:
- It was just East Tennessee State. Yes, we were only favored by 5.5, so it as supposed to be a close game, but East Tennessee State is not a game that gets the blood pumping.
- The students are on break. Or at finals. Or something. It was weird. Krush (I think?) was behind the basket but all the seats behind press row (usually Krush, usually loud) were sold to the general public. That always makes a difference. No offense to said "general public", but they're usually about 1/10th as loud as Krush.
- The game was a laugher. It was 43-13 at one point. So that kind of game is never going to draw much fan intensity. (I did think the process of getting to 43-13 would have provided some noise, though.)
A game like that will probably be the quietest game of the year. I did not expect the quietest game of my lifetime though. I've been to snow games with half a crowd, I've been to games where we're on an eight-game Big Ten losing streak, I've been to games that BTN put at 9:30 central on a Tuesday night. But this crowd - this fanbase - is just so shellshocked right now. I get it. It's so, so hard to cheer when you have this ever-present feeling that you're going to be let down.
I didn't have the idea until there was 5:00 left in the game, so this is going to seem very "well it was the end of the game and the crowd was probably filing out", but I attempted to record how quiet it was. This probably won't provide much context (I have no idea if this will sound quiet or not), but hopefully you can hear coaches talking, officials discussing - all things you can never hear in this building because it's so loud. This is the last five minutes of the game:
You can hear cheerleaders attempting to get the crowd into it (their job). You can even hear a cheerleader-led attempt at ILL-INI, usually deafaning. But there's just nothing there. We, as a fanbase, have nothing to give right now. Our phone battery is nearly dead so we're only going to use it in emergency situations.
It's why I fear next Saturday so much. Missouri's fanbase, despite their 27-68 three years under Kim Anderson, is not dead. They're going to out-scream us 5-to-1. I haven't attended a Braggin' Rights loss in a long time, and attending one where Missouri fans dance around and scream about their bowl game isn't going to be very much fun. I can't think of something I've dreaded more in the last five years.
Again, I get it. We're all living it, and this is all we can give. We MUST spend our energy on bracing ourselves for happy Missouri fans walking out of the arena. We're in survival mode. As I wrote before the football season, this is (hopefully) the last year of this - both football and basketball will be baaad - and then, next school year, hopefully, we finally have something to cheer about on both sides of Kirby.
But I guess I never thought it would sink this low. I never thought it would be this dead inside the State Farm Center. (And I guess I never thought I'd feel this dead inside.)
Let's just talk about the game.
+ Hey, a blowout win!
Yes, East Tennessee State got to the I-Hotel at 4:00 this morning, seven hours before tipoff, still having not slept. They had 17-hours of canceled flights, flat tires on busses, and lost luggage yesterday. I'm guessing the players maybe slept from 5:00 to 8:00 and then had to get up and get ready for the game. They looked like it, too, letting Illinois run out to a 43-13 lead.
But still, we played well. Forced 20 turnovers. Trent was Trent, scoring 25 while shooting 6-9 from three. Giorgi played well (and only had two fouls!). Aaron Jordan shot the ball poorly but pulled down 10 rebounds. Kipper had 14 and 8 and seems to be out of his funk. All in all, it was a solid performance.
+ The rotation is so very thin right now. No De La Rosa or Higgs, so the big rotation is Giorgi and Samba. Ayo and Alan Griffin were late to shootaround so they did not play today. Tevian Jones remains suspended. And we're still short one scholarship player (12 total instead of 13).
Because of that, here's the minutes today:
That... won't work for Braggin' Rights. Obviously, Ayo and Griffin will be back, but we might need De La Rosa to draw Jeremiah Tilmon's five fouls as well. And while we're at it, Ayo MUST shut down Mark Smith.
Can you tell I'm dreading the Braggin' Rights game?
Tyler Underwood cannot play 10 minutes next Saturday. Samba Kane probably cannot play 13 minutes next Saturday. And with Giorgi headed towards foul trouble, we will need a deep bench in one week.
OK, I'll talk about something else.
+ Tyler's thing that he's written here about Trent and Ayo not playing well together yet (Ayo's best game was when Trent was out; Trent's best game was when Ayo was out) continues to hurt my brain. It feels like that's the season, right? Figure that out - get Ayo and Trent on the same page as this future monster backcourt and this is going somewhere. Don't figure it out and it's not.
It's his thing so I'll let him describe why it's not happening yet. But I just know that today, it's all I thought about in the second half. We need Georgetown Ayo and ETSU Trent playing like that every game.
+ Giorgi's post moves continue to blow my mind. Giorgi still has a lot to learn (how to not foul, when to pass up a three, how to keep his emotions in check), but his post moves are probably our most pleasant surprise in years. He continues to score in the paint, enough to be able to say that it's something we're going to be able to count on for the next four seasons.
In fact, it feels like we're starting to completely understand what this should look like when we start winning. Real quick...
- Trent and Ayo are the backcourt that makes it all go. On both ends of the court.
- Feliz is the steading influence off the bench. Can provide you starter minutes at PG if you need him to.
- AJ hit threes and do all the little things like rebound (10 today). Senior leadership.
- The offense runs through Giorgi in the pinch post. He understands what to do from that spot.
- Kipper play under control and find his spots. Give us these last three games (good Kipper), not Maui (bad Kipper).
- Da'Monte is the glue guy. Do all the little things - rebounds, steals, blocks, defense, maybe a three here or there.
Now this list must be added:
- De La Rosa legitimate big minutes off the bench.
- Samba 8th or 9th man who can provide 5-8 energy minutes.
- Griffin become Jordan's understudy because that's his role next year.
- Tevian get back from suspension and fill that athletic wing role we're lacking.
Will it happen this season? Probably not. Too inexperienced, too young - pick your reason.
But man, this fanbase needs it to. We need something.