Very rarely do you see something new in basketball, especially when you have been watching it for 20+ years. Saturday evening in Waco was a first for me. I attended the game with my wife and 5-month old son, his first game in Waco, TX. We had attended the TCU game up in Fort Worth and had a blast. The crowd was really quiet, and that helped my son quite a bit.
On Saturday though, the arena was rocking, and his eyes got wider and wider. I don’t know if it was the heavy cheering, the loud PA speakers, or just all the neon colors, but his attention was wide and varied. So was mine, as I watched the Baylor Bears fight all night in a game that they probably deserved to win. They played a tough game, and did enough things to win.
But it was not meant to be. As the hail marry pass across the full court sailed a few inches over the out-stretched hand of Isaiah Austin, I sank down in my chair. I hoped that it had grazed a finger-tip thus moving the inbounds pass to the opposite side of the court. Alas, my true fears were realized as Kansas State paraded to right underneath their own basket. I didn’t watch. I couldn’t watch. I just sat there, surrounded my screaming neon fans and listened.
It didn’t take long, as at most 6 seconds of basketball remained; 5 seconds to get the ball in and one second to put it up. It didn’t even last long enough for me to exhale. Honestly, I didn’t see the play and the game-winning shot until after lunch Sunday afternoon. I didn’t need to. The only thing that mattered is the Bears lost another heartbreaker. Another game that was within their grasps, in a full season that just seems to be a few inches ahead of them, with the Bears running full speed in chase mode.
In the end, it wasn’t effort that cost the Bears this game. It wasn’t the refs and a bunch of questionable foul calls. It wasn’t even their poor shooting. It was simply two little mistakes that turned into a loss. One was not even getting a fingertip on a pass that you simply have to touch. That play is like a suicide squeeze in baseball. No matter what, you have to touch that ball, because if you don’t, you are done.
The other mistake was a simple miscommunication on defensive rotation; two guys pointing to the other to get the same guy. Both thought the other one had the guy wide open from 3-point range, but neither did. Of course that shot went in. This year is full of shots that have gone in for the opposition but have just not for the Bears.
I could sit here and give you a bunch of stats and Xs and Os about what happened to the Bears Saturday night, but really do you want to read that? I don’t even know if I want to write it. Simply put, the Bears season is on life support now, mainly due to a complete inability to win close games. After finally coming through against West Virginia, they now fall to 1-7 in games decided by 5 points or less. We win one or two of those seven games, we are still looking forward to a fun March in the NCAA tournament.
The Bears are in the definition of a must-win game Monday night as they travel down to Austin to face UT. Funny enough, Texas is one of the tight games they have won, beating them in overtime in Waco to start the Big 12 season. Even with a win in Austin, the Bears wouldn’t be assured of a NCAA bid, but they would still have a decent chance. With a loss though…well, it might be like a hail marry pass falling out of bounds.