"Snowfall flirting with record pace," said the headline in today's Green Bay Press-Gazette. I must say, there are times when I'm glad I don't travel with the basketball team!
Nice job, Frank, on the game-day blog on the ISU web site. I also watched the game on the Big Ten Network. In between uttering oathes over missed opportunities (all those offensive rebounds and the missed free throws in the second half), I was admiring how tough the Bengals hung in their two-point loss to Wisconsin last night. As Bengal Coach Joe O'Brien noted after the game, "These close loses are getting old." Yes, they are. The announcers on the Big Ten Network kept noting last night that ISU has lost three overtime games this year, and now the two-pointer in regulation to the Badgers. Oh what might have been.
Watching the Bengals compete well on the road last night eases some of that frustration. But to really take the next step forward, Idaho State needs to beat a good Wisconsin-Green Bay team on Thursday night. The Phoenix have won five in a row, they are already 2-0 in conference play, and, like the Bengals, they are an experienced club, returning 90 percent of their production from last year's 15-15 team.
In looking at W-GB's statistics, a couple of things stand out. The Phoenix are good shooters. They hit 39 percent from three-point range, and you DO NOT want to foul them. Their top six scorers all shoot 81 percent or better from the free throw line. As a team, they are making 86 percent of their foul shots. Mike Schachnter, a 6-9 F (above), has hit 33 of 34 attempts (97 percent), and Troy Cotton, a 6-1 G, is just under 90 percent. Also, the Phoenix are not a big, physical team, as evidenced by their minus-3 rebounding margin. And they have a negative assist to turnover ratio, which may indicate the Bengals can create some opportunities in the transition game. (Another Stucki-to-Bay-to-Monroe wrap-around pass or two would be nice.)
Bengal fans will note a couple of familiar names associated with the Phoenix. Chop Tang, a 6-6 F who transferred from Eastern Arizona, is a starter for W-GB. The recruiting sites linked Tang briefly to Idaho State last spring, before he signed with the Phoenix. And Jesse Childs, a Borah High School graduate and son of former Boise State star Chris Childs, is listed on the W-GB roster, although he has not played this year after transferring from Mesa Community College. I'm trying to find out his status as I write this.
I saw a lot of mental toughness on the part of Idaho State last night in Badgerland. Now, they have to take another step and win one of these tough road games. Thursday is the next best opportunity.
And thanks for being a Bengal. It ain't always easy, but it's always fun.