The 3-point game has changed everything, at every level, and it's strictly a matter of taste whether you believe this is a good thing. I do not. I think the 3-point shot has distorted the game, making something that really shouldn't be that important a tremendously vital part of the game. Really. Why should a 23-footer be worth more than a 21-footer?" Bob Ryan Boston Globe May 29, 2010 Ryan wrote that in reference to the NBA three distance but he did apply it to all levels of the game.
Like many schools Holy Cross has a message board for fans and a chat room where fans not in attendance can discuss a game real-time as it unfolds. I frequently visit that chat room during road games and multiple times a game when a Crusader opponent hits a three, one member, KyCrusader75, will often exclaim,
"I Hate the 3!!!"
Holy Cross came into the first round of the Patriot League tournament leading the league in Three Point FG Pct defense and 17th in the country.
Lafayette came into the first round of the Patriot League Tournament leading the Patriot League in Made 3 Point Field Goals per game (fifth in the country) ringing up, on average, more than 9 superhoops per game.
Lafayette also lost their starting point guard in the second to last game of the regular season with a foot injury.
Holy Cross had won 6 games in a row.
So a 3 point shooting team without its best point guard was matched up against a hot 3 point defending team.
A wet snow was falling in Worcester with more on the way. As I walked from the car to the Hart Center to pick up my tickets at the Will Call window, I was reminded of many games I've attended in similar weather. There is a different feeling entering a gym on a snowy night. Throw in a one and done game and there was just a different energy to the night.
Well, this game was different.
Holy Cross seemed to start off tentatively. When Lafayette's back-up point guard Rob Delaney drained a contested 3, I said to my daughter, if they hit shots like that, we're in trouble. Three Leopard layups to only one Crusader inside jumper ran the score to 9-2 with about three minutes gone and Holy Cross called the time out.
The Crusaders' passes were not as crisp as they have been during the six game winning streak. Their defense was half a beat late. Their offense couldn't hit a lay up.
The timeout didn't help much. Over the next 10 minutes Holy Cross never got closer than six points and trailed by 14 with 7:30 left in the half. A 19-10 run by the Crusaders to close out the half cut the lead to five.
I watched the scoreboard flash the stats during halftime. Lafayette was an incredible 66.7% from beyond the arc. What was worse it was not 2/3 or even 4/6. The Leopards were 8 for 12 on three point shots. And Rob Delaney, the substitute point guard, was 4/4.
"Things will get better in the second half. There is no way Lafayette will continue at that pace." I told my daughter.
And I was right. They didn't continue at that pace.
They got better! Sure they took fewer shots in the second half, only seven, but they made five!
For the game Lafayette was 13 for 19, 68.4% on three point shots. Delaney only took one more 3-pointer in the game - naturally he made it - and wound up a perfect 5/5 from outside. The thing was, the Crusaders were defending the shots pretty well from my untrained point of view and very few of those 19 shots were wide open looks. Delaney scored 25 points on the game - including 4 of 6 on free throws. In short, he shot better from 21 feet, generally with a hand in his face, than he did from 15 feet uncontested!
Holy Cross by the way shot a very good 48.3% from the field and 55.6% from behind the arc (5 of 9), but when your opponent is hitting 8 more threes than you, you need to make a whole lot more twos than them to win.
So, because it gives us a chance, I love the three.
But, how do you respond as a team when virtually every three tossed up goes in? How do you respond as a fan?
As I left the Hart Center into the still falling snow, that pre-game energy was gone and the refreshing feeling of the cool snow I remember so well from leaving so many games in a hot Hart Center Gym was missing. As I walked to the car, I thought two things.
Why should a 21 foot shot be worth more than a 20 foot shot?
And ... I hate the three! ... Tonight.
LAFAYETTE 84, at HOLY CROSS 76 02/29/2012
LAFAYETTE 13-17 (7-7) -- J. Mower 5-10 4-4 18; R. Delaney 8-9 4-6 25; R. Willen 2-5 8-9 12; S. Hinrichs 2-4 4-4 9; N. Petkovich 3-4 0-0 9; D. Trist 3-5 0-0 6; L. Smith 0-2 3-6 3; L. Giese 1-2 0-0 2; J. Pelham 0-0 0-0 0; J. Detmer 0-0 0-0 0; A. Flannigan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-41 23-29 84. HOLY CROSS 15-14 (9-5) -- D. Brown 6-15 2-2 17; D. Dudzinski 6-11 4-5 16; R. Evans 6-11 6-7 18; J. Burrell 3-7 1-2 7; M. Cavataio 2-4 0-0 4; D. Goens 2-2 1-2 6; E. Obeysekere 1-4 1-2 3; J. Stevens 2-4 0-0 5; P. Beans 0-0 0-0 0; T. Abt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-58 15-20 76.
Three-point goals: LAF 13-19 (R. Delaney 5-5; J. Mower 4-6; N. Petkovich 3-4; R. Willen 0-1; L. Smith 0-2; S. Hinrichs 1-1), HC 5-9 (D. Brown 3-6; D. Goens 1-1; J. Stevens 1-1; J. Burrell 0-1); Rebounds: LAF 21 (R. Willen 7), HC 25 (R. Evans 7); Assists: LAF 13 (R. Willen 6), HC 11 (M. Cavataio 4); Total Fouls -- LAF 17, HC 21; Fouled Out: LAF-None; HC-None.