Blowout loss forces Cardinals' postseason hand
February 19, 2007 —
For the first five minutes of Saturday's game at Wayne State, the Cardinals looked like a team that was looking for its fourth consecutive win. Then Kris Krzyminski took over.
The Warriors' senior guard, who came into the game leading the GLIAC in scoring with 25.4 points per game, scored 13 points in the first half's final 15 minutes and finished with 26 total as Wayne State won 82-66.
The final score was not even indicative of how much the Warriors dominated the game's final 35 minutes. SVSU took a 10-0 lead before Wayne State finally scored with 15:15 left in the first half, but the Warriors went on a 34-15 run to close out the half and take a nine-point lead into halftime. They extended their lead to 18 with a 9-0 run in the first two and a half minutes of the second half, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Wayne State's lead eventually grew to 29 before the Cards cut it down to the final 16-point margin.
The loss dropped the Cards' record to 7-9 in the conference and put them back behind Ferris State for the eighth and final spot in the GLIAC tournament. SVSU had entered the game with a half-game lead over the Bulldogs after beating Lake Superior State Wednesday, but fell a half-game back with the loss.
The Cardinals were able to contain Krzyminski as they built their lead, but their execution dwindled as the first half continued.
"We didn't execute our game plan," coach Jamie Matthews said. "We did in the first six or seven minutes, but they got a lot of layups in the last 10 minutes of the first half."
The Warriors got six layups to be exact, four of which came from junior Jason Saddler, who came into the game averaging just 7.7 points per game in conference play. Many of the layups came off missed rotations, said Matthews, who added that the team's game plan was to force the ball out of Krzyminski's hands and into those of Saddler, who also came into the game shooting a dismal 20 percent from the free-throw line.
When the Warriors weren't getting easy buckets, Krzyminski was coming off screens and hitting his shots. The 6'1" Flint native shot 5-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, in the first half. He finished the game 8-of-16 and was 5-of-6 from the free throw line for his 26 points.
Saddler was one of three other Warriors in double figures, finishing with 17 points and seven rebounds. Junior Wynn Sarden added 15 points and 12 boards, while senior Joe Carr scored 15 as well.
Cardinals' sophomore Lawrence Ross did his best to keep up with Krzyminski in the first half, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. He added just seven points in the second half, though. Freshman Derick Hobbs was the only other SVSU player in double figures, scoring 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Matthews said he didn't think the Cardinals' postseason position was on their mind.
"Their focus and energy should have been on playing between three and five [Saturday] afternoon," he said.
If the Cardinals end up making the postseason, it would be their first trip since 1999, when even their oldest player, senior Martell Summers, was just 15.
"I don't think that's on their mind, either, because they're all young," Matthews said. "They're too young to know the history behind that, and that's a good thing."
If anything, the coach added, the team should have been concentrating on winning its last three games and possibly getting a top-two seed in the North Division.
"That would have been much better than backing in," he said.
With Saturday's loss, the Cardinals are now faced with having to defeat Grand Valley State Wednesday and Northwood Saturday at home to guarantee the final tournament spot ahead of Ferris State. SVSU beat the Lakers 72-71 in Allendale Nov. 30 and the Timberwolves 74-65 in Midland Feb. 10.
"They should have some confidence," Matthews said. "For the most part, we have been playing good basketball. We've won three out of four. We just have to keep that confidence against Grand Valley."
It helps that the Cardinals' last two games will be in O'Neill Arena, Matthews added.
"It's never easier on the road in this league," he said. "I would much rather have us playing at home for a seed than on the road."
Despite the loss, Matthews said, the Cards took care of what it needed to on the road to preserve importance for their last two games.
"It's encouraging that we are in this spot," he concluded. "We did what we had to do on the road to set this up. I'm excited about next week's games."
Wednesday's tipoff against Grand Valley is at 8 p.m., while Saturday's game begins at 3 p.m.