he Minutemen are riding a three-game winning streak following impressive victories over Boston University, Boston College and Villanova. The next six games are all on the road, starting with a big game against the University of Detroit on Saturday. The Minutemen won't return home until January 6 when they open their Atlantic 10 Conference schedule against St. Bonaventure. Prior to departing for Detroit, head coach Bruiser Flint talked about a very hectic week for him and the team.
To say the week following our Marshall game was chaotic is an understatement. We won three straight games, and as you know, I received a tremendous amount of national publicity for sitting out the Boston University game following inappropriate remarks on my postgame radio show. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my self-imposed one-game suspension would make ABC World News Tonight or NBC's Today Show. As I have said from the moment of that indiscretion, I was only doing what I truly felt was right. I was overwhelmed by the amount of positive calls and letters I received. The public support has meant a lot to me.
Sitting above the court watching the Boston University game was different. I actually enjoyed the view! It definitely gave me a clearer picture as to how the game unfolds and how plays evolve. However, I don't plan to make a habit of watching games from that vantage point.
It was great winning two games over state schools -- BU and Boston College. Those games have the potential to become highly-anticipated rivalries that everyone looks forward to. BU had a very young, but talented team, one that I think can contend for a league title in two years. Against us, BU just didn't have the horses. Boston College was a different story. The game was closer and we made the first half much closer than it should have been. We committed far too many turnovers, and to use a tennis term, many of those were "unforced." Monty Mack had a terrific second half and proved why he draws so much attention from opposing defenses.
I hope the Villanova game is a springboard for our team. It was good for us to win a game like that because we have lost so many like it in the past few seasons. We were patient, didn't force things and didn't take bad shots. We didn't rattle despite being down at halftime. The comeback was exciting for fans, but coaches get gray when games come down to a last-second shot.
Villanova was a big win for us, but people are under the impression that we played two different halves with different levels of intensity. That's not the case. The difference is that we didn't make shots in the first half and we did in the second. From time to time we're going to struggle offensively. But against the Wildcats we got the shots we wanted. We got them in transition, from the elbow of the free throw line, all over. We just didn't connect, especially in the first half. For example, Villanova played Monty Mack a box-and-one and he still got 13 shots.
Defensively, we guarded Villanova from the very beginning. I thought our defense stopped them from scoring. Malik Allen dominated in the first half, but in the second half we did a better job of taking him out of the game and forcing someone else on the Villanova team to score. I didn't think any Nova player could beat us off the dribble, so we pressed the ball. Villanova is at its best when they can stand and shoot. But when they had to put it on the floor, they struggled. One of the biggest things we did is stop Villanova from getting second shots.
Villanova spent a lot of time concentrating on playing Monty Mack and that meant Chris Kirkland got lost in the shuffle and wound up winning the game for us. Chris took the game over. He made big plays, made big baskets and made hustle plays that got us baskets. It was the fifth time in his career that he has scored 20 or more points in a game.
Shannon Crooks made the game-winning shot, but throughout the game I thought he had great looks, they just didn't fall. But, I don't want him to stop him shooting. He made the shot we needed him to! On the flip side, he is playing good defense and cutting down turnovers (only two against Villanova) and had six assists.
The Villanova win was the 15th time since 1995 that we have come back to win a game when trailing by double figures.
Our schedule doesn't get any easier for us. Detroit is a very good team. Last year the Titans went 25-6 and defeated UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. I think Detroit is the second-best team we will play so far this year, and in my opinion, should have been a pre-season Top 25 team.
Rashad Phillips is one of the best guards in the country and is a Midwestern Collegiate Conference Player of the Year candidate. He can really put on a show. Forwards Daniel Whye and Desmond Ferguson can shoot the lights out. It's a tough road game and Detroit coach Perry Watson does a great job coaching of his team. Perry is a legend in Detroit. He was a terrific high school coach there and gets a lot of the local kids to stay at home and play for him.
The Detroit game is going to be low-scoring and defensively hard-fought. We like to defend and so does Detroit. We're a good road team -- we play enough road games! -- so I think the atmosphere at Calihan Hall shouldn't affect us.
Following Detroit, we'll be off for until the following Saturday when we travel to Miami to play Florida State, the start of six straight road games.