While the talking heads on ESPN and the like spout off about Lebron James “not being clutch” or the early-2000s New England Patriots “being clutch,” the numbers gurus stand in complete opposition. They say there is no such thing as “clutch.”
The truth is most likely somewhere in the middle (though far, far slanted toward those who don’t believe in the concept of “clutch”). There are some teams, players, etc. that just know how to win. There are others that seem to to not be capable, despite close calls time after time.
The 2013 Detroit Titans just don’t know how to win, how to finish a game. Is that why they lost against Jacksonville? No, but it was likely a contributing factor, too. The stagnation of a 1-6 record lost out to Jacksonville’s 4-3 mark.
The Dolphins know how to win. They’ve been there before.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||9||Faceoff Wins||11|
|Offensive Efficiency||.258||Offensive Efficiency||.273|
As expected, this was a moderately slow gane. The Titans were able to hold their own in possession despite a second straight game with the best faceoff specialist, Tyler Corcoran (and the top option in this game, Damien Hicks, won exactly 50%).
Everything was just about as close as can be, including the final score. One more possession in the other direction – had the Titans not failed a clear for just the second time all game in overtime, for example – would have flipped the result.
The Titans are still learning how to win in competitive games (VMI doesn’t count) and although they didn’t com up with the big moment in the clutch in this one, simply making it to overtime is actually progress for the 2013 edition of UDM lacrosse. Especially given that the best offensive player (Shayne Adams) and probably the third- or fourth-best defensive player (Nick Garippa) are out for the year, the Titans are really coming around.
That said, has there ever been an argument for “clutch” better than two failed clears all game, one in the fourth quarter – down just a couple goals – and one in overtime with the chance to get into the offensive box and set up a play for the win? The failed clear in OT decided the game.
Mike Birney was the offensive star in this one. He recorded two goals and two assists on the day to lead all scorers. However, he also had a bit of a turnover problem, committing four of them. Freshman Nick Melucci was the other offensive star, recording two goals and an assist.
On the other side of things, Alex Maini did not have his greatest day. Zero goals on three shots, zero assists and four turnovers. The load has shifted onto him with Adams’s injury, and that’s a new spotlight. Days like this are going to happen, and fortunately younger Titans have been able to step up and carry the load. Will Maini continue being a focal point of the offense going forward? Maybe not, and a balanced attack would probably be a good thing for this UDM squad.
Contrary to my expectations, Detroit did not force many turnovers in this one. Jacksonville committed 21 all game, and only six forced by UDM players. SSDM Joe MacLean was the team leader with only two CTs. Was the style of play compromised by the lack of Garippa? Was it simply a strategy decision against a Jacksonville team that has pretty good sticks? It certainly didn’t prevent JU from getting its share of good looks.
Based on the highlights (which pretty much only show goals, so take this with a grain of salt), it was not A.J. Levell’s best day. His defense was oddly slow to close out on shooters, but at least three of Jacksonville’s goals – including the OT winner – were simple high-to-high rips from outside 10 yards. Most of the time, those are saves that need to be made.
As mentioned above, Tyler Corcoran did not play in this game, and at this point the status of Detroit’s most successful faceoff specialist is unknown… but at this point it may not matter. After a really rough start to the year, Damien Hicks is rounding into form at the dot. He’s not exactly going to challenge for all-league honors, but given some time, he should be a good one.
Although UDM will be disappointed to not finish the job against Jacksonville, the second-most winnable game on the schedule (behind last week’s tilt against VMI) is up next. Hosting Manhattan is a must-win, not just for keeping MAAC tournament hopes alive – a post about which coming later this week – but for the simple sake of pride. You don’t lose to Manhattan at home.
It should be a great day in the Motor City, with nice weather expected and a bunch happening on campus. A big win for the Titans will bring them one step closer to a solid end to the season.