Sunday, March 28, 2004

Cowboys 64, Hawks 62 | Oh, man, this one hurt. Hurt like a son of a bitch. Hurt like a hard punch to the gut, the kind that explodes all of the air from your body and leaves you gasping and dizzy for a long time afterward.

Twenty-four hours later, it still hurts.

In the space of less than 30 seconds, my world went from ecstasy to agony. Pat Carroll, struggling with his shot all night long, drains a trey from up top to put Saint Joseph's up by a point; Oklahoma State's John Lucas then ends up with a loose ball and hits a three of his own, an ugly line drive that somehow finds twine; and Jameer Nelson, directly in front of my courtside spot, comes up short on a fadeaway from the lane as time expires. Oklahoma State is headed to the Final Four, and my Hawks trudge off the floor noble losers.

The casual sports fan caught the score on SportsCenter or in his morning paper and figured, wow, St. Joe's sure hung in there. Guess the Cowboys were just too much.

A natural reaction -- and completely wrong.

Because the fact is that Saint Joseph's had that game last night. It owned a 6-point halftime lead that easily could have been 15 and was simply the better team for most of the night. OSU didn't win that game -- the Hawks lost it. They shot 8-for-26 from the arc, and when the long ball is your bread and butter, you have to do better than that. Just a couple more 3-balls and SJU would be flying to San Antonio. It was a golden opportunity lost. The little Atlantic 10 school stood up to the fearsome Big 12 team and largely outplayed it, only to fall on the kind of last-second shot that underdogs are supposed to make. As the estimable Jon Weisman wrote in response to my last post: "Sigh ... it should have gone differently."

In a few days I'll be able to gain the proper perspective on the Hawks' historic season, but for now . . . well, for now it just hurts.

Like a son of a bitch.


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