COMMENTARY – He looks like he’s 35 years old. He’s competed against Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. He seems to always need a shave, even after he just shaved. And last night he plunged a dagger into the heart of any WCC championship hope the Brigham Young Cougars might have.
Of course, I’m talking about Matthew Dellavedova.
The senior Saint Mary’s guard from Maryborough, Victoria, Australia, made a running 35-foot shot at the buzzer to lift the Gaels to a 70-69 victory at BYU’s stunned Marriott Center.
Less than three seconds earlier, super sophomore Tyler Haws had given the Cougars a 69-67 lead on a high-arching shot from 12 feet out. The partisan fans were insanely jubilant, seeing the storybook ending of a well-played game.
Then Vellavedova launched his Jimmer-esque bomb and the 15,000 or so fans fell unilaterally silent. A quick review of the tape confirmed the shot was released in time and Vellavedova and his teammates hugged and left the court.
Haws told reporters after the game that this one “hurts.” My son, who was amidst the boisterous student section at the game, texted me one defining word: devastating. The Deseret News called the loss “crushing,” and the Tribune called it a “stunning” defeat.
Given recent events in the real world, a cynic may suggest that those words – devastating, crushing, stunning, painful — should not be used to describe the results of a basketball game.
I am not one of those people. We feel real emotion when we cheer for our teams. Like crying at a sad movie, it’s OK to pour ourselves into the moment.
And so, many BYU fans stayed up late and invested some of their personal selves into that game last night. Like a good movie, it had leading men (Haws and Brandon Davies), a realistic and complicated villain (Dellavedova), plot twists (BYU led by 24-7 early in the game, then trailed 52-46 in the second half), a quirky and likeable sidekick (Matt Carlino) and a serious hero character flaw (BYU couldn’t rebound to save its life last night).
Unlike the movies, though, the good guys don’t always ride off into the sunset. Sometimes the bad guys win.
The Haws bucket over two defenders with 2.5 seconds left was the perfect ending for BYU fans. It would have gone into the Cougar highlight vault, with Ainge’s drive and Clay Brown’s catch.
Instead, Luke did turn to the dark side, Indy got run over by that big boulder and Rose froze to death in the North Atlantic.
Maybe this loss was one scene in some grander movie production that is the 2012-2013 season. Certainly the season is not over for the Cougars. But in a year when the West is extremely strong (the Pac-12, Mountain West and WAC are all having monstrous years), there may not be many NCAA Tournament bids to go around. In fact, the WCC may get just two or three teams in the NCAAs, so every win becomes crucial, and every loss a huge detriment.
The Cougars have some huge games coming up, but this home loss magnifies the reality that BYU must beat someone decent (Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga) on the road.
That, of course, means a sequel. The problem is, sequels are rarely as good as the original.
The Cougar hoopsters have just one game in the next six days, a home date vs. San Diego Saturday night. The Torreros are playing surprisingly well, having accumulated a 4-0 record in WCC play so far. USD is 11-8 overall and has yet to play any of the Big Boys (BYU, Gonzaga, SMC) in the conference.
BYU does play Gonzaga one week from tonight in Spokane.
Andy Griffin is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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