This item originally appeared in the Feb. 19, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.
This past Thursday night the Bulldog basketball team went to Hawaii and knocked off the best team in the Western Athletic Conference in a nail-biting 62-61 thriller, and Tech shined as the brilliant team that can upset anyone in conference.
Then, the Bulldogs followed up the beating of the best team with an extremely pathetic performance and loss against the San Jose State Spartans.
The Spartans were on a 13-game losing streak and were winless in conference at 0-11 before beating the Bulldogs.
If this doesn't define inconsistency, I didn't read the dictionary right at all.
And now the question arises. What is the problem here?
The obvious victims of blame are the coaches, leadership, players' attitudes and discipline, but none of these is the problem.
We have a fine coaching staff, as is evident in head coach Keith Richard's track record. Leadership is not a problem, and this team has a great attitude.
The Bulldogs are scrappy, gutsy and tough as nails. Tech doesn't have the prettiest or most talented team. In fact, most of the time the Bulldogs' games are downright ugly, but this team has grit. They practice hard, and they play hard.
Finally, this team has no greater problems or no more problems than any other team. True, there have been minor problems such as players coming in late after curfew and a few minutes late for practices and shoot arounds on the road, but Richard has taken the necessary procedures in nipping these minor problems in the bud before they become real problems.
So what is the problem with the Bulldogs, and why can't we consistently win games?
The problem is shooting.
This team simply can't shoot the basketball. If you can't score, you can't win. It's that simple.
If you look at the top four teams in the WAC -- Hawaii, Nevada, UTEP and Rice -- they are either the top four or four of the top five leaders in each of these categories: field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assists per game.
Each of those top four teams are shooting above average in every category, and therefore, they are winning games. Teams ranking from highest to lowest field goal percentage in the WAC are the identical teams ranking in wins.
Of ten teams in the WAC, Tech is eighth in field goal percentage, dead last in conference in three-point percentage, ninth in free-throw percentage and eighth in assists per game.
The result: a seventh place position in the WAC.
Still think shooting isn't the problem?
Two years ago the Bulldogs finished 14-4 in conference play, which was good enough for third place. Two buzzer beaters kept Tech from winning the conference crown, and do you want to know how that team won? They could shoot.
They shot 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from beyond the arc and 71 percent on free throws. They were also first in defending the three-pointer and first in rebounding margin.
Last year, the Bulldogs finished 9-9 in conference, as the offensive production decreased. Tech shot 43 percent from the field, 36 percent on three-pointers and 68 percent on free throws.
This year, Tech has connected on only 42 percent from the field, 29 percent on three-pointers and 65 percent on free throws.
Notice a trend? If you can't score, you can't win.
The old saying is true. Defense wins championships. But everybody knows to win the game you must have more points than the other team at the end of the game, and the Bulldogs just aren't doing that consistently.
Josh Milton is a junior journalism major from Ruston and serves as sports editor for The Tech Talk.