Just look at Canisius College clinging to a life raft with a piece of masking tape covering the hole, the air slowly oozing out of a season that started overflowing with expectations.
Everyone in Western New York was supposed to be envious of the Golden Griffins, but they fell to 0-4 against Big 4 opponents this season after losing to Niagara, 79-72, on Wednesday at the Gallagher Center. Just when it seemed as if the Griffs might patch up the life raft and pull off a stunner by rallying from a 17-point deficit, they forgot about the two players who carried the offense: Kevin Downey and Corey Herring.
It's been that kind of season for the Griffs, who have seven in a row against the Purple Eagles. The seven-game losing streak is tied for the longest in the history of the series. Canisius won seven straight from 1984-87.
The Griffs (5-17, 4-10 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) are locked in an infuriating slide in which they've lost nine of their last 10 games, including the last three. They were pounded on the boards by a whopping 32-19 margin, with just four offensive rebounds. The Griffs have been undersized all season, but that doesn't explain why Downey and Herring didn't see the ball much at crunch time.
Downey finished with a game-high 28 points while playing all 40 minutes and Herring added 17. But after Downey nailed a three-pointer with 1:31 left to cut the deficit to 68-63, he didn't take another field goal attempt. Herring took just two more shots, one off a steal and layup with 22 seconds left and the final basket of the game off an assist from Joe Young.
Meanwhile, junior point guard Chuck Harris looked to score, but was just 2 of 6 in the final 1:31.
"We really weren't getting much out of the other guys and these two guys (Downey and Herring) were giving us everything," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald. "We had to try to go to them and get them some shots."
Of course, Niagara's defense deserves some credit. Clif Brown seemed destined to break Gallagher's scoring records in the first half with 18 points, then turned into a defensive whiz in the second and held Herring to just six points.
"I thought he did a pretty good job on Herring in the second half," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. "Clif really took the challenge on and made it hard for Corey to score, because he was having his way in the first half and he was headed for a big game."
But they had no answer for Downey.
"He's probably averaging 30 points against us," Mihalich said. "Kevin was great."
With Downey having his way, it's hard to figure out why Harris turned into the Rifleman in the last two minutes. But the entire season has been hard to decipher for Canisius.
"The first 30 minutes of the game, me and Corey were scoring most of the points," Downey said. "Obviously they made a game plan and changed how they guard people. They tried to shut us out and let other people score. It wasn't us not seeing the ball, it was them making an adjustment."