Before the Bradley game, I wrote about how this team was becoming a “second half” team, looking lackluster in the first half, only to pick up the pace in the second. Somehow, this team managed to change that completely in the Bradley game, where they came out of the gates ready to fight, and played like that until the very end. The Bradley game started fast paced and the Pack began full court pressing quite early on. The Bradley defense was all over Marshall and Oliver, but the rest of the team picked up the slack with Fenner scoring 21, Kind getting 12, Drew scoring 11, and Caroline adding 23. The Pack shot 56.7% the first half, and continued the second half in the same style, shooting 54.2%. The second half also saw a lot of great rebounds and beautiful threes.
The Pack came out strong in this game, but Bradley never seemed to give up, which is always something I appreciate. Although they were down by twenty points at half time, Bradley continued to play with a very upbeat pace. This game didn’t feel like the blowout that it was until the very end of it. This game also gave us our first real showing of Leland King. Although he’s played some minutes this season, this felt like his debut. He finished with 12 points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and he was a major presence in the game.
The Pack had over a week off (I was dying) before they traveled to Seattle to play the Washington Huskies. A homecoming for senior DJ Fenner, this game also served as a must win to boost our non-conference resume. Washington saw the Pack come out strong from the very beginning again, but this game was much tougher than the Bradley one. The Huskies put up a fight the entire game. They were down by five at half, and the Pack put them in an 11-point hole in the second half, but the Huskies rallied. Two Huskie free throws led to a tied game with 12 seconds left, but they were no match for Marcus Marshall, who scored the game winning shot with .2 seconds on the clock. Marshall led the Pack to a 87-85 win over Washington, adding 32 points, three rebounds, and four assists. He eclipsed 1,000 career points, and was named the Mountain West player of the week two weeks in a row.
The rest of the Pack was also a force to be reckoned with at Washington, with Fenner adding 20 points, and Oliver scoring 18. Oliver also got the tip, making him perfect this season in that regard. Unfortunately, I only saw small snippets of this game. However, what I did see was amazing. This was a game I wasn’t sure we were going to win, and we certainly weren’t going to if we only showed up for the second half. This game showed that the Pack can play with big dogs (no pun intended).
- Up Next:
Tonight, the Pack takes on what may be my favorite mascot, the UC Irvine Anteaters. The Pack is now 8-2 (it’s best start since the 2006-2007 season), while the Anteaters have struggled this season, going 5-6. This game was added to schedule in hopes of being an RPI boost if we win, but now it’s a game that we simply can’t afford to lose. With the rest of the Mountain West seeing a lot of upsets, the Pack is going to have to work hard if they want an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. tonight, and apparently, beers are only $2. The Wolf Pack if perfect at home this season, and hopes to continue that with tonight’s game.
- An Afterthought:
The coaching staff has been dressing remarkably casual this season, wearing suits in just a handful of games. While they did dress up at Washington, they opted for the more casual polo and khaki look at Bradley. I’ve tried to observe if there is a pattern, such as home games versus away games, and games Muss might see as more important than others, but I haven’t come up with anything.
Also, the word “braketology” is now officially part of the Oxford Dictionary. Perhaps March Madness is making people a little too mad?
- The Word on the Block:
“Definitely an NCAA contender.” “Fenner actually did something that didn’t benefit his team.” And Muss could be heard shouting, “Move your asses.” As always, send good (or weird) quotes to @hlncampbell