Another word from our sponsor, who again shall remain nameless. How pleasant was it to not have our games this weekend disturbed by referee Kevin Brill? Lovely, thank you.
Guards play better when they aren't tired, particularly young guards like we have. When you run through four overtimes and push your starting backcourt over the 40 minutes game clock, there is going to be some residual fatigue in those legs and between the ears for a few days. Our starting backcourt is a frosh and soph and neither is 20 yet. Depth helped win the game against OSU, but it wasn't backcourt depth. And backcourt depth didn't win our dead-legged effort against the Running Utes either. But, we survived, we really did gut it out. Then, the bounce back happened, the rest and recovery accumulated properly, the lactic acid between the ears dissipated, and our backcourt really stepped back into control on both ends against Colorado.
Sometimes you watch film getting ready for an opponent and you see someone on film that you know as a competitor can't hurt you if you bring it. Colorado had Nate Tomlinson (with his faux hawk, soul patch and tattoo sleeve—a refreshing look for a honky point guard, but so cliché for Boulder) who I know Aaron Bright saw on film and smiled. Aaron was in complete control of the Buffs game, shot 50%, got a number of great looks, a nothing fancy, 14 and four in 32 minutes. But it was the control and the execution that picked up a notch—particularly in the second half. We pushed tempo on the second half, exploiting matchups in the secondary break, and moving the ball with intent. Frankly, I have no idea how he only had four assists. It was a very clean, professional game, made possible to a certain degree by the fact that his counterpart wasn't a threat to smother him on defense and wasn't anything more than a spot up shooter on offense. After seeing Ahmad Starks for 40 minutes and then Chris Hines and Josh Watkins of the Utes for another 35 minutes, Tomlinson was a welcome respite.
Chasson Randle was tired against the Utes. He only took seven shots and he had zero steals. And both Hines and Watkins turned the corner on him. Playing most of the game against surprisingly talented freshman Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado, Chasson was just flat better. He shot over 50% from everywhere, four threes, five rebounds, two assists, and no turnovers. In fact, our three point guards had only two turnovers between them, accentuating the fine line between control and playing against mediocre to non-existent pressure. Chasson also tortured Dinwiddie into a number of dumb turnovers and poor decisions, ramping up the pressure in the second half. Chasson's defense in the second half against the Buffs in particular was very good.
Jarrett Mann made a couple of the most horrible turnovers I have ever seen a senior guard make this weekend. Against the Utes they were painful. But his defense was there and his energy level was better than most. Against the Bison he was very good. A big second half contested layin, four assists, and we needed him on Carlon Brown and he was terrific. His ball movement in the second half was some of the best of his career. Nothing fancy, just efficient and on target—and by that I mean he hit guys in rhythm, on the target hand(s) and in the shooting pocket—which makes for balanced catches, aggressive moves, rhythmic shots and continuing crisp ball movement. When he is doing it and Aaron and Chasson are doing it, you get 17 assists and 11 turnovers and glowing shooting stats, because like the bad free shooting flu, quality ball movement is infectious. It is not a coincidence that Josh Huestis stuck a fluid one dribble pull up jumper over Carlon Brown or that Dwight Powell finished two beautiful moves with authority, including his gorgeous one dribble spin jump hook. It is funny how well a player sees the floor and is able to seize opportunity when he is catching passes at the end of a nice sequence of passes.
Final Thought: We held serve and our second half against Colorado was beautiful. The butt-ugly win against Utah was still a win. But to be able to put it behind us, and play so much better two days later was just impressive. We have now hung four wins without playing anywhere close to our best basketball. Mull that one for a while.
Final Final Thought: Two things leapt out at me during the second half of the Colorado game: (1) Josh Owens got after Andre Roberson, who killed us in the first half, and we shut him down and (2) We have the best depth in league by a wide margin because we are versatile and relentless. Josh Huestis was revelatory this weekend and Powell, Zimm ,and Nastic were damned good. Imagine if John Gage had stuck a couple of those really good looks he got, which he normally does. How did we get to 5-1 in conference, while playing four games well below our potential—by having six guys on the bench that can and score in a variety of ways and defend at a high level. And guys are getting better…oooh.
Final Final Final: Huge blizzard is going to hit Washington this weekend. It won't effect us in Pullman, where our depth and overall quality should be too much for a coug team that is doing what many of us thought it would do under Ken Bone—guard nobody and coug it. Pardon the old axiom, but we simply have to take care of business on Thursday night, and then get out the cross country skis, snowmobiles and dog sleds for the Iditarod to Montlake.
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