The Sparky win, coming on the boot-heels of our brutal loss to the Wildcats on
Wednesday night, was a season-saving victory. We drop the desert roadie and you could stick the damned fork in our butts as far any thoughts about the Dance— again. The players knew what was riding on that one. Thank John Milton that, with an injured Chasson Randle even, we were able to play confidently and with urgency from the opening tip against Sparky. We had a poor final two minutes of the first half and then a poor close, but overall a great effort on the road under severe pressure.
The difference down the stretch of the ‘Zona game was that our guards were not as good as their guards. Chasson's ankle must have been tweaked already, as in the last five minutes of that game our guards were suffocated, smothered and whipped. We shouldn't pretend otherwise. Against ASU, our bigs went and got even better than they were against UA, and this time our guards held their own.
Aaron Bright had a good game against Arizona on the offensive end and a bad game on the defensive end. Lyons is just flat better and bigger, and Aaron has trouble against bigger anyway, so the better part really hurt. But, it is really hard to quibble with 16 points on 4-of-7 from deep with only one turnover in that environment.
Conversely, on Saturday in hell, Aaron was faced with the quickest guy in the conference in Jahii Carson, a dude who is going to his right come hell, high water or an infinite frozen lake (for you folks who don't read a lot of way-too-long poetry, that is another oblique Milton reference that is intended to be hysterical, like many of Milton's jokes) and while Aaron couldn't buy a bucket, I thought he played well otherwise. Aaron over-played Carson's right hand, got a little physical at times with Carson, and generally made Carson work hard for his five turnovers. Aaron was also rock solid bringing the ball up against Carson's Brevin Knight-style in your shorts pressure. Six assists against two turnovers was much better than I expected and that pressure was down right awesome in the last 10 minutes of the game. In particular, I enjoyed Aaron's proper use of the off-arm crow bar to the chin of Carson and Aaron's solidifying his handle instead of getting cute. Good chin music is an art.
I have no idea at what point in the UA game Chasson tweaked his ankle, probably late, but he was solid in that game, just not dynamic down the stretch. Chasson is a pretty good defender and Nick Johnson got nothing going, but Nick Johnson is a great defender and Chasson really had to work for his 11. Johnson is the only guy in the conference that physically can handle Chasson off the bounce and chasing around screens. But on Saturday, with his ankle bothering him, Chasson was a non-factor for perhaps the first game in his Stanford career. The ankle held him just down enough that he couldn't affect the game on offense.
But if you are going to tell me we win on the road against a good team with Chasson as a non-factor (he also wasn't a negative factor, as he was at USC back in January), I'd say you were high. So, take the win, fire up the ice bucket, stuff a few beers down in there with your ankle, and tape it up tight and get ready to exact some revenge on Thursday! I smell 20 on the toejams because payback is a mother and they are quixotically bad on defense.
Due to Chasson's ankle, Gabe Harris got 14 minutes against Sparky, and he was very solid. He didn't force the issue on offense, as he unfortunately did against UA, when Nick Johnson blocked Gabe's spin move in the paint with an arm pit. In fact, Gabe didn't shoot at all, which was an improvement, but he moved it along with purpose. His defense was excellent and his ball handling in face of good pressure was solid. On Wednesday night, he seemed out of his league, but on Saturday he seemed very comfortable with his role.
Christian Sanders sat the ‘Zona game out and had a very freshman-like game against Sparky. Stuck a nice three, chucked a brick and had two puke in a bucket turnovers (in fact, our freshmen Rosco Allen and Christian combined for a remarkable five turnovers and zero assists in 18 minutes, which means the rest of the team posted a very solid 13-assist, nine-turnover effort). But the three he drained, on the road, in a second half of bad shooting, was huge.
The key to that shot was that Christian was well prepared for the pass to arrive, so that his feet were set, his butt was coiled and his balance was perfect. On his missed three, he appeared unnecessarily rushed. Christian needs the experience of the extreme on-ball pressure because it drives home the need to improve the handle.
A closing guard thought or two. Please make the front end of one-and-ones!! For chrissake! (I thought being the Pope was fatal—who knew you retire from being the Pope? But, I digress.) The most important thing for us in our minor resurgence has been how well Powell and Huestis have been playing on the offensive end, but a key factor in that is that we have executed better. That improvement flows from the point guard, where Aaron has improved his A/TO ratio in conference to a league second-best 2.3.
Final Thought: When last we saw the toejams, the Rash was still sucking the life out of them, and we found a way to lose in the second half. Lost in that second-half debacle was a great first half in which we scored 42 points, largely on the shoulders of Andy Brown and John Gage off the bench. Randle and Powell were largely ineffective in that game, and we missed enough bunnies to build a wall. That won't happen again.
Final, Final Thought: Dwight Powell should have been the conference player of the week. The weenie Crabbe had a great game (extraordinary, really) against UA on Sunday, but Powell averaged 23 and 10 with three assists and two blocks, and basically relegated to the pine every kid in the state of Arizona over 6-foot-8.
Last Thought, I Promise: We stand 6-5 in conference, with the soiled condoms at 6-5 and the ‘Ruins at 7-3. Do I have to spell this out? If we just shoot like we did in Arizona, at 46 percent overall for the roadie, bring your broom on Saturday!
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