Editor's Note: The following column/commentary offers the writer's views of the on-court performances and decisions of our men's basketball team. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for our team's obvious desire and commitment.
Well, if this roadie to the Zonas wasn't like kissing your sister, then I don't know your sister. Yeesh. We should have swept it, but at the same time someone (probably Trent Johnson) can reasonably argue that we should have been broomed right out of there. However, I am happy with the split because we are sitting at 10-3 in conference and we did it by shooting a spectacular 43-103. Whew, now that is some shooting.
Lets talk guard shooting for a minute before the dentist arrives and fires up the drill. Get that high pitched whine fixed in your ear, hear it, feel it change sound as it grinds away on your cavity, feel the chips flying around your mouth like so many orange flakes of paint. Anthony Goods 3-14, Fred Washington 1-1 (one shot in 32 minutes, Roscoe says please shoot more Fred), Mitch 3-9, Landry 2-6 (but major bunnies for the hammer through–that is two outstanding tomahawks for the year), and Drew and Kenny played against ASU. And against ASU our principle perimeter threat, the Law, played his worst game of the year, going 0-5. And we should have won two games on this roadie. That is horrible shooting by our guards–horrible. Some players should be embarrassed. The good news is that we only took 17 threes all weekend, making six. Against ASU we needed one more, but sometimes when you can't shoot, not shooting is the thing to do. Against Zona our shot selection from the perimeter was outstanding. Against ASU I thought we pretty much took only good looks. Particularly with Anthony against ASU, some of those looks are just so good it is hard to believe he doesn't ring the bell for 20.
Defense against ASU was great for 33 minutes. The effort was great and we put a magical 27-2 run on them. Then guys started counting their chickens. I won't belabor this, but with a 14-point lead with seven minutes to go, you should be able as a veteran Pac-10 player to put the coaches in a bar in Scottsdale and close that one out. Maybe the coaches could have made a few decisions differently, but this came down to the guys on the floor not screening out, not defending soundly, and then a couple of kick the cans at the offensive end. You have to grind that one out. Period. Guards have to play guys to their strong hand, force them the other way, force them away from where they want to go and them make them make shots–don't foul them. You are going to get called for fouls in this conference defending a stud like Harden, but you have to make him make those tough shots in the paint, and you have to make him pull up and hit jumpers. And you can't foul Glasser. Make him make shots, please.
Against Zona, it was a brutal matchup with Bayless. But, we learned from ASU on Thursday night and did a much better job of controlling Bayless, particularly in the last minute when it counted most. I know, the dude went for 31 points. But I was sitting there watching with 10 minutes to go and I didn't think there was any way he wasn't getting 40. He was, for us old timers, going all Kevin Johnson on us. For you youngins, searching for who Jerryd Bayless plays like, well, he plays like former weenie and Phoenix Suns All-Star point guard Kevin "Little Help" Johnson. Kevin Johnson had the pull up mid-range jumper and the first step of a mongoose. When asked back in 1986 how to stop Kevin Johnson, who had 25 at half time on the Cardinal in that dustbin called Harmon Gym, by Bob Murphy his guest color commentator deadpanned, "Shoot him." The way Bayless was going on Lute and Bobbie Pond, I thought we had no chance. When a guy has the pull up jumper going either way going off, you are helpless. The refs wouldn't let us touch him and his pull up was shredding net. I think Zona made a mistake in deciding they needed to get Budinger more involved and what was Jamelle Horn thinking even looking at a shot.
Still, you tip your hat, you block the last shot and you get out of the desert with a win. Mitch controlled tempo the entire weekend. Each game was played at our speed, which is why we were so close to two wins, despite our horrible perimeter shooting and about six really incomprehensible turnovers. Mitch was particularly solid against Zona, with eight assists, two turnovers, and five rebounds to go with his three points. Free throws Mitch. No excuse anymore. You have to get your weight centered and keep it off your front knee–now. Mitch is now second in the conference in assists per game at 4.62, 6th in assist to turnover ratio at 1.82 and still in the top 20 in rebounds at 4.6. Raise your hand and whack yourself on the head if you thought our most consistent, and frankly at this point our best, guard this season was going to be Mitch.
Final thoughts: Thank you Law for showing up for the Zona game. His 13 points were critical to that win. I don't know what happened to Fred Washington, but by Sunday it better be fixed because the weenies are very dangerous and we need major minutes from Fred on Christopher who is the most improved player in the conference, hands down. Weenie defense remains pathetic, which is the type we all like to see, so I am calling a double-digit bust out by Anthony Goods. He'll be so open this time, because Mitch lit them up last time, that he can't help but get 15, minimum. Brook Lopez was unstoppable in the desert, but Robin Lopez just played his best basketball by averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in 30 minutes, 50% from the floor, 71% from the line. A key for us down the stretch drive boys, because you can't hack a Lopez, is the free throw shooting of our guards. Lets get ready to whip some weenies, boys. How good would 11-3 in conference, 22-4 look in the rear view mirror on the drive home Sunday night. Oh, and in case you guys were too young to see it, for four years the ABC Pac-10 game of the week had this opening montage of Reggie Miller, Sean Elliott, Todd Lichti, Gary Payton and others making these great plays, including Kevin Johnson stripping yours truly at half court, going down and laying it in while being hacked by yours truly for the "And One." I loved getting calls from my friends in sports bars saying I was on TV again and guess what I was doing…I hate cal.
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