COMMENTARY: Lodwick is my kinda guy

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm a big fan of Abe Lodwick's. In fact, he and Marcus Capers are my favorite Cougs because they bring such a blue-collar ethic onto the court. Abe isn't a star, but he does a little bit of everything that helps a team win. Still, I tend to hold my breath every time he squares up for a three-point shot. Except for yesterday in the final seconds of that frustrating loss to ASU.

When Lodwick pulled up for what would have been the game-winning trey at the buzzer, I was completely at ease that it was him taking that shot. When the ball left his hand, with that high-follow and snapped wrist of his, I knew victory was ours.

Alas, this was not to be a redux of Taylor Rochestie's buzzer-beating three against the Devils a couple of seasons ago. This was like Daven Harmeling's downtown offering against Vanderbilt in the 2007 Big Dance: it's high enough, it's long enough, it's ... no, it doesn't go.

Heartbreak in Cougarville.

Abe fell to the court on one knee, head bowed.

Normally, I would have bemoaned the fact it was Abe taking that shot. First impressions tend to linger with me and when Abe was a second-year freshman in the 2008-09 season he shot 11 percent from beyond the arc, hitting just three of 28. Last season he did much better from downtown, connecting on 12 of 37 (32 percent), but I remained chairman of the Anti-Lodwick-from-Deep Society.

Abe didn't do much this season to change my mind. Coming into the ASU game, he was shooting 26 percent from three-point land (18 of 66), including a woeful 3 of his last 15.

And yet, there I was watching the Cougars stumble and bumble against the worst team in the Pac-10 on Saturday and the guy who was giving me a ton of confidence was Abe Lodwick. His three-stroke was cooking yesterday. Before that final, fateful, shot he had canned 3 of 4 long-distance offerings, including one with just more than 7 minutes left in the game that gave the Cougs their first lead, 57-56, since the early moments of the first period.

Abe subsequently hit two clutch free throws with 6 seconds left in the game that pulled the Cougs to within 70-69.

In all, he played 37 hard-nosed minutes, grabbing 4 rebounds, dishing 3 assists, nabbing 2 steals, scoring 11 points and working hard on defense. Every time he touched the ball, this junior from Bend, Oregon, looked like he was in command of the court.

So when that final shot went up and Abe was the guy doing the shooting, I was all for it. Remember now, I usually cringe when Abe is standing out at the arc with the ball in his hands. Not this time. Granted, it would have been sweet to see Klay Thompson loading up in that situation, particularly after his eye-popping second half. But for me yesterday, Lodwick truly was the safe oasis in WSU's desert meltdown. He is a leader of men on a team that is desperate for them. He is Weaver, Harmeling, Cowgill, Low and Rochestie wrapped into one. If there were more of that intangible on this team I think the Cougs would be waltzing to the NCAA Tourney rather than sitting on the bubble for the NIT. His commanding presence on the court Saturday leapt off the TV screen.

When a fellow Coug and close friend bemoaned Lodwick's errant howitzer at the end, I said hell yes I wanted Lodwick taking the shot. Knowing of my longstanding issues with Abe's three-point proficiency, my friend was shocked at such a pronouncement.

Abe Lodwick is no superstar and his three-point shooting history is spotty, but I'll tell you one thing: He's got ice-water in his veins and leadership in his bones. George Raveling once said of Terry Kelly, the standout Cougar guard from the late 1970s, that he's the type of guy you'd want next to you in a foxhole. In other words, he's got your back and he'll never surrender.

That's Abe Lodwick, too. This guy is scrappy. And it's why I was thrilled he had the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

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