Thoughts from Staples
Washington faced the toughest defense they'd faced all year tonight at the Staples Center. The most surprising thing about it was that the defenders weren't wearing the expected colors of Arizona blue and red. They were wearing black and white striped shirts.
It was a brutal showing from Dick Cartmell and his crew in the first half. The first seven fouls all went against Washington and in return the Huskies were paid back once again by having yet another Arizona goal tend not called. Neither was the foul that occurred on Isaiah Thomas on that same play.
When the three men left the floor at the end of the first half, it was poetic justice that their tunnel was right under the Husky cheering section. The Husky fans rightfully let them know their displeasure at their performance.
Loved our view of the Isaiah Thomas game winner. Chris Fetters, Dave "Softy" Mahler, and I were lined up directly behind the hoop from IT when he drove the lane and did his stop step and took his fade-away jumper. The minute he released it, we knew it was going down. The Husky bench, literally three feet from where I was sitting, went nuts. It was fun to see, hear, and feel their celebration in front of us. Those kids were EXCITED. And they outfought a very good Arizona team tonight.
Most overplayed song at the tournament: Pokerface by Lady Gaga. As if we hadn't heard it enough on the radio, youtube, Glee, or at the skating rink (if you have small children). Five of the ten bands in attendance played that song.
Washington's band, unfortunately, was in that count. And as much as I hate to admit this, being a former Husky Band drummer, the Husky band was probably about the 8th best band here.
Arizona and Oregon were probably the best, mostly due to the fact that both had marvelous drummers and excellent bass players. A string bass makes all the difference in terms of getting bottom end in an arena, and those bands had them in spades. The UW band needs a bass player.
How about the tournament that Darnell Gant just turned in? He grabbed rebounds by the bunch, he took advantage and knocked down his chances on the offensive end, and his defense is spot on a good majority of the time. His timing could not be better, since Matthew Bryan-Amaning will graduate and take his rebounds with him.
Gant has developed his game to the point where Romar has told him that in order to stay on the floor, he has to do two of three things. He has to score, he has to rebound, or he has to play defense. As long as two of those three things are going well, he gets minutes. And for this tournament, he has excelled in all three areas. He will be a legitimate scoring threat next year because with Suggs, Wilcox, and Ross able to shoot from anywhere, Gant will get a lot of good looks.
Gant will most likely start up front with Aziz N'Daiye on the front line next year. If he could average 8 points and 5 boards per contest next year, which isn't out of the realm of realistic, it would be HUGE.
Foul shooting. If there is one area that Washington struggles in, and can fix all by themselves, it's here. Tonight against Arizona, Washington missed seven foul shots in a row. Darnell Gant and Scott Suggs both missed the front end of one-and-ones, leaving even more possible points on the floor. That stretch of the game could've salted the contest away for Washington. Instead it allowed Arizona to creep back into the game, and they did just that by hitting clutch shots.
The game would've never gone to overtime.
It is all mental, because Isaiah Thomas and Aziz N'Daiye both have good strokes. The ball rotates as it should with backspin, but neither seems to be able to get any kind of consistency on it. Thomas leaves his perpetually short while N'Daiye shoots both short and long, but mostly long.
Just shooting them in the gym isn't getting it done. No one works harder on his free throw shooting than Thomas, yet it still is inconsistent. He needs to find a way to shoot them under duress. Something to rehearse his mental game up there when it's just him and the rim.
I spoke with Abdul Gaddy right after tonight's game. He says his rehab is going well and he expects to return at full strength by next year. "It was awesome watching my team win tonight. I can't wait to get back out there and help them", said the sophomore point guard.
Also spoke with Darnell Gant right after he cut the net down from the basket. He was talking like a leader. "I have been working so hard on my game. I have been putting in the time, trying to be that rebounder we need, and it hadn't really been paying off. I just kept working on it, on everything. I want to do all of the things that make this team better. I want to help these guys."
He did that this tournament, grabbing big rebounds and scoring at key times.
"This year feels better than last year, to be honest" said Gant about the tournament championship. "Now we have to keep it rolling and turn it up at the tournament. We're on a roll!"
Arizona's crowd travels better than any other Pac-10 team's for basketball. Those guys were here in droves, and you see them all over the country. I'm not sure if it's because they have a large fan base that is retired or what, but they travel well and there are a good percentage of senior citizens in their bunch.
And they make a lot of noise. They get behind their team whether they need it or not. It really is fun to watch, and their kids respond to their noise. It would be nice to hear Hec-Edmundson Pavilion be consistently loud. It would be neat to have more fans stand and make noise and not just sit and wait for the Dawg Pack to generate the sound and vibe.
Husky fans have definitely improved in that area, but they could take a page or two out of the Wildcat fan base.
If you ever travel to a Husky game and you have the option of which airline to fly, take Virgin America. Those guys are the rock stars of the skies. Their seat configuration seems wider than most, their screens are newer and have more options available to you, such as games, music channels where you can create play lists, and the in-flight instructional videos are even pretty entertaining.
The way you can order your food and drinks through the computer in the headrest in front of you is awesome as well.
Richard Branson, your airline is a gem. And you bought Boeing planes, so that makes you aces in my book.
Oh, and by the way, your Washington Huskies are the Pac-10 Champions!!!!!!!
Good bye from Staples Center. It was quite a ride. Hope you enjoyed our coverage as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.
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