Business Plan

January 21, 2008

(at Stanford 56, UA 52)
(UA 79, at Cal 75)

Life is always better when the ball goes through the hoop.

With these road trips itís really important to remember that the weekend isnít a disaster until you lose both games. As frustrating as Thursday might be you have to hold off on giving up until after Saturday. A week with one road win is a very good week these days.

On Thursday we got reacquainted with the world's tallest gender-neutrally-named twins, Robin and Brook Lopez. In case you donít know which is which, Bro is the one who starts and Rob comes off the bench. The confusing part is Bro does not have the Ďfro.

He does however have a very long right arm. It took us way too long to realize that driving all the way to the bucket was essentially passing the ball to Brook Lopezís hand.

In the first 14 minutes Nic Wise had only taken one shot and we were down 26-14. He quickly scored his first five points and the Cats were able to play even the rest of the half and go into the break down just seven. I was very encouraged until I realized that seven points represented 27% of our first half total.

I canít decide which was a worse decision: Fendi trying to post up a Lopez twin, or Jawann trying to guard one.

The good news is the game went so late that Fridayís paper was delivered at halftime and I was able to read ahead and see how things turned out.

It turns out we had three possessions in the final two minutes with a chance to tie and we came up empty all three times. Hill lost the ball on the way up for a dunk. Wise missed two wide-open free throws. Bayless missed a dead-on 15-foot jumper. Game, set, loss.

The Cal game brought a lot more points for everybody, and thankfully we ended up with more than half of them.

Jamelle Horne went from not even taking off his warm-ups for three straight games to starting against the Bears and being asked to guard the early leader for Pac-10 Player of the Year. Such is life on todayís Arizona bench.

Finally we got a game where Jordan Hill wasnít in foul trouble. Finally we got to see what he can do with 38 minutes on the court. It turns out he can only do eight points and four rebounds. Huh? Maybe the foul trouble isnít so bad.

In comparison Kirk Walters had two points and one rebound in two minutes. Maybe we should see what he can do with 38 minutes. OK, maybe not.

(But seriously, I am still holding out hope that Kirk can become a contributor before the season is through. Bring back the beard!)

Another game, another key player gets hurt. Nic Wise took a charge in the first half and got kicked in the head on his way to the floor. It was announced he suffered a concussion and was out for the remainder of the game. Who needs point guards anyway?

But then, with ten-and-a-half minutes left, there was Nic checking back into the game. It wasnít exactly Willis Reed limping into the Garden but it definitely helped the cause.

Yet there we were, down five with five minutes to play. The Cats were staring at another loss and another week of wallowing in gloom. Jerryd Bayless launched another three and came up short once again. But wait Ė a whistle! A foul was called and Bayless was awarded three free throws, which he promptly sank to pull within two.

Fox Sports never showed the replay (they tried but gave us some random loose ball from a minute earlier) but in rewinding the tape it sure didnít look like there was much contact from the Cal player. If we end up winning enough games to get where we want to be, let us not forget the touch-foul that saved the season.

We ended up in the same situation as the Stanford game but the outcome was reversed. This time the open jumper went in (Chase sure picked a good time to score his first second-half points). This time the clutch free throws were made. This time we won.

(But were you yelling at Wise to pass the ball back to Bayless before he got fouled at the end? Yeah, me too. Thank you, Nic, for making them this time.)

((Oh, and did you see it? Early in the second half? Thatís a right, a UA baseball commercial. Your #1-ranked Wildcats take the field in just five short weeks. Clear your schedule now!))

It may not be fun for Wildcat fans but this improved ASU hoops team is exactly what Lute has been wanting for years. When the Devils can take a team into double overtime on Thursday it has to improve our chances a couple days later. (Forget for a moment that Cal still shot about 89% from the floor against us.) So we should be thankful for the help with 16 Pac-10 games in exchange for a tougher challenge in two games.

(On second thoughtÖnah. Iím going to keep hoping ASU goes back to stinking.)

So Arizona succeeded in taking the first step in the split-every-road-trip plan. Mission accomplished. This week the team returns home after what seems like ages. Hopefully the guys still remember their locker combinations.

Weíre going to be clear underdogs in Thursdayís game with Washington State but the Cougars arenít going to run away from you so itís a great opportunity to get a really big win at home. The crowd should be loud, the players should be pumped up, and weíll see what happens.

Do you have your seatbelt fastened? Are you current on your heart medication? Because this is our team. This is how itís going to be for the next two months. Every game has the chance to swing the season and each of those season-swinging games will come down to a handful of pressure-packed possessions in the final two minutes. Put the ball in the basket and you win. Miss and lose.

The promotional poster for this yearís team states, ďThis time itís all business.Ē Itís a fitting slogan since for most young businesses the margin for error is slim and the odds of going broke are pretty high.

Weíre not bankrupt yet.

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