One A Week

February 18, 2008

(at UA 83, Cal 73)
(Stan 67, at UA 66)

Another week, another season-saving win.

Every time the Cats have teetered on the brink of disaster they’ve come through with a needed victory. But to be safe we may want to see if we can get Cal on the schedule a couple more times.

Remember at the beginning of the year when we would start slowly each game then come roaring back? Against both ASU and Cal we did just the opposite and started red hot before fading by halftime. Again, it was Jerryd Bayless scoring the bulk of the points, but against Cal we had three other guys score in the first half instead of just two, so you knew the Bears were in big trouble.

My favorite Jerryd play on Thursday was when he drove to the basket with the ball tucked under his arm like a running back but then tossing it at the last second to Jordan Hill for a dunk. It brought back glorious memories of watching George Malauula on the gridiron.

It’s a lot easier to win when you make 16 consecutive free throws in the final five minutes. Good job, Jamelle, Jordan, Jawann, Jerryd (x4), and Chase (x6).

That made the Stanford game another great opportunity but not a do-or-die situation. Speaking of death, you knew our rebounding margin was going to take a beating when you saw both Rob and Bro Lopez in the starting lineup. We couldn’t even match up with them if Jordan Hill had a twin. Then we had to finish the game with Kirk Walters and Fendi Onobun, who probably don’t even add up to a Lopez third-cousin.

After Jordan’s basket tied the game at 30 to open the second half Jerryd Bayless scored the next 16 Arizona points. It took a full 12 minutes for a Wildcat other than Bayless to put a point on the board. How long do you think we can get away with this one-man-offense strategy? Judging by our 1-2 record during Jerryd’s record run, probably not that long.

Bayless still had a ton of points but he had an off shooting night, going 7-18 from the floor and 1-4 on 3-point attempts. I guess he shouldn’t have loaned Dwight Howard his Superman cape.

That said, I still would’ve had Jerryd take that final shot, and I probably wouldn’t have challenged one of the twins. But, Chase was aggressive and trying to make something happen, and we wouldn’t have been in that position if he hadn’t came on strong at the end, so you just have to live with the result.

The funny part about that final sequence is Robin Lopez wasn’t credited with a blocked shot on the play. So in the record books Chase just missed a layup that suddenly went sideways off the backboard. Even the laws of physics are against us right now.

Luck isn’t helping either. After building a 9-point lead with three minutes to play against ASU, Stanford only made 4 of 8 free throws and eventually lost. After building an 8-point lead with 4:32 left against us they made 4 of 5 from the line. All told, Stanford made 11 of their final 12 free throw attempts on Saturday. Them’s the breaks.

Here’s a first for Arizona basketball: Our coach was bleeped on national TV.

And now? Another week, and we need – you guessed it - another a season-saving win. In fact, that’s the recipe for success: A win a week keeps your tournament chances away from bleak.

Taking four of the final six games to get to the hoped-for 10-8 league record would eliminate all doubt but the reality is 9-9/18-12 is most likely enough. You can’t get too hung up on the factoid that no Pac-10 team has ever made it into the tournament with a .500 league record. The big eastern leagues do it all the time. The Pac is finally getting the credit it deserves as a strong and deep basketball conference we’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Besides, it’s about time they start letting our mediocre teams in too.

(By the way, how bad have things gotten when we’re hoping for 9-9 and would be ecstatic with 10-8, even though that would still be our worst Pac-10 record in 24 years? The answer: Really bad.)

So the plan is to win once in Washington this week, win once against the L.A.’s next week, beat Oregon State, and then play at Oregon to try and get that tenth win. Pretty easy, right? Yeah, I’m scared too.

Next up for Team Razor is a trip to the Evergreen State. The game you really want to win is Thursday night in Seattle because, honestly, the Huskies aren’t that good. In fact, take away their sweep of Portland and Portland State and they’re barely 12-12 on the year. (Yes, I realize Portland State is actually pretty good. I was just wondering what Portland is doing with two schools. Is the port really that big? Feel free to substitute Washington’s victory over 0-27 New Jersey Tech as part of the argument for UW’s not-that-goodness.)

The problem is the last time UW played at home they won. By 10. Against UCLA. I just went from scared to terrified.

Last time we beat the Huskies by shooting a ridiculous percentage on 3s (Jerryd and Chase combined to hit 10-16 (63%) from deep). We can’t count on that. We can however count on Jon Brockman having another huge night against us, and we should probably assume Ryan Appleby will knock down a few 3s (he just made nine of them against OSU). If we can make sure nobody else goes off and then get our top two guys to outscore their top two guys we’ll be in business.

For at least another week anyway.

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