February 25, 2008

(at UW 75, UA 66)
(UA 66, at WSU 55)

Repeat after me: The weekend isnít a disaster until you lose both games.

Yes, I was just as depressed and concerned as the rest of you after Thursdayís game. Yes, I expected nothing but more bad news to come out of Pullman. So itís a reminder to all of us that we have to let our guys take all their swings before we call them out.

(Thatís a timely analogy, and you know Iíll get to much more of that later.)

The Washington game felt bad from the start. When Jordan Hill picked up his first foul 90 seconds in we should have just packed up and left right there. Budinger had two fouls in the first three minutes. Bayless picked up his second after six minutes. Hill was saddled with foul #2 after nine minutes.

How bad was it? Kevin OíNeill busted out the triangle-and-two. Thatís right, Mr. Man-to-man-or-death not only deviated from his base defense but he skipped the real zones and jumped straight to junk.

KO did all he could to try and prevent the inevitable. He once again used his timeouts like he was renting them by the minute. But when you see a freshman 64% free-throw shooter going 9-9 from the line you know itís just not your night.

But then something wonderful happened: We got to play another game.

Here are the types of things you need to happen when youíre undermanned and in a slump:

-WSUís Weaver hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of the game but didnít make another one the rest of the night (0-5).
-Washington State missed seven layups in the first half.
-The guy in early foul trouble was Jawann McClellan.
-Daniel Dillon and Zane Johnson took three shots Ė all from 3 Ė and made two of them.
-WSU had 15 points (4-18 shooting, 22%) after 15 minutes of play.
-Jordan Hill got his first foul with 18:42 leftÖin the second half.

Big thanks to the Cougar coaching staff for not doing any advanced scouting. If they had bothered to watch the Washington, UCLA or either ASU game they wouldíve seen that if you get physical and pressure our current set of ball-handlers we struggle to get good shots and/or simply run out of guys.

Another curious Cougar move was trying to hide Derrick Low by putting him on Jamelle Horne after Low got two fouls. All that did is contribute to Jamelleís five offensive boards and Low still picked up his third foul with over 16 minutes left.

Horne had a tremendous game for the Cats. The freshmanís dunk and the 11 rebounds got the headlines but he was also very active with his help defense. Against WSU he was big enough to disrupt passing lanes on the perimeter yet quick enough to get back to his man when needed. But, yeah, that was a mighty fine dunk.

Chase Budinger scored our first seven points and 12 of our 14 total at the 11-minute mark. Isnít it nice to be able to save Baylessí scoring spree for the end of the game?

Hereís your turning point in the contest: Arizona is trailing by three with 14 1/2 minutes left. Jerryd Bayless gets funky and tries to split a double-team. He loses the ball and it should be a turnover and fast break but the guy the ball bounces to is Robbie Cowgill who just happens to be sitting on his rear end. Cowgill canít secure the ball, it somehow ends up back in the hands of Bayless who converts the layup and gets fouled. Itís the start of a run where Jerryd scores 18 points in 13 minutes and the Cats win by double digits. If we end up winning enough games to get where we want to be, let us not forget the double-turnover that saved the season.

Things were going so well you even had Horne creating off the dribble and setting up Hill for an 18-foot jumper. It was like Bayless and Budinger on stilts.

But you donít win big games without your big players making big plays. With a little under four minutes left Jerryd hit a 3 to push the lead to eight and with two minutes to go Chase drained a triple to get the lead back up to seven.

And there was much rejoicing in the Kingdom of Cat.

Itís good to see the UA/WSU series back to normal. Last yearís two losses have been avenged and weíve now beaten the Cougs 43 times in 46 games. Huzzah, Wazzu!

So the plan of one win a week remains in place. A 9-9 league mark and NCAA tournament near-certainly are still on the menu and within our price range.

As long as stick to our diet, we wonít die.


Are you hungry for some baseball? Your Arizona BatCats opened the í08 season with a 2-1 series win on the road against Georgia and I watched all three games since the Web is indeed worldwide.

It wasnít the sharpest of series for the Wildcats. Preston Guilmet had his shortest outing in over a year, eight UA errors led to six unearned runs in the three games, and reliever Daniel Schlereth gave up two homeruns in two appearances. But when you travel into SEC country, a series win is a series win, yíall.

The three-game set had a lot of action and a bunch of drama but the Georgia people are only going to remember one thing and Iím going to send this column into extra innings to tell you all about it.

I went back and looked at the replay so these are the facts as told by my Flash video player. In the bottom of the third inning of game three, during a play at the plate, Georgiaís Lyle Allen went shoulder-first into UA catcher Dwight Childsí chest, knocking the ball loose and putting Childs flat on his back. Coach Lopez challenged the call since in college baseball Pete Rose/Ray Fosse collisions are supposed to illegal. (To be fair the catcher isnít supposed to stand in the base path but Childs was straddling the line as he received the ball.) The umpire allowed the run but issued warnings to both dugouts.

Fast forward to the top of the 8th and Arizona had just finished building a 9-4 lead. Jon Gaston was on first with two outs when he stole second, the throw went into the outfield and Gaston rounded third and headed for home. He beat the throw and went in standing up but dipped his shoulder to try and bump the catcher. Gaston only grazed him, fell forward, did a summersault, came up in front of the Georgia dugout (along the first base line) and started loudly clapping his hands.

Then came the madness. A Bulldog player raced in from the field, got in Gastonís face and both benches emptied but no punches were thrown. Gaston was called out on the play and ejected from the game. After order was restored Arizona coach Andy Lopez calmly talked to the Georgia catcher and shook hands with the Bulldog coach at home plate.

Allenís hit in the third inning was ten times more violent but Gastonís was viewed as retaliation and it came after a warning. Plus it didnít hurt that the home team had just given up nine runs in two innings to blow a big late-inning lead.

Just little something for Georgia to remember us by, and to make next yearís series in Tucson a little more exciting.

Arenít you fired up to have college baseball back?

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