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Wall Beard

February 9, 2009

(UA 56, at OSU 53)
(UA 87, at UO 77)

Honest-to-goodness road wins. And all it took was some facial hair.

On the list of greatest stubble beards of all time I’d put Coach Russ above Miami-Vice-era Don Johnson but behind George Michael and Sawyer from Lost. You gotta leave room for improvement.

Are you enjoying this point-total rollercoaster? 47, 96, 106, 66, 56, 87. Even the stock market is more stable right now. That’s what happens when your offense isn’t disciplined enough to slow down the game and your defense isn’t good enough to speed it up. But, hey, we’re 5-1 during that span so pass the Tums and let’s ride!

With the current five-game winning streak we’re now rooting for the hottest team in the Pac-10. How does it feel to be bandwagon fans again?

If that 0.7-second shot would have gone in and OSU had gone on to win in overtime, do their students rush the court? Is a win against Arizona still big if you just passed them in the standings? This Wildcat team on the other hand will take road wins any way they come. When that shot rimmed out our fans should have stormed the court.

All three of the UA stars were at their best over the weekend. We got 110 points, 32 rebounds and 19 assists from the Most Valuable Trio. Our MV3, if you will.

Remember the talk of our three main guys hitting “The Wall"? ( I stand by the prediction since we had that run with 5-of-7 horrible games shortly thereafter. But the outcome I never imagined is all three guys getting a collective second wind.

During the seven-game bad stretch Budinger, Hill and Wise averaged 36 minutes a game. During the current five-game winning streak they’re averaging 39. Each of their individual time cards shows an increased workload over the last two and a half weeks. Yet there they were, still playing in pseudo-garbage time against Oregon and tossing up layups and sharing laughs. Certainly not the look of three guys who played all 360 minutes in two games.

Chase leaped over The Wall, Nic scooted around it, and Jordan lowered his shoulder and crushed it into teeny-tiny bits. As time goes by their energy goes up. They’re like Basketball Benjamin Buttons.

How? Why? The easy response is, “Winning cures all.” But it’s a chicken/egg deal. How do you win away the fatigue if you’re too fatigued to win? You can’t chalk it up to anything but a tremendous job by the coaches, trainers and the three key players themselves.

One theory is they’re mentally refreshed because they see that they’re getting some help. The Zaney Fogg stats back it up. In the two games Johnson played 49 minutes and scored 12 points while Kyle played 44 minutes and netted 11 points. The pair combined to shoot 5-for-10 from behind the arc with no fewer than 19 minutes and four points apiece in each game.

How’s this for a factoid: We’re 12-2 when Kyle Fogg makes at least two field goals.

The disappearance of Alex Jacobson (only eight minutes over the last four games) is disappointing, but with the progress of the two young guards we’ve been sticking with the 4-Out-1-In attack and there’s no better In than The Mountain.

And just like that we have two times as many road wins as we had all season. Wait…two times zero is still zero. So we have infinitely more road wins than we had coming into the week. Now that’s improvement.

That said, even though our guys finally brought some wins back to the hotel, I’m still quite glad there are only three roadies left. And if we can take care of business at home, we may only need to win one of them.

The stubble double on the Oregon Trail sets up a crossroads weekend at home. Win once and you’re still on pace for 20 wins. Win twice and you’re in the driver’s seat. Lose twice and the season’s dreams hang by a thread.

Beating UCLA would look better on your resume but beating USC may be more valuable. We’re not going to catch the Bruins, but the Trojans (as well as Cal and ASU) are just one loss ahead of us in the league standings. You really want to be in third place this year if you want to play on CBS, so if you get a chance to catch somebody you’d better do it.

The McKale faithful who showed up so big against the Washington schools now get an even bigger pair of games. The Cats have given us all we could have hoped for at this point and that’s meaningful games with a chance to earn more meaningful games. We can still keep the streak alive.

Even if it’s a close shave.

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