January 29, 2006
(UA 80, at ASU 70)
(at North Carolina 86, UA 69)
The Rolling Stones may be performing at the Super Bowl next week, but there's no Sympathy For The Devil here.
I love beating those guys. I love hearing the "U of A" chant in their building. I love when Lute ticks off their student section. That made Wednesday another glorious night in UA-ASU relations.
Bob Elliot's latest on-air proclamation was to dub Isaiah Fox the "Big Daddy." Maybe Big Daddy can hang out with Marcus Williams and his wife-beater t-shirts.
I say it every time we play in Tempe, but their court annoys me to no end. The basketballs painted on the free throw circles are a funny color and they're flat-out incorrect. If you look at a ball the two main seams are perpendicular to each other, forming a cross on either side of the ball. The ASU balls look more like baseballs where the laces never cross. How can you expect to ever play good basketball if you honestly don't know what a basketball looks like?
But it's not all bad for the Devils. At least they have the best player in the conference with a ponytail.
Then we took a trip down Tobacco Road. The Surgeon General needs to put out a warning about that place.
The Tar Heels aren't as good as they normally are but no one should feel sorry for Roy Williams having to play with all those freshmen. Don't forget, Cryin' Roy was the Bill Buckner of the coaching world before last year. Now that he has his title, they could have make him play this year's schedule with the Tar Heel women's team and he wouldn't have cared.
So the came wasn't very pretty from the Wildcat perspective. It's too bad since it was a winnable game against a very young team. We came out strong, then let them tie it, and that's about where it stayed for the rest of the first half…until we fell apart and watched them go on an 10-2 run for an 8-point lead. They opened the second half even faster and it was somebody else's turn to cry.
Why did they win? Carolina's top three guards combined to make 8-12 three pointers. Arizona's top three guards went 2-11 from deep.
Bench production (or lack thereof) was also a huge factor. The UNC reserves combined for 27 points while the UA bench could only muster 9. That's an 18-point difference in a 17-point game.
It does make sense however when you notice we only have Fox, Dillon and three freshmen in reserve. This bench doesn't have any instant offense, or instant defense. That means the team often looks like instant oatmeal.
On a positive note, please let this be the week we look back on and say without a doubt that Kirk Walters arrived. He shot 7-9 from the floor for 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 blocks. He came out exceptionally strong against the Tar Heels with tough D, aggressive rebounding, and quickness against the post-entry pass. A confident Kirk is a very good thing for the Cats.
Back to reality. Here are our opponents' shooting percentages in our last four losses: 61% (UCLA), 61% (OSU), 55% (Oregon), 57% (UNC). If Lute printed up some t-shirts or mugs that said "My Best Defensive Team Ever" I hope he kept the receipt.
If you are surprised by any of this, you're really just torturing yourself at this point. Do yourself a favor and accept the team for what it is, then support it 100%. Root for our uncharacteristically mortal squad with all your heart. Cheer the progress of our young players. Applaud the effort of our role players. Thank our senior leader Hassan Adams for four years of effort, energy and Lee Haney-like flex poses.
Speaking of the Basket Assassin, Hassan quietly hit a pretty large milestone. He only scored 12 points on Saturday but that's exactly what he needed to pass Miles Simon and hit the UA's top ten career points list. With his 6 steals against ASU Adams also passed Reggie Geary to move into third on the Arizona all-time list with 213 thefts. He's only 12 behind Jason Gardner for second, and he's got a shot at Jason Terry's all-time record of 245. That's some Hot Sauce.
I said I wasn't going to talk about the Pac-10 standings this week so I won't. But I will point out this: UCLA is alone in first place. They just completed a sweep on the same road trip on which we went winless. They've already beaten us at McKale. I think it's pretty safe to say if Arizona wants to have anything to say about the 2006 Pac-10 Championship, the Cats have to win on Saturday.
I'm not going to expect it to happen however. We just have a roster with too many holes, even in a down year for the league. My goals are to split each of the remaining road trips and win four of our final five at home. That's the same 6-3 we had in the first half of the conference season and 19-10 heading into the Pac-10 tournament. You'd hope we could win one game at Staples to give us our 19th straight 20-win season and lock up a decent March Madness seed thanks to our strong RPI.
So we're 13-7 (.650) right now as we prepare for another tough Pac-10 road trip. We could be anywhere from 15-7 (.682) to 13-9 (.591) by this time next week. Win twice and we're the #1 team in the conference again. Lose twice and we're an NCAA bubble team. It's as if the entire '05-'06 road map is filled with nothing but crossroads.
Enough with the mostly-cloudy skies. Let's get back to the really important event of this past week. No, I'm not talking about the naming of the next University President. I'm talking about the most recent addition to our collection of ASU beat-downs.
They say we should enjoy today because we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Here goes:
9 in a row.
21 of 22.
40-6 under Lute.
135-73 all time.
When Lute was hired Arizona had lost 9 straight basketball games to Arizona State. Coach O proceeded to end that by winning his first 5 games against ASU. He won 16 of his first 17 against the Devils. His current 9-game streak is only his third longest against Those Guys (11 in a row from '87-'92 and 12 straight from '96-'01). He must not have liked losing to them while at Iowa in 1981. If the deed to Wells Fargo Arena ever goes missing, it's probably in Lute's glove box.
Do your civic Wildcat duty: Gloat. Be clever instead of cruel, be proud instead of personal, but do brag. A wise man once said, "It ain't boastin' if you ain't lyin'." We're in almost the perfect situation with us a game out of first place and them in dead last.
Take advantage of an advantageous present. You never know what the future holds. ASU could accidentally hire a good basketball coach. Lute might actually retire before he turns 100. Hey, it could happen.
Enjoy the superiority while you can because, man, are we superior.
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