Starting Well

January 2, 2007

(at UA 94, Cal 85)
(at UA 89, Stan 75)

Now the games count for real and the Basket Cats counted up two home wins.

I was fortunate enough to see the Cal game in person and it was nice to finally see a full house. I hate to point it out but why was the student section filled? Because it wasn't a student section. Bravo, Local Cat Fans, for buying up the extra seats.

Speaking of the seats, I'm not sure how you Local Cat Fans Of Increased Size make it through every game at McKale. I'm just a little fella and even I know way too much about the scent of the guy next to me by the game the game is over. Legendary coach, great basketball, tiny chairs.

Jawann McClellan tried out a new free-throw shooting technique when he almost fell on his face during his first attempt in the Cal game. He kept his balance long enough to sink the shot however. His form on the second try was back to normal and, of course, he missed that one. It's all about focus, kids.

The score was 34-28 with four and a half minutes left in the first half when all of a sudden Arizona happened. We got a basket from Jordan Hill, a three from Ivan, a Mustafa layup, a Marcus free throw, a three from Chase and two triples from Jawann, and just like that it was 51-33 at the break.

No one is ever going to complain when you shoot 72% from the field in a half. Most teams don't shoot that well in the lay-up line.

No "Just like football" chant against the Golden Bears? Don't fail me during the Oregon game, band.

With eight points, nine boards and nine assists against Cal, Shakur got about as close as you can get to a triple-double without even getting a single-double.

This just in: Mustafa Shakur is having a good senior year. Not only was he leading the Pac-10 by a full two assists per game when official stats were last released, but at the moment he is third in the nation in assists. So if you're looking for a couple extra guys to root against, keep an eye on Jared Jordan of the Marist Red Foxes and Jason Richards of Davidson (yes, the same Davidson that recently beat ASU), and hope they start to get hoggish with the ball.

(Your hint of pigskin: It's been an ugly bowl season for the Pac-10, and I'm not talking about the 0-3 start. Oregon stooped to a new fashion low with the unveiling of their "yellow" (and I use the term loosely) helmets, Cal featured their "gold" jerseys, and ASU wore their normal uniforms. The Pacific-10: The Conference of Champions, and All Shades of Canary.)

Next on the hoops slate was the Stanford game and our first look at Robin and Brook Lopez, the world's tallest gender-neutrally-named twins.

Ivan Radenovic was just named the Pac-10 Player of the Week and, while the following sequence might not make his personal highlight real, it typified his efforts over the weekend. On one possession in the first half, Radenovic was blocked by one of the Lopez brothers twice, but Ivan kept at it and finally got the bucket with his third attempt. To top it off he out-quicked his man and stole an entry pass on the ensuing Stanford possession. It was a POTW honor well earned.

Coach O rolled out a couple unconventional lineups this weekend. We had the one-guard-four-power-forward group that lost most of the lead to Cal, but that was during garbage time of an easy win. It was still the first half of a nine-point game against Stanford when Mustafa went out and we saw Daniel Dillon, Bret Brielmaier, and Nic Wise on the floor at the same time. The Cardinal got within three when Wise was able to double the lead with a three before Shakur re-entered the game. We'll have to wait and see if Lute found the experiment successful.

What was the prettiest play on Saturday? You can have the point guard setting a back screen for a high-low lob from Ivan to Marcus, but I'll take Mustafa and Ivan running the high pick-and-pop with Staf drawing the double team, kicking it over to Ivan who drives the lane creating a two-on-one in the paint and feeding Chase for a lay up. I love this game as played by this team.

With 72% first-half shooting against Cal and 66% first-half shooting against Stanford, it's safe to say our guys start well.

We've got to work on the second half however. The Cats only scored six points in the first six minutes against Stanford, which allowed them to take a one-point lead. The Cardinal's best offensive play during that run was missing the first shot.

The deficit got as big as five points and things didn't look so hot when Williams had to sit with four fouls. But then the seniors took over with five straight points from Mustafa, and Ivan creating offense in the post. Jordan Hill did an admirable job filling in for Marcus, and big 17-foot jumpers from each of the aforementioned four-year men sealed the deal.

Actually, the deal may have been sealed, but the envelope wasn't licked until the Mustafa-to-Jawann-off-the-backboard-to-Marcus bit of show time. The only thing missing was someone whistling "Sweet Georgia Brown."

(Your non sequitur educational moment of the week: Did you know you can legally throw a forward pass after a blocked punt? I was watching the What's In Your Wallet Bowl and Arkansas blocked a Wisconsin kick only to have a Badger player pick up the ball and complete a pass to a teammate for a first down. The Badgers were flagged for having ineligible receivers downfield (the entire offensive line) but they got to punt the ball again preventing a huge momentum-swing in a game they ended up winning by three points. It was one capital understanding of the rulebook.)

Elsewhere in the Pac-10, Washington's hoops squad is now 0-3 in true road games. Note to Lorenzo Romar: This is why it's not a good idea to play 10 of 11 non-conference games at home (and all 11 in your home state). Spiffy 10-1 records may get you in the rankings but they don't get you wins in the Pac-10.

So now we get the Huskies in what is already a must-win situation for them. If they don't beat us on Thursday they can forget about winning the conference for yet another year. The positive for the Wildcats is all the pressure is on the home team.

Let's show them how a real team wins on the road.

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