Out Of Order

January 8, 2007

(UA 96, at Wash 87)
(at WSU 77, UA 73 - ot)


The overtime loss at Washington State was tough, but our guys bounced back and made the trip a success with a huge win at Washington.

Doesn't it sound a lot better that way?

UCLA lost before we did so we're upset that we couldn't gain any ground on them. But if we had lost in the afternoon we would've been jumping for joy watching them lose Saturday night since it means we didn't fall behind.

It's the same with the Wildcats' two games. Saturday's result is only disappointing because Thursday happened first. We're disappointed we couldn't beat Washington State because we played so well against Washington. But if we had lost to the Cougars on Thursday, we would've been terrified about the game with the Huskies and ecstatic when we shut them down at the end and pulled it out.

So hold this past week in front of a mirror and instead of a W and an L you have a, uh, square J and a W. OK, forget the mirror. The point is the win in Seattle remains great and was a strong step toward the conference championship.

We lost the WSU game because they outplayed us. We scored two points in the first four and a half minutes. We had five points after eight minutes. We missed our first six three-point attempts. If Derrick Low didn't have a shooting percentage like his last name, the game would've been over by the second TV timeout.

Then in the second half the Cougars built a seven-point lead, which is like a 21-point lead for Washington. They had a guy who came in with a scoring average of 8.1 drop more than three times that on us. It was your typical tale of Daven and Goliathen.

But then something strange happened. The underdog started choking on his stone. The Cougars missed three of four free throws and lost a seven-point lead in 30 seconds. Then Derrick continued to feel Low by committing an offensive foul at the top of the key and the Cats had eight seconds to finish unwrapping the gift.

I knew we didn't want to go into overtime against these guys. After so many minutes and flights and bus trips you could just feel it was do-or-die on that final play. And we did not do.

I don't know if Mustafa missed the decimal point on the clock but he sure took his time getting into that final play. With all five shooters on the floor there should be no problem getting an open look with eight seconds to play. I don't expect this to be our last buzzer-beater situation of the season so hopefully we got the bungling out of the way.

Now that we're done scowling and shaking our firsts, think back to the Washington game.

Aaaaaaaaah.

A fourteen-point deficit went away in two minutes and 35 seconds. Jawann made six three-pointers and came within one point of leading the team in scoring for the first time this year. We shot 65% from the floor and 91% from the line. We got 88 points from four guys and all 96 points from our starters. It was like a round of Pop-a-Shot at the arcade.

Yet, even with all those fireworks, it was still a one-point game with 4:27 to play. But then, peculiarly enough, after 173 points had been scored in the contest, Arizona won the game with defense.

I know Husky fans (and even the smaller ones) will say they lost because they simply stopped making shots so I went back and looked at the tape. Here are Washington's five possessions after that four and a half minute mark:

-We front the post and force a tough pass that goes out of bounds for a turnover.
-Ivan blocks a lay-up attempt.
-We double-team Pondexter and force him to shoot it into the side of the backboard.
-Appleby has to launch one from beyond NBA-range.
-Appleby misses an open look from the corner. That one he should have made.

Then they finally get two free throws with 24 seconds left. So it's true. This team can play a little bit of defense, even if it's just a little.

Tying up a couple loose ends: If you're keeping score at home, we used Ivan to jump center against UW and Marcus against WSU. We continued to lose the tip, just like with Chase. Too bad we can't shoot for ball like on the playground.

With his 11 assists against Washington Mustafa Shakur passed Matt Othick on the UA all-time assists chart. He then went by Reggie Geary for fifth place with eight assists in the WSU game. Next up is the best passing non-big-man the school has ever seen, Mr. Luke Walton. Mustafa also moved into second place in the nation with 7.9 assists per game on the season. Take that, J. Richards of Davidson.

(Your gridiron glance: Even though we haven't been to a bowl game in eight seasons, we still have a more recent bowl win than the mighty Notre Dame. Talk about beating a dead horseman.)

With the weekend's hoop results WSU is officially the best team in the Evergreen State (remember, the Cougars have also beaten Gonzaga). The Huskies will be dropping out of the top 25, and WSU will be taking their place.

The other reason we can't get too down about the loss is we knew this would happen. We knew the Pac-10 would be very tough this year. Heck, we had two undefeated teams coming into league play, including the unanimous #1 team in the land, and neither of them could last two weekends without dropping a game.

As a result we have a four-way tie for first place. If you go by the loss column there are six teams tied atop the standings. In fact, this race is so wide open it's easier to count the teams that aren't in contention: the ASU Herbs, Oregon State, and Washington.

That's right, the best part of our win last Thursday night was the fact that we eliminated the Huskies from the Pac-10 race. Already. With three losses they would have to go 13-2 the rest of the way - including road games with us, WSU, Oregon, and the Bays - just to get to 13-5, and that hasn't been good enough to win the league in 22 years. That 1985 season also happens to be the last time Washington won even a share of the Pac-10 crown.

Sit. Roll over. Play dead. Good Dawg.

Now our weary warriors return to the friendly confines of McKale to host the Oregons. The Ducks will be flying high after beating UCLA so we need to stay focused and protect our home court. We need to forget the 12-game winning streak that just ended and quickly get a new winning streak up to two.

It's time for order to be restored.



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