Center of Hope

February 5, 2007

(WSU 72, at UA 66)
(at UA 84, UW 54)

At least Washington still stinks.

I was out of town during both games so I kept myself away from SportsCenter and the Internet so I could watch the games live on tape when I got home. (Yes, I'm one of those old-school guys who still uses a VCR. And by old-school I mean cheap.) So, being the type of fan who tends to dwell on a loss it was nice to be able to move on by simply switching tapes. It was extra nice to have the nightcap of my double-header end up as a 30-point win.

The frustrating part about the WSU game was that the Cougars didn't play anything like they did in our first meeting. They didn't have anybody throwing up career numbers. Low and Harmeling combined to miss 13 shots. Ivory Is Ebony Clark played great, but he only had 18 points. The Cougars played like a team normally does on the road. They had a long stretch where they made some mistakes and their shots weren't falling. And we still couldn't capitalize.

This week's sign of the Wildcat apocalypse is Washington State's first season sweep of Arizona under Lute Olson. That's like the Kansas City Royals suddenly dominating the New York Yankees. It's hard to comprehend. We sure have been sloshing around in uncharted waters a lot lately.

53% on twos versus WSU. 21% on threes. Where should the shots be coming from? Yeah, you say, but we shot 42% from behind the arc against Washington. But what was our percentage from two-point land in that game? Oh yeah, 62%. Go to the hole.

As the UW game started, that win in Seattle seemed like eight years ago. It's interesting that the match-up which was a battle for conference supremacy on January 4 ended up being a battle for fifth place on February 3.

But it was very refreshing to dominate somebody again. It was nice to see somebody else throwing up brick after brick for a change. Ryan Appleby was shooting so poorly I thought he was playing for us.

The whole town is abuzz about Jordan Hill, and rightfully so, but here's his biggest stat in my book: 2. We won the opening tip in both games this past week, which probably tripled the season total. We finally have a starting center.

But a word of advice to Wildcat players, since they aren't used to playing with centers: Most big men are only able to go from Point A to Point B in a straight line. If there's a player standing at Point C playing D, our center is now one foul closer to Point E, which is exiting the game. When you are running a fast break and your big man is sprinting down the middle of the floor with a man in front of him, do not pass him the ball. Mr. Hill's playing time thanks you.

OK, one more thing on our Low Post Savior: The guy is amazingly quick off the floor. As soon as he learns where the block/goaltending line is he's going to be a shot-swatting machine. And, if you can spare a moment to dream, imagine a defensive front line of Hill and Walters in 2008. Get that out of here.

So who sits? Thursday it was Marcus coming off the injury, and Saturday it was Jawann. In the grand scheme of things it might not matter as long as the old starters' minutes go down. But, as strange as it may sound, our best lineup may be the one with our leading scorer on the bench.

When you go Shakur-McClellan-Budinger-Radenovic-Hill you have an entire lineup of guys playing their natural position. You have two solid passers at the forward spots. You can rotate Williams in with Dillon and Brielmaier and give Marcus all the shots he wants. My guess is Jawann will continue off the bench for the time being but it'll be interesting to see which five-man unit plays the best together.

With Mustafa Shakur's first assist in that game we're not talking about any more he became just the fourth Wildcat to dish out 600 in a career. But the bigger milestone came against Washington. With that performance Staf moved past Kenya Wilkins of Oregon and onto the Pac-10 top ten career assists chart, which now looks like this:

1) 938 Gary Payton, OSU, 1987-1990
2) 833 Pooh Richardson, UCLA, 1986-1989
3) 810 Russell Brown, ARIZ, 1978-1981
4) 780 Brevin Knight, STAN, 1994-1997
5) 779 Brandon Granville, USC, 1999-2002
6) 663 Damon Stoudamire, ARIZ, 1992-1995
7) 652 Tyus Edney, UCLA, 1992-1995
8) 636 Darrick Martin, UCLA, 1989-1992
9) 622 Jason Gardner, ARIZ, 2000-2003
10) 618 Mustafa Shakur, ARIZ 2004-2007

You might notice one school on there more than any other. I guess that's why they call it Point Guard U.

The UA baseball team got the 2007 season off to a smashing start with a three-game sweep of visiting Gonzaga. The Zags were no match for the Zons with a combined weekend score of 36-4. This is a big deal, not because Gonzaga is anybody's idea of a powerhouse, but because the Cats won every game. Last year the UA missed out on the postseason because of a losing non-conference record which included losses to Loyola Marymount, UC-Riverside, UC-Irvine, UNLV (twice), and New Mexico (thrice). You can't leave wins on the table when you play in a tough league like the Pac-10.

We have five chances to see the Bat Cats this week with Tuesday and Wednesday games against Utah Valley State and a weekend series against New Mexico. Let's get on out there and help the team pick up a couple more sweeps!

Returning to the hardwood, the first Washington game was the last in a beautiful streak. Can the second game be the start of another one? I just want one win over a team above us in the standings. UCLA, USC, Oregon, Stanford. I know we've already beaten the Cardinal but their young guys are in full blossom and we aren't going to recognize them in another month. Give me one win over those strong teams as well as completed sweeps of the remaining three teams below us and I'll be ready to roll the dice in March. Make that good win our first victory of the year decided by fewer than seven points and I may even get confident.

We've got a big game this week, but you already knew that. What you may not know is that game is on Thursday. We just have to win at Oregon State. There are no ifs ands or orange and black buts. We need Saturday's network TV game with the Ducks to be a chance at a rare sweep, not a do-or-die game to save our season. Thursday's game with the Beavers is large.

Any chance we can get Appleby there?

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