Different

February 12, 2007

(UA 72, at OSU 66)
(UA 77, at UO 74)


That was different.

We went from five down to seven up in three minutes, from seven up to one down in a minute and a half, and from desperation to redemption with one senior rising to the occasion and another one falling flat on his back.

The week was shaping up like every other week since the calendar changed. We struggled mightily with a 1-11 team. We couldn't hit an outside shot against the good team and trailed by double-digits at halftime. We kept things close but were still behind late due to poor defense and unintelligent play. We were staring at yet another split and yet another week of questions and doubts.

And then something strange happened. Aaron Brooks didn't make a lay-up. He didn't hit a three-pointer. Chase, Marcus and Ivan didn't miss. The Wildcats didn't lose.

It sure wasn't a good feeling to see that Brooks had zero points in the first half and we still were down ten. But he kept missing, with his accuracy actually getting worse. Some of those shots were hitting the backboard with enough velocity to get pulled over on I-10.

So, yeah, we got a little lucky. Oregon's Player of the Year candidate did in fact have two consecutive bad games. He only made two shots against us and neither of them were three-pointers. He did not get the benefit of the doubt on two consecutive charge/block calls.

Considering that the Cats out shot the Ducks in both games this year and scored exactly 77 points in each contest, it could be argued that the only difference between the two games is that Oregon made 13 threes in Tucson and only 11 threes in Eugene. I guess it's better to be not-unlucky than good.

Then again, when you go from scoring 28 points in the first half to netting 49 points in the second half, you're doing something right.

It's interesting to note that Marcus Williams - not Mustafa Shakur - was guarding Brooks during crunch time. There was also a change in strategy on our buzzer-beater play in that we had an actual strategy. Mustafa wasn't asked to make a game-saving decision at full speed in traffic. We cleared out a side of the floor, got the ball to Ivan in the post and let him go to work against a non-shot-blocker.

Are these changes simply the result of Shakur's ankle injury? Or is it a sign of making adjustments based on individual players' strengths and weaknesses? Let's hope for option B.

After the horribly overthrown inbounds pass and subsequent defensive meltdown ended the first half, Lute went to the locker room and returned without a tie. No word on whether he used it to strangle his players.

I know McArthur Court is 81 years old, but do they have to keep using those stubby nets?

The Oregon State game certainly wasn't a thing of beauty but it was good enough to prepare the Cats to be good enough for a precious road sweep.

In the first half of Thursday's game we only attempted three shots from behind the arc. The result was 60% shooting from the floor. Not a bad strategy. Getting your 90% free throw shooter to the line 16 times isn't a bad idea either.

On an individual basis, Mustafa passed Jason Gardner this week for third on the UA's career assists chart. He now sits 32 behind Damon Stoudamire for second place.

The team hit a number of milestones as well. With the defeat of OSU we had our first winning streak of 2007. The win in Corvallis was our first by fewer than seven points. The encore was our first win in a game decided by a single possession, as well as our first road win against a team currently in the top 25. This is a big deal for a team that desperately needed confidence, momentum and, most importantly, wins.

--

Since there's no such thing as too much good news, I also took in my first baseball game of the year. The Bat Cats did not disappoint in completing a three-game sweep of Los Lobos de Nuevo Mexico. Tips of the cap go to the Hot Corner student section for bringing brooms (and a Swiffer), Robert Abel for scoring from second on a fly out to left, and C.J. Ziegler for his pseudo-cycle: a single, double, homerun, and reaching first on a strikeout.

Ziegler is easily the newcomer of the year at this point. The junior is completing the Tucson Triple Crown by going from Canyon Del Oro High School to Pima Community College to the University of Arizona. How good has C.J. been? He hit .545 against New Mexico and his season batting average went down.

The Cats hit the road for the next couple weeks so the next home game is Tuesday February 27 against the Sun Devils. This is ASU's only trip to Tucson this year so make plans to take off work early, and wear red.

--

You could say the last five minutes of the Oregon game were a direct parallel to the 2006-2007 Arizona Men's Basketball season as a whole. The 12-0 run was the 12-game winning streak when everybody was hot from the outside and we were a top-ten team. The 0-8 run was the 8-game stretch that included five normal losses and one absolute thrashing on national television.

Now the question is: Did Radenovic's turnaround jumper signify a turnaround for the entire team? Does the current three-game winning streak punctuated by our new Biggest Win of the Season announce that the Cats are back and good times are here to stay?

Good is different.



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