Beautifully Ugly

March 5, 2007

(UA 70, at Cal 65)
(UA 85, at Stan 80, ot)

Good thing it wasn’t an 18-point halftime lead.

It wasn’t hard for me to get over the second half of the Stanford game because I had fully expected a loss before the game started. In fact, if you just turned the game on with about eight minutes to go you would have thought the Cats played great. That is, if you ignored the four-minute-and-eleven-second stretch where we failed to score a single point.

What can you say about Ivan Radenovic? How about this: He scored his first seven points in a 76-second span. He scored nine straight Arizona points later in the first half. He outscored his teammates 9-0 again later in the second half. He won the game with his final six points on three consecutive overtime possessions. He was the Serbian Kevin Durant.

It’s kind of strange to play an overtime game where one team never leads, but it was a strange game. We were so far ahead in the first half that Wise, Onobun, and Tangara were brought back from Exile Island. Not only did we build a 20-point lead, but both Nic and Fendi outscoring Chase in the process.

One thing that isn’t strange is watching guys going off for career games against us. But Cardinal Kenny Brown’s 22 points were made even more extraordinary by the fact that he had only recorded 22 minutes in a game once in his two-year career. Trent Johnson, you may want to start asking: What can Brown do for you?

Since we’re handing out advice, I mentioned the gender-neutrality of the names given to Stanford’s real-twin towers a while back. My wife was watching the game and she suggested they go by “Rob” and “Bro.” Manly advice from the little lady.

Oh, another thing, Coach Johnson. Thank you very much for not double-teaming the guy with 31 points in the final two minutes of overtime. Our tournament seed appreciates it.

The Cal game was another brutal one that ended well enough. During the bad stretches Mustafa was inventing ways to turn the ball over. Midway through the second half he committed an offensive foul (outside the lane on a pass to the perimeter), missed a wide-open three, got a five-second call for dribbling too much, and added an up-and-down traveling violation to finish the seniors-shouldn’t-be-playing-like-this quadfecta.

That contest in Berkeley was a battle of attrition. Which coach would completely lose his mind first? The two teams combined for seven missed shots and zero points in thee minutes and 55 seconds of unglorious play.

The ball did eventually start going through the hoop and the Bears made things very interesting by cutting it to one with thirty seconds left. At that point all the Cats had to do was take care of the ball and make their free throws. So why on earth would you have your worst free throw shooter and second leading turnover guy bringing the ball up? But Marcus made both free throws, Cal missed their three and that was that.

The baseball team added some ugliness of their own. The good news is they didn’t give up as many runs against ASU as the football team did. The bad news is it was close. Really close. 22-8 was your final. We hadn’t suffered a beat-down that bad since…well, last year when we lost to ASU by the exact same score. We ended up winning the season series then so I guess we may as well do it again this year.

The weekend baseball series was against Eastern Michigan and I have a complaint. How can your school initials be EMU and yet your mascot isn’t the emu? To make matters worse they chose the Eagle which is just like admitting, “Yeah, we know our teams should be named after a large bird but we’re going to wuss out and pick the one with talons.”

To make matters worse for EMU, was snatched up by Eastern Mennonite University. Go ahead and look it up. That’s right, the “Eagles” lost an Internet domain race to a school that doesn’t even believe in electricity.

Speaking of people stuck in the dark ages, the Arizona Men’s Basketball team just completed a remarkable Pac-10 season. Remarkably dull. The Wildcats just played 18 conference games without a single upset. We lost every game to the top three seeds in the conference tournament, we won every game against the five teams seeded lower than us, and we split the two games with the team we’re facing in the 4/5 game. If they had just released the final standings before the season it would have saved us a lot of headaches.

So now we head into the Pac-10 tournament and a rubber match with Oregon. A bonus reason to beat the Ducks is it would wipe out the second WSU loss from our “last ten games” stat which would give us a solid 7-3 mark to close out the season instead of the pedestrian 6-4 record we’re facing now.

If we do beat Oregon on Thursday afternoon, it wouldn’t hurt to stick around and root for Stanford to beat USC. This would put the Trojans into the NCAA tournament losing three straight games and four of their last sixth, including that embarrassing double-digit loss to ASU. If the Cats could then just give UCLA a good game in the semi-finals it might be enough to get the selection committee to view us as the third best team in the Pac.

Actually, if we win our next game our four-game win streak would officially make us the hottest team in the league. Can you still be considered hot when you’re only about 34 degrees?

(In honor of Ivan’s mammoth performance I will now translate the preceding joke for his family back in Belgrade: Can you still be considered hot when you’re only about 1.1 degrees Celsius?)

The most exciting month of the year is here and optimism has returned just in time. We’re still playing ugly basketball. We’re just getting better at it.

Isn’t it beautiful?

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