Are we all growed up yet?
Our lads in their stylish new white uniforms took the court and manifested themselves in a most unusual way last night...last night we got to see the transitional Cats. Breaking out the fast break offense for the first time in almost a decade, the Cats beat down UCLA with a game plan that combined punishing the Bruins on the fast break, continued applied efforts in attacking the rim and scalding outside shooting. Was it perfect, no, but it was the best that the Cats have looked all year and they happened to do it while in the National spotlight.
This squad is still a work in progress, yes, for the perfectionists among us (which is almost every Wildcat fan) there were some moments of rolled eyes with balls being dribbled off of ankles and clanked free throws, but the overall effort of the supporting cast tonight was incredibly pleasing to observe during last night's game. The light bulb went off for the team concept that Coach Miller has been slowly working towards. yes there were times when our Point guard play was lacking but more than a few instances where the ball handlers attacked the rim and or dished to the right player in the right position. It was coupled with scalding 52% from the field, which was accomplished by so many of the shots being at the rim and in the lane.
Derrick Williams was simply impressive again (only about three SportsCenter worthy dunks during the game), letting the game find him when it was time and he was ably assisted by a backcourt that took their opportunities to heart. The group shot better than 50% from the field (Fogg didn't even have an "official" shot from the field), Jones was 6-10 and Mayes 3-4, but they went to the rim and the line and kept UCLA paying the price for their collapsing defense around DWill. There were solid contributions from Hill and Perry and Horne (and a plucky performance from Alex Jacobson) that kept the boards cleaned and prevented Dwill from having to overcommit on defense to pick up silly fouls. Granted that Reeves Nelson had a remarkable game and its painfully obvious that UCLA also has another keeper in Joshua Smith. Also on behalf of the Bruins, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson where also pretty steady but the Bruins were done in by their wing people becoming noneties last night.
Never fear, its apparent that UCLA is restocking their shelves, just like Arizona is, and perhaps some credit is due to the Cats defense which prevented Honeycutt from getting untracked at McKale. This wasn't a pretty game, with quite a few turnovers and some of the usual head scratching officiating. Not sure when the last time I have seen two 5 second calls on inbound plays and so many palming calls, but hey, since it was on ESPN nationally perhaps the rest of the nation can feel our pain when we carp about the zebras. Perhaps the most painful example was the "intentional" elbow call on Lazeric Jones. A reasonable person would have simply left the call at Fogg being fouled in the act of shooting. Our official stalwarts provided the usual over reactionary result in whistling Lazeric for an intentional transgression. I understand the letter of the law and all of that, but I felt that the intentional part was unjustified. Yes it was an elbow, and yes it was above the shoulder but I still felt that the intent and context of the play were taken to an unfair extreme against UCLA. While Arizona was re-establishing control of the game at that point and I have my doubts on how much it may have affected the outcome, those kinds of calls can suck the life out of a team (or inspire them, ymmv) and I hate seeing them on a national stage. I imagine we'll see the same kind of karmic reciprocation down the road and I won't be looking forward to it.
Inside the box score
Fogg had 14 points, all from the free throw line. MoMo Jones had 17 with better than 50% from the field and more assists and steals than TO's committed, a welcome sight in the box score. Alex Jacobson may have only had 4 minutes of game time, but his effort shone through with an exceptional offensive board and assist to Kevin Parrom which jacked up the crowd and his teammates. We have to hope that Kyryl Natyazhko isn't the European version of Kirk Walters in his ability to be whistled for phantom fouls, poor Kyryl got tabbed for three fouls in three minutes of time, most for standing with his arms straight up in the air in front of the basket.
Is USC and their vaunted front court, based on which PAC 10 crew shows up, it could be a showdown at the Free Throw line or a NBA Lite game with the big boys banging away in a battle for control of the rim. People be nice to KO when he's stalking the sidelines and being himself, his service to the school should warrant that and keep our enthusiasm in support of our team instead of picking at recently healed scabs.