The scoreboard stated that the final score was 107-105. What it implied was a whole different horizon for our Cats. The result was a team accomplishment and perhaps the most critical stepping stone for this team to date. They won a close one on the road, without DWill to bail them out, with officiating that was as consistent as a coin flip. Despite those worries, they won as a team and have grasped control of their own tournament destiny. Perhaps with this win comes the sense of belief that the change of the guard is complete, we have a new identity, very much like our old identity, we're a team that needs to be reckoned with.
So lets discuss the game a bit before we move on to other matters. One, Dwill is obviously having his game impacted by the pinkie injury. It appears to have manifested itself mostly at the free throw line, but to be honest, DWill at 80% efficiency is still a load for other teams to handle. He's still contributing on the boards and still sucks fouls from opposing teams like a dyson vacuum. It would be nice if he could eliminate the one silly emotional foul per game that he seems to pick up, especially with the usual amount of two phantom fouls he appears to acquire each game (although in fairness, that appears to be standard for most PAC 10 big men based on the officiating in the conference).
I will be the first to say that I am happy to have been wrong about Lamont Jones. He's developing into the point guard that we need, showing heart, and willingness to do what is needed to drive the bus when the offense starts to sputter. Jordin Mayes is doing an admirable job of pushing him for time and keeping Mr. Jones working on his game as the frosh is showing an aptitude for picking up and running the team with few problems. The continued development of Salomon Hill, Jesse Perry and Kevin Parrom in the trenches is a joy to see, as they slash through the lane and attack the boards. Mr. Parrom, you are developing into quite a weapon off of the bench and we're really grateful that your foot has healed so well. Truly a great team effort tonight, the box score shows plenty of scoring distribution and sharing the load offensively and defensively. How many times could this team have rolled over during the game, plenty, yet, they outlasted and out played Cal to bring the win home, it was an incredible spectacle to watch. If you didn't catch the game, catch the replay.
There are too many performances over the last three days to go into great depth describing them all, but the one person I want to shout out kudos to above all is Coach Miller. I know that the players executing on the court is what actually wins basketball games, but Miller's tactics in bringing this team along need to be recognized. We need to remember the journey that was embarked upon not even two years ago. Has there been good fortune, yes, but we've received our fair share of body blows to boot. Player development has been a continual work in progress, with some players blossoming, see Derrick Williams, and others coming along more slowly but showing progress, MoMo Jones and Solomon Hill and others who cause us to worry if they will stay behind the bell curve, Kyryl Natyazhko. Regardless, these last two wins are showing that the players are developing and are learning to be able to move to plan B when Plan A (Dwill) is effectively stymied. They refused to be categorized as a one trick pony kind of club. They can beat you inside or outside or with a combination of both.
Are there still some rough spots? Naturally, but the ability of the coaching staff to take lemons on the fly and convert them into lemonade is still admirable. Say that Kyle Fogg has a tough night scoring, well then he dons his defensive stopper cape instead. You need someone for all purpose work, here comes Mr. Kevin Parrom off the bench, what do you need coach? scoring? board work? defense? He can do what is needed. Our deep bench is simply outstanding, be it a big body to clog the lane, or outside shooting in the guise of Jamelle Horne, Brandon Lavender or ....well you get the picture...If we need someone for something off the bench, Miller can look down at the fellas sitting and waiting and can usually find someone to give him what is needed from defense, to ballhandling to outside shooting. The fact that the team is working together as a group, communicating on the floor in any number of lineup permutations or rooting for each other from the bench, it appears that many of the old wounds are starting to heal. Arizona Basketball is fun once again.
Inside the box score
scoring: career highs for Lamont Jones (27) and Kevin Parrom (25), and Dwill chipped in 12 hard earned points and I don't want to neglect the key three point field goals delivered by Jordan Mayes and Jamelle Horne (3 each).
boards: Dwill racked up an amazing 18 boards and he was out by the end of regulation, after his departure, the glass was controlled by committee, with Parrom, Horne and Hill having 6 each.
ASU - I don't expect them to roll over, they haven't won many games, but its not due to lack of effort, Herb has them playing tough despite their inability to finish games.
So what is in the future? Well with UDub suddenly showing signs of mortality and the Cats being able to gather additional road wins, it appears that they have a certain amount of control over their own destiny. Granted, it's not a cakewalk, after all this is the Pac 10 and you never know when someone can get hot, get cold, or get officiated right out of a ballgame. The Cats still have some significant hurdles ahead, the LA road trip will be brutal most likely. Not saying that they are automatic losses, but it certainly won't be easy. Plus teams like Wazzu and UDub will do their best to offset their troubles by stealing games on the road at McKale. Also, let us not forget that Oregon is suddenly playing better (just ask UDub) and the godless Beavers always match up well with us. I would say that the easiest game may be the visit to Tempe, but you can be sure that the Devils want to have a say about that particular outcome before considering the result a foregone conclusion.