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Sometimes in the Pac-10, this just happens

Posted by Jeff Nusser on January 25, 2008

Can we start from the premise that Arizona is a talented team that began the year ranked No. 17? Because if we begin from there, last night wasn’t really all that hard to understand.

We can kill ourselves analyzing what went wrong — and there obviously were some things that need to be addressed — but really it just came down to this: We got mowed down by an unbelievably hot shooting team.

It would be one thing if it was due to lack of effort or intensity, as it seemed to be against UCLA. But that just wasn’t the case last night. The Cougs played hard. They worked hard, both offensively and defensively.

Sometimes in the Pac-10, this just happens.

I won’t blame the officials, as some people will be wont to do. Should the No. 6 team get more than 12 free throws — the last eight of which came when the Cougs were already down by 18 with less than six minutes to go — especially when the other team gets 23? Probably. Bob Weiss made the comment that there were a couple of questionable calls in the first half where he felt like WSU should have gone to the line, and here’s the thing about being aggressive toward the basket: If you’re getting rewarded, you generally continue to do it. If you’re not rewarded, you generally don’t, and that’s how it starts to snowball.

When it snowballs and the other team hits 87 percent of those 23 attempts? That’s tough to beat. When the other team goes 20-of-23 from the free throw line and shoots 12-of-21 from 3-point range?

That’s impossible, no matter who you are.

There also will be a big hullabaloo about Derrick Low’s awful night, which I’ll address shortly, but consider this: The Cougs posted a 103.5 offensive efficiency rating (what’s this?) — not on par with their season average of 116.2, but good enough to win on most nights, since they generally hold their opponents under 100. Arizona posted a rating of 123.

It would have taken an offensive performance on par with the ones against Mississippi Valley State or The Citadel to keep up with Arizona last night.

Now, that doesn’t excuse Derrick Low’s absolutely horrendous performance. And I don’t classify his performance as horrendous because he only scored five points. It was horrendous because he allowed his early struggles to derail his aggressiveness. I don’t know if he was tired or sick — some guys on the team have been battling the flu and all of his early shots were short — but a scorer simply cannot allow that to happen. To not score a point until the game is well out of hand because you’re taking shots and missing them is one thing; to not score a point until the game is out of hand because you’re not even shooting the ball is something else altogether. It’s something that’s inexcusable.

Additionally, this team must get more from Robbie Cowgill. I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing or what, but he is bringing very little to the table right now. I know he’s not counted on to be an offensive force, but even just a little something would be nice. At this point, he more or less gets ignored by the defense when he’s on the floor — hence the move of Daven Harmeling into the starting lineup — and worse, he’s not contributing much else in terms of production, either.  Last night was a new low: 14 minutes, zero points on three shots, two rebounds, no assists, no blocks. In conference play, he’s averaging 3.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. He has gone from exceeding 30 minutes in five of the first eight games — including the wins over Baylor and Gonzaga — to exceeding it just once in the last 10.

On a lot of nights, it won’t be that much of a problem, because many teams in the Pac-10 are moving to lineups that feature just one big man for the bulk of the game. Oregon does it. Arizona did it. But against teams that have more than one active big man — Cal and Stanford come to mind — we’re going to need something from Cowgill, and not just solid defense. We need some rebounds. We need some blocks. We need some 15-foot jumpers.

But a lot of good things happened last night offensively, too. The team came out hot offensively  for the first time in a long time. That’s huge. Kyle Weaver had another good night, hitting a pair of 3s. Harmeling was a spark in the starting lineup. Our ball-screen offense led to a number of easy buckets at numerous different times when the game was still within reach. All of those are positives that should not be overlooked.

So let’s not lose perspective about what happened last night. The referees did not cause a 12-point loss. Tony Bennett did not get outcoached. The players didn’t tank it.

The Cougars just got outplayed. And when a team is as talented as Arizona, sometimes that’s just going to happen.


3 Responses to “Sometimes in the Pac-10, this just happens”

  1. Jo~Jo said

    I will not regress to blame this game on the officiating, but I felt that free throw differencial played a part in the ever-so-important element of college basketball; momentum.

    Speaking from experience, when you get absolutely hammered everytime you take a shot, it begins to work on your brain a bit. The appropriate tharapy for that condition is having the opportunity to go to the line and ralax, … stroke a couple free throws and move on. When you get hit, time and time again, you start flinching everytime you go to the basket. I know it sounds stupid but it is true.

    At the outset of the second half the officials ruined what could have been a beautiful game. The Cougs got fouled on almost every posetion and didn’t get to shoot from the line. On the other end, everytime ‘Zona went to the basket the wistle blew. The game had no flow until there was a ten point ‘Zona lead, and with that came a rediculous shooting spree by the ‘Cats. Notice that the Cougs traded buckets for a while but those points where much more laborous than ‘Zona’s and the momentum and outcome were all but locked into a Wildcat victory.

    Again, I’m not going to blame the officials; ‘Zona shot the lights out and the Cougs didn’t get the contributions they needed from certain people. But, like I said earlier, in college basketball momentum is everything, and the flow of the game was dictated by the officiating during the first six minutes of the second half.

    The Cougs may have still lost that game last night, but I would have liked to see the finish that was setting up going into halftime, not the lead that was built from the free throw line.

  2. Jo~Jo said

    Another thing:

    Caleb Forrest, in his limited minutes, gave the Cougs what we’ve all expected out of Robbie Cowgill. Forrest came right off the bench and wacked a couple mid-range jumpers. I like what he brings.

    Koprivica is coming around. If he continues to improve at the rate he has over the past two weeks, he could pay big dividends in the post season.

    For the sake of all things true, to Low/Rochestie/Harmeling, CATCH AND SHOOT! If you come off a screen and wait to see if you have a look at the basket, you won’t have a look at the basket. All of those guys are catch and shoot specialists, why the hell were they not pulling the trigger?

  3. Nuss said

    I actually had a line in my post when I originally composed it last night about momentum caused by a raucous home crowd and friendly officiating, but took it out this morning. I agree with you; when a team is able to turn a three-point lead into a 10+ point lead while only going 2-of-2 from the field … that’s pretty questionable, and does tend to take away some of the aggressiveness of the team not being rewarded.

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