Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.02.12 EditionPosted by AMurawa on January 2nd, 2012
- For awhile, as Herb Sendek seemed to be building a new power in Tempe and the Lute Olson regime was falling apart in Tucson, it appeared that the balance of power in the Arizona basketball landscape was shifting. The Sun Devils were ticking up, with James Harden taking ASU to the Second Round and Arizona missing the Tournament for the first time in 25 years. But, after three straight double-figure victories by the Wildcats over their in-state rival, including a 17-point thrashing on Saturday, and with the best recruiting class in the nation headed to play for Sean Miller next season, clearly Arizona is again widening the gap.
- In California, the gap is closing, at least temporarily, as California completed its first home sweep of the Southern California schools in eight years by handing UCLA its biggest loss in the series in almost ten years. It is the first time since Walt Hazzard’s final year as the UCLA head coach that the Bruins have started conference play with two losses. While two Bruins went off for career high’s offensively (Tyler Lamb with 26, David Wear 17), Ben Howland stubbornly stuck with an ineffective man defense (although, to be fair, his team’s zone defense wasn’t much better) through most of the loss as all five Cal starters, plus reserve Robert Thurman, scored in double figures, shooting a 71.1% eFG and handing out 28 assists on 34 field goals. In short, California did what they needed to do to begin its chase for a conference title in style, while UCLA left Bruin fans considering a coaching change.
- Washington State bounced back from a horrible defensive performance of its own in its conference opener to hand Oregon State its second loss on the weekend. It was a “gut check” game for the Cougs, according to junior forward Brock Motum, and he came through in a big way, scoring 26 very efficient points and grabbing eight rebounds. Freshman guard DaVonte Lacy was also huge for Ken Bone’s squad, scoring 18 points (just a point shy of his 19-point career-high he set in the loss to Oregon on Thursday), while Reggie Moore handled OSU’s pressure defense with aplomb, turning it over just once in 35 minutes while dishing out nine assists.
- For Utah, a bad season got worse on Saturday, as the Utes played their first ever Pac-12 conference game and scored its fewest points in a game since 1947 in a 73-33 loss to Colorado. The Utes scored just 11 points in the first half and shot just 24.5% eFG while allowing Colorado to shoot 60%. They allowed CU to grab 42.9% of their own misses, along with 82.1% of the Utes’. Leading scorer Josh Watkins hit just one of his 12 field goal attempts and the whole team was treated to a post-game tirade from head coach Larry Krystkowiak that included threats for future benchings and suspensions for players who were either late to or absent from team-related functions, a problem that has been ongoing and has already resulted in an earlier one-game suspension for Watkins. With 17 games remaining in a season from hell, it remains to be seen how low this proud program can go.
- Lastly, while some may attribute Washington’s strong start to the conference season to lessons learned in a home loss to South Dakota State, head coach Lorenzo Romar sees these results growing from lessons planted throughout the season. He’s been preaching defense for weeks now in the hopes of correcting some of their problems, and now that is paying off. Not only are stars like Tony Wroten and C.J. Wilcox buying in defensively, but Romar has gotten redshirt freshman forward Desmond Simmons to play like a “junkyard dog,” killing it on the glass and working hard away from the ball.