Pac-12 Morning Five: MLK Day EditionPosted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2012
- Being the optimists that we are here at RTC, we want to get the week started off on the right foot, so we’ll begin with the best win over the weekend, a dramatic road victory by Oregon over Arizona on Saturday afternoon. After the Ducks built up a 17-point lead early in the second half, they eased up on the gas just a bit and before you knew it, they were down in the final couple minutes. A big three by Garrett Sim stemmed the bleeding and put Oregon back up with under two minutes to play, but he later missed the front-end of a one-and-one to give the Wildcats the ball for the final possession. Sim did his part to make up for his miss by blocking a shot from UA freshman Nick Johnson, and then two other shots by the Wildcats on the final possession came up empty and the Ducks escaped with a valuable road win. Oregon now has three road conference wins, the most in the Pac-12, and have put themselves in good position to stick around in the conference race with the Los Angeles schools visiting next week.
- Okay, enough of the sunshine and rainbows, on to the worst loss of the week: Oregon State dropping its fifth conference game in six tries, this time a road loss to Arizona State. It’s not all that long ago, some of us were talking about Oregon State as a possible contender for the conference title. Now, the Beavers have had some bad luck along the way, but Saturday’s loss at Tempe sealed their fate: It is now, almost officially, win the Pac-12 Tournament or dream of an NIT bid for Craig Robinson and company. The Sun Devils rode six three-pointers from sophomore Chanse Creekmur to overcome the loss of junior wing Trent Lockett, who left midway through the second half with a severe ankle sprain. Herb Sendek was also able to get serious production out of Kyle Cain (16 points, eight rebounds) and Ruslan Pateev (ten points, five rebounds, three blocks) in Lockett’s absence. ASU again struggled with turnovers (they coughed it up 21 times), but were able to ride their own hot shooting (68.4% eFG) and the Beavers’ awful shooting (40.6% eFG and just four-of-21 from three) to their second conference win. While there is no official word from ASU, the loss of Lockett will likely leave the Devils with just eight scholarship players in uniform for their games with Colorado and Utah next week. Meanwhile, the Beavs are left to pick up the pieces while wondering what has gone so wrong in the first few weeks of conference play.
- Elsewhere this weekend, we had nothing but blowouts. Washington State actually had Washington on the run for about 28 minutes, leading by as much as 11 points. But then sophomore Terrence Ross got whistled for a charge on a 50/50 play, Lorenzo Romar got pissed and drew a technical, and the Huskies responded with a 15-2 run that turned into a 38-18 stretch for U-Dub to finish the game. Over that stretch, Ross had 16 of his 26 second half points (he scored 30 in the game) and grabbed four of his game high 14 rebounds as the Huskies pulled away. It certainly wasn’t the most balanced game for this Huskies (they shot 26 three-point attempts, and actually shot better from three than from two), but they destroyed the Cougars on the glass on both ends of the floor (55.3% offensive rebounding, 88.5% defensive rebounding) and earned an important win ahead of their chance at hosting league-leading California and Stanford next weekend. However, the Huskies will likely play both of those games without second-leading scorer C.J. Wilcox, who missed the WSU game with a stress fracture in his left femur.
- While the Cougars at least gave their fans some cause for hope in their rivalry game, USC fans had no such luck, as they were blown out early and often by UCLA Sunday night. While the Bruins were anything but impressive, the Trojans were just dreadful, unable to shoot the ball, unable to rebound and certainly nowhere near the defensive presence they have been in earlier games. The fact that a UCLA team led by the tissue-soft Wear Twins and a foul-and-weight-limited Joshua Smith outrebounded the Trojans as substantially as they did (UCLA rebounded 50% of their own misses and 80.6% of USC’s) should keep Kevin O’Neill awake far longer than I will be tonight.
- Lastly, we’ll double up on the Bay Area schools, the two teams atop the conference standings through three weekends. Stanford scored a seriously impressive win on Saturday, turning a six-point halftime lead into a 27-point lead in the middle of the second half against Colorado before calling off the dogs. Stanford just did everything better than the Buffaloes and got a big spark for the second game in a row from sophomore forward Josh Huestis, who tied his career-high (set on Thursday night) with 13 points, adding four blocks. Meanwhile, California just took apart Utah in a game that was never in doubt. After Utah opened scoring with a Cedric Martin three, the Golden Bears scored 24 of the next 29 points in the game, took a 17-point lead into half and eventually won 81-45. Sophomore Justin Cobbs handed out a career-high 11 assists as the Bears combined for 24 assists in the game.