Friday, March 14, 2008

Men's Basketball Pac 10 Semifinals 3/14/2008

Stanford 75 Washington St 68 Compared to last year, the Pac-10 tournament is so much more enjoyable when you're still in it. And who could ask for a better appetizer than the cross-town rivalry game between UCLA and USC which went down to the wire. Staples was overwhelmingly filled by Bruin fans and there were a couple in front of us who were drunk and particularly obnoxious to the USC band and fans. I guess it strikes me as somewhat absurd for grown adults to be picking fights with college kids and other adults. But I wasn't entirely sympathetic to the Trojans since we received the same treatment when we were playing them in the Coliseum.

I thought USC made a couple mistakes in crunch time - not fouling Westbrook when they had the chance and instead letting him pass it to Collison who is lights out from the free throw line, and then running the clock down to take a 3 when they still had time to drive for a quick 2 or take an earlier 3 and try to get an offensive rebound if they missed. With OJ seeming content to run the clock down, I might have even fouled him with 5 seconds left and let him make 1 and try for the intentional miss. But I guess I'm a guy who likes to do things purely by the numbers.

Unlike the quarterfinals game which was the last game of the night and a separate session from the UCLA and USC games, not as many people vacated their seats after the first game, and so it was harder to gather 6th Man behind the basket since not all of us had tickets for behind the basket (we were only allocated 4 rows). Nonetheless, some people managed to sneak down and take the place of UCLA and USC fans who left. There were a group of Washington State fans seated directly behind us and throughout the game, there was a lot of back and forth between us. The first dealt with the issue of us standing up. Now, I wasn't planning on standing for the whole game, which is what some 6th Man members wanted to do, but I felt that I should be entitled to stand at certain times - like after tip off and before the opposing team scores (which is what Arizona fans do), during time-outs when our band is playing, when we make a run and have momentum on our side (which is what the Washington State fans seated midcourt did), and during the closing 2 minutes or so of a game (which is what happened with the UCLA-USC game).

Well, the Wazzu fans seated behind us complained when we were standing after tip-off and got the ushers to make us sit down. They complained when we stood during the first time-out when our band was playing, and the ushers made us sit down. And they complained when we stood when we were making a run. There was one woman who complained to ushers that band members sometimes had a foot in the aisle and were obstructing her view. It was extremely annoying. Finally, during the closing couple of minutes of the game when Washington State was making their run and she was yelling for us to sit down, I turned around and told her that I would sit when her fellow Washington State fans seated midcourt sat. That seemed to shut her up.

There was also the usual trash talking, and when we made our run to push the lead up significantly and were standing, something happened. I'm not sure exactly what took place but I think that a couple of Wazzu fans were asked by guys in red suits to move away from behind us to other open seats. Finally, there was one drunk UCLA fan in front of us who was rooting for the Cougars and would stand up and taunt us whenever they made a basket. He also tried to snatch away signs that some of us were holding up. He got into it with some 6th Man members and was told by the ushers to calm down. Things continued to escalate throughout the game and we might have made another complaint and he finally shifted seats and took off his UCLA shirt. While I admit that some of us may have had something to drink (6th Man comprised mainly of seniors) and might have been obnoxious, I still think it's absurd for adults to get into it with college students.
As for the game, it was another great team performance where we pounded them in the paint, outboarded them, and played solid, disruptive defense that garnered 14 turnovers from a Wazzu team that typically takes care of the ball. I also liked how we were able to respond on the offensive end, despite Wazzu making 3s at torrid pace. Some of them were clean looks but when Weaver makes multiple step-back 3s or Low hits a shot with someone in his face, there's really nothing you can do. One of my favourite plays of the night when was when Weaver drove and Robin was faced with one of those, do I try to contest the shot and let him dish it to Baynes for the dunk (Weaver's staple play) situations. I feared the worst but Robin stayed with his man long enough to make Weaver think that he had an easy dunk, only to block it at the last moment. It was a thing of beauty. If Robin can display that level of thinking and athleticism against Love and his multiple pump-fakes, I like our chances of containing him. Besides Brook who was dominant as usual, Law stepped up his game today and gave us an outside shooting threat. Two of his best games this season have been against WSU and he's had a good Pac-1o Tournament so far.

The only worrying aspect was how we almost let Wazzu creep back into the game with turnovers and poor free throw shooting. In a game where we did a better job managing the clock with a lead, Mitch struggled from the free throw line as Wazzu did a good job of not fouling our better free throw shooters and focusing on Mitch. I really wish Trent would have done a little Drew Shiller experiment to see whether he could come in cold and make free throws, since we were still up a fair amount and it was a reasonably good time to experiment, but I guess he wanted to stick with Mitch. Things worked out but I was pretty nervous for a while.

I guess we've locked up a #3 seed and could possibly earn a #2 if we beat UCLA tomorrow and things fall into place. I'm sure the players are raring for a rematch. It's a pity that Luc is hurt and won't be playing. Hopefully, fatigue won't be an issue because we really need to take care of the ball and play smart on offense so that UCLA doesn't run and use their athleticism and shooting in the open court. There are going to be a sea of Bruin fans and judging from today, it's going to be pretty hostile. But I can guarantee you that 6th Man won't be backing down.
~ Zhihao

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