Saturday, January 27, 2007

Illinois 4; Purdue 29 - everything else after that was irrelevant

Note to the Illini: You may not want to dig yourselves 25 point holes like that. They're tough to dig out from.

Not much else to say about this one. Purdue rolled. Teague was on fire the whole game, and the Illini got their collective ass handed to them.

Jamar Smith since the Michigan game:
5/44 from the field (11%); 2/33 from three (6%). If it's his ankles, sit him down and let him heal. It doesn't really matter anymore.

And finally, good job representing the Pac 10, Arizona. Don't worry about giving up 92 points while only scoring 64. From what I hear, Arizona's offense is so great that they don't have to worry about defense on every possession.

Friday, January 26, 2007

UCLA 62; UC Berkeley 46

Another slow start from the Bruins. They seem to have gotten into the habit of taking their opponents best shots in the first ten minutes before letting things settle down, at which point the Bruins take control and don't look back. That's not unexpected. Teams get up to face the Bruins, as they should. When you're a top five team, you have to expect teams to come out fired up. To their credit, the Bruins never seem to look rattled. When Ryan Anderson hit a 30 foot jumper while the shot clock expired, or when he went he lost the Bruins defense and was rewarded with an uncontested dunk, the Bruins didn't panic. They play a steady game, at their pace, and eventually they wear their opponents down and come out on top. They did it against WSU. They did it against Arizona. They did it against ASU. They did it against U$C.

They have a knack for knowing when to pounce, and when they found themselves down by eight points roughly 10 minutes into the game, they went on a 7-0 run over the next few minutes, and ended up outscoring Cal 20-8 over the final 10 minutes for a four point half time lead. They continued the trend in the second half, eventually stretching the lead out to 15 points before calling off the dogs with five minutes to go.

Aaron Afflalo was yet again the Bruins' best player, scoring 25 points, with 20 coming in the second half. On the defensive end, he gave Ayinde Umbaka fits (unfortunately for Ubaka, an intestinal virus hampered him as well), holding him to 0 points on 0-8 shooting and only two assists. Josh Shipp was the only other Bruin in double figures, adding 12 points, coming mostly on twisting, driving layups and put backs. LRMAM, Lo Mata, and Al Aboya cleaned up the glass, with 11, 8, and 8 rebounds respectively, with 10 of those 27 boards coming at the offensive end.

On the other side of the floor, Cal got decent performances from freshman Ryan Anderson and sophomore Theo Robertson, who finished with sixteen points, many coming on uncontested dribble drives from the perimeter, as the Bruin D got caught too far away from the basket a time or two.

Another solid performance, with the game never in doubt after the first 20 minutes. They're guaranteed a split on a tough road trip, and head to Palo Alto on Sunday to attempt the sweep against Trent Harris' Cardinal, led by the shot blocking Lopez twins, Brook and Robin. Stanford hammered U$C last night by 15 on the strength of Brook Lopez's triple double (18 points, 11 rebounds, and an astounding 12 blocked shots). If they can close the Bruins down on the interior, it could be a long night. UCLA is a guard oriented team, but that doesn't mean they're perimeter oriented. They'll need to get to the basket to be effective, and that could be tough against a team that blocked an incredible 19 shots last night against the Trojans. On the other hand, Stanford turned the ball over 20 times last night, and if they can't take care of the basketball, the Bruins will look to get out in transition, and that could be a key. Maples is always a tough place to play, but getting a sweep up north would be a nice step towards another Pac 10 championship.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Austin Stories

So the other day I had images from this old MTV sitcom called Austin Stories stuck in my head. Did some checking around the web for old images, interviews, etc. and came across this site. Also found out that the DVDs are being sold on eBay by Howard Kremer, one of the creators/stars of the series, so on a lark, I decided to buy a copy. It's run was only 12 episodes, and MTV cancelled it before it went into its second season.

The verdict: I'd put it in the pantheon, the exclusive company of Arrested Development and the Office. Seriously, it's that good. It's quirky, intelligent humor, which isn't to say it's too highbrow. It just means you have to be kinda smart to appreciate it, which means it wouldn't appeal to roughly 98% of the viewing public, at least not in a world where Two and Half Men is the #1 comedy in the country.

Fortunately, for those of you who were never exposed to this show, Youtube has the first episode in three separate parts. Enjoy. Then go buy the DVDs. You can even get them autographed by Howard.

Luc Robitaille

I didn't mention it, but the Kings retired Luc's #20 on Saturday night. Normally that would lead to a longer post like the one I just wrote for Erstad, but I kind of already did that for Luc when he broke the team goal scoring record, so I'll just link to it here.

As for the ceremony, I'll admit that I teared up a few times, but that's probably because I was a little drunk already.

Also, Kopitar is just freaking incredible. Watch the second goal in the hilight reel. Just awesome.

Darin Erstad

Pending his physical, Darin Erstad is off to the White Sox. Part of sort of doesn't care, considering I may not be able to watch much baseball next year, and though I could watch the White Sox fairly often, doing so, which requires listening to Hawk Harrelson and Darin Jackson, would probably result in me being forced to blow my brains out. So chances are that's not going to happen.

Still, there's no denying Darin Erstad's place in Angels lore. In 2000, he put together one of the finest seasons in Angels history, hitting .355/.409/.541 with 25 homers, 39 doubles, and an amazing 100 RBIs from the lead off spot. In that season, against the Yankees, he provided one the most memorable moments in the team's regular season history when he saved the game by making an amazing catch in left field in the bottom of the tenth before slamming the eventual game winning home run in the top of the 11th (props to Mo Vaughn, whose two out, three run homer off of Mariano Rivera in the top of the ninth sent the game into extra innings).

But no single at bat was ever as important as his eighth inning lead off home run in game six of the 2002 World Series against the Giants. The Angels had already cut a five run lead to three in the previous inning. But they still had a two run deficit to contend with, and with one swing of the bat, Erstad crushed a 1-1 change-up over the right field wall, and gave everyone just a little more hope. I want go so far as to say it gave the outcome an air of inevitability, but suddenly the Angels trailed by one with the heart of the lineup coming up against a depleted Giants bullpen.

His enduring image in an Angels uniform? For me, it would have to be watching him settle in under Kenny Lofton's fly ball to right center that ended the 2002 World Series. 29 years of Angels fandom (for me, anyway), culminated in that one moment.

It's a cliche to say that Erstad was "scrappy" or "a gamer", but honestly, I can think of very few players who fit that description better. There was a never a time when he gave less than everything he had. He rotated between three different positions, winning gold gloves at two of them, because that's what the team asked him to do. Not every major leaguer would do that. And players like that are invaluable because sometimes you need that flexibility to move pieces around the guys who can't or won't move.

Darin Erstad, along with Tim Salmon, epitomized the 2002 Angels. He'll always be remembered fondly by Angels fans, not only for the way he represented the Angels on the field, but off the field as well. I wish him luck on the South Side.

Indiana 43; Illinois 51

Imagine that. Illinois actually WON a game in which they had a second half lead. For those still holding out hope that the Illini have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament game, this was pretty much a must win. Pay not attention to the fact that they beat an overrated Indiana team (any national ranking for Indiana is an over-ranking). The Illini had to beat a ranked team, and they had to prove to themselves that they can close a team out when leading in the second half.

Remember when the Illini were fun to watch? Hell, even when they had a rotating line of butchers at small forward earlier in the decade, they still had exciting guys who could bring you out of your seat. This year's team is just kind of boring.

As the score indicates, the Illini did it with defense. They held Indiana to only five points in a fourteen minute stretch that started halfway through the first half. They held Indiana to 20 points in the second half, and six of those were in the final minute when the game had already been decided.

Sean Pruitt had big night on the boards with 13 rebounds to go with his ten points. Rich McBride has responded to the criticism by catching fire lately, adding 15 points last night, including a couple of big three pointers that stretched the lead out to eight points, a lead they would never relinquish. Fortunately, he has stepped up as Jamar Smith continues to slump, due in no small part to his injuries. Since going 6-14 for 17 points against Michigan on January 3rd, he's been awful, 11% from the field, and 7% from three. he's four for his last 37, including just 2-28 from beyond the arc. Ouch.**

The Illini shot 65% from the line, roughly on par with what they've done all season. Warren Carter was 6-6, but Sean Pruitt (who only shot three free throws), was 0-3, while Chet Frazier was 3-7. Any wonder why they've had a hard time holding leads?

I wouldn't call this a signature win, but it is a stepping stone. Perhaps they can build on it and go on a little run. If Jamar Smith gets his stroke back, and McBride keeps shooting well, and Randle gets healthy, they have a chance to go on a winning streak that could put them in tournament contention. But they pretty much need ALL of those things to happen.

**I swear I didn't read Mark Tupper's blog before I posted that. Seriously. But it's word for word what he wrote (although I wrote 'beyond' and he wrote 'behind') so I'll change it.