Lots to take in last night, so I'll briefly touch on the four sporting events that kept me from watching the new episode of Lost.
Kings 5; Red Wings 3
Absolutely amazing third period for the Kings, as they potted four goals to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 victory. Alexander Frolov has been terrific since returning to full health, and the Detroit broadcasting crew named him their player of the game last night. I thought Brad Stuart was awful over the first two months of the season, but he's been terrific over the last month or so, and the Kings really need to think about extending his deal.
I understand the sentiment of those who don't necessarily want to see the Kings win at this point of the season. Barring a miracle, they won't be playing in the post-season, and every point threatens their chances at acquiring the top pick. But this is a team that needs to learn how to win, and they've been doing that over the last month. That experience may prove invaluable heading into next season. Confidence is a curious thing, and when a team has it, it can be very powerful. If they can go into next season not believing that they can be good, but knowing that they have been good, that will be more valuable than the difference between the first pick and the fourth or fifth pick. I hope they keep winning.
Florida Panthers 4; Ottawa Senators 5
I know, this seems out of place, but a fiend of mine is a gambler, and he suddenly decided that he wants me to start picking hockey games for him. I don't gamble, but I've been "owning" the picks I make, so I was very interested in this game, and it actually caused me to miss the beginning of the Kings comeback. After blowing a 3-1 lead, and a 4-3 lead, Ottawa was the first team to five, and only a couple of great saves by Ray Emery preserved the victory.
Indiana 83; Illinois 79 (2OT)
From a purely objective standpoint, this was an excellent game. Fairly well played by both teams. Back and forth most of the night, with Illinois performing their trademark late collapse, losing a double digit lead yet again. Free throw woes continue to plague the Illini. Sean Pruitt missed two free throws at the end of regulation that would have sealed the victory, then did so again in the first overtime. Six of Illinois' losses this year have come by a combined 23 points. That includes three overtime games (one double overtime game). In those six games, they've made 67-122 free throws. That's fifty five points they've left on the court. They're not a bad team when the clock is running, but they've killed themselves at the line all year.
From a purely subjective standpoint, I hate Indiana with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. This one hurt, and it was really a game that Illinois should have won. I've lost what little shred of respect I had for ESPN, as they continue to lie about what happened in the recruitment of Eric Gordon. He did not re-open his recruitment, no matter how much Pat Forde, Fran Frischilla, and Jay Bilas want to believe otherwise. Decommitting or re-opening a recruitment entails a conversation with the committed coach wherein the kid explains his intentions. If Gordon had gone to Bruce Weber and said "The situation has changed, and while I'm still interested in Illinois, I'd like to explore other options." Doing so would have allowed Bruce Weber to do likewise. But Gordon didn't do that. His family assured Weber that his commitment to Illinois was solid virtually all the way up to signing day. Quite simply, they lied. Whether they were simply malicious, or too pathetic to look coach Weber straight in the eye and tell him the truth makes no difference. They lied, and liars like the Gordons deserve to play for cheating scumbags like Kelvin Sampson.
Lost in all the hoopla, and the loss, was a transcendent performance by freshman point guard Demetri McCamey. He went for 31 points, 7-13 from beyond the arc, and kept the Illinois in the game all night. He definitely outplayed Gordon. It hurts this year, but in the long run, Illinois is probably better off with McCamey for three or four years than Gordon for one.
UCLA 63; Wazzu 59
Great battle in Pullman last night as these teams traded the top spot on the scoreboard all night. But in classic UCLA style, they wore down the Cougars in the second half, created some separation, eventually pushing the lead to 10 points. With LRMAM, perhaps their best defensive player, home with a sprained ankle, the Bruins allowed the Cougars to shoot over 50%, but dominated the glass, outrebounding Wazzu 29-20. Ten of those were on the offensive glass, and it was second chance points that eventually did in the Cougars.
Darren Collison followed a scoreless first half with an 18 point second half, while Kevin Love netted 16, and Russell Westbrook added 14. Josh Shipp continues to struggle on the offensive end, making only three out of eight shots for six points.
UCLA will face Washington on Sunday, and following that game they'll have only three road games remaining. If they can defend their home court against the Bay Area schools, they'll have the inside track on a third consecutive conference championship.