People around here still talk about the 1990 game at Barnhill between the Hogs and the Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacy Augmon UNLV juggernaut. In terms of anticipation that game certainly was huge. But in terms of actual importance to the program it didn't mean much. Nolan had already made a Final Four a year earlier and his program was looking set.
It was the UNLV game from the previous season, 1989, that was more of a seismic shift for the program, at least in my eyes.
The 1989 game was a loss also. We played in Vegas and UNLV was just as tough looking then. May-Day-Miller were sophomores and that team played without fear or conscious. They went into a building that at the time was as tough as any around and played a team that was head and shoulders above any other in the country. They went toe to toe with them the whole way. There was none of the "don't press on the road" BS. The legendarily fast paced Rebels were looking to slow US down.
In the end it was a loud loss, but it made clear to me that these guys could win ANY game.
There were several games like this for the team that eventually won the National Title in '94. The opener in '92-'93 against Penny Hardaway and Memphis was Corliss, Scotty and Corey's debut. Corliss got hurt in a sweet comeback win.
That team also won on the road at Arizona and at Missouri with Scotty proving that he could carry a team with cool efficiency even as a freshman. But the game that announced to the world and more importantly to the fan base that this collection of players could go full out against anyone was the Sweet Sixteen loss to eventual champ Carolina.
It was a beautiful game with shooting and steals and pressure and the steamroller that was UNC refusing to be put away and eventually prevailing. We knew then that with these players we would always be in it, that if you missed a game you might miss something really cool.
Tonight's game against #4 OU is a nice set up for that kind of game - a well played loss that leads to bigger things.
Now don't get me wrong, there have been many big wins in the post Nolan era. Florida at home 3 years ago and Tennessee on the road the following year come to mind. But I never had that FEELING for a team. The feeling that they could erupt and dominate at any moment by raining 3s and simply take you out in a 5 minute burst. We need to flex THAT muscle. The one that instills FEAR as much as respect. And this little team, if Stef continues as a solid jump shooter, has the makings of a very dangerous young team that is a year away from very big things.
It has been a beautiful December day in Northwest Arkansas, the sun bright and warming but no weird heat or or sweaty moisture to the air. It is dry and crisp, warm out in the open and chilly in the shadows.
I'm running lean, my companion of late jettisoned like cold french fries from a car window. There were a few insults and I was told I was a bad listener and a bunch of other stuff that I didn't really pay attention to. "Fat and self-absorbed" I think she said but I didn't have time to let words hurt me. I was busy busy with more important stuff like the return of Hawgball.
The lawn and sidewalk outside Bud Walton are actually covered with clots of people seeking tickets. One guy has his 3 year old boy holding up 2 fingers.
This ticket buying crew is a actually a bit scruffier than I would expect. They look hungry and underfed and a surprising number are wearing hats and long coats. I mention to my mother that I feel like I am in a Dickens novel, surrounded by British beggar children 1880.
My mother whispers back "I think most of them are from Oklahoma" as if this should explain everything.
The crowd is large though maybe not quite capacity. The young woman singing the anthem is "Miss University of Arkansas" or something and she is wearing a sash and a crown. She sings well but I am jealous of her outfit - my father mad me leave MY sash and crown at home.
When they introduce this singer they mention her sorority. Is it wrong that as soon as I hear the greek letters I start imagining more "Girls Gone Wild" than Stars and Stripes. I mention this to the woman sitting next to me and she just makes a weird noise and places her jacket between us. I'm thinking to myself that I may end up single for a while.
There is noise and crowding and a middle aged woman walks by wearing slacks that I swear must have been made from a Persian rug that had outlived its usefulness. I mention THIS to the woman next to me and she just looks herself up and down, I guess wondering if she is wearing anything that will be the next victim of my biting fashion wit.
I also mention that the Anthem singer's hair was all uneven and jacked up in back and that she needed one of those mirrors that you put behind your head when getting ready. At this point my neighbor switched seats with the guy next to her. Some people... I think maybe I'm lonely.
The Griffin brothers are a strange looking pair. They are HUGE and chiseled and look like someone designed and produced them at some sort of athlete factory but then ran out of money to finish up their faces and do the skin coloring. I feel a bit sorry for Taylor as he clearly got the lesser sperm when Mom and Dad's genetic material did their mash-up.
Austin Johnson is very skinny and I quickly decide he was a premature baby based on his head shape. My father confirms this impression. We feel good about our ability to make snap and baseless judgments.
And now it is time for basketball and I feel a little sick and nervous inside - just like I'm supposed to.
Stef is starting again. I am not so sure about this as our guard trio looks really, really short compared to Johnson and in particular Warren and Crocker. I'm thinking matchup trouble.
RC buries a 3 off a dribble screen from Stef and the place EXPLODES. It has that big game feel where the crowd seems to be pressing on the court, about to burst into the action when the fans leap and roar as one to cheer.
Warren buries a 3. RC is guarding him and their is no way that will last for long.
Blake Griffin picks up an early foul. But Warren scores again. Yikes.
Stef strips Griffin on a double team. Need a lot of that.
We are pushing all the way to the baseline on every possession - rushing the ball up and forcing OU to stop it before turning back out to the perimeter. This is gonna lead to big 3s by trailers. I love it.
Austin Johnson shoots from his chin and he pulls his hands back on the follow through. It doesn't look good. He looks like Courtney will push him around.
GORGEOUS pick and roll bounce pass from Stef to Sanchez.
Crocker hits a 3 over Stef and I'm starting to worry more about the perimeter match ups than the interior ones. Crocker was taunting Stef after the shot. The refs stopped the action with Hightower talking to Crocker. I'm sure Stef was woofing too but he wasn't making a display of it. One of the refs took him aside during the timeout and was yelling at him.
FIRST TIMEOUT 13-8 HOGS
There are some odd looking kids running around BWA tonight. They just inspired me to come up with a new game show. Flash a picture of a funny looking kid and the contestant has to guess "Ugly or Retarded". Kathy Lee Gifford could host.
(I just told that joke to my mom and she looked at me the same way the lady next to me did)
Stef deep 3 from the top. He is looking good when he shoots rhythm shots without the bounce.
Britt comes in - maybe to guard Warren
Stef again deep. We are a dangerous, dangerous team when we have him doing that. OU is forced to call a TO and the crowd is going bananas. They can't stay in front of CF on transition.
Or in the half court. He is putting on a clinic on how to break down a defense with just the dribble. He probes and probes then finds a crease and makes open looks happen.
We are shooting layups and dunks.
We are guarding Griffin with 2 and a half guys when he gets it low. Folks will be open outside.
Monk is in to body Griffin. I like it.
Warren hits again on a dribble drive. He seems to be very, very good but also all right handed.
Monk gets a soft foul on Griffin and Pel goes nuts. The gray haired ref is SCREAMING at Pelphry. Wow that was interesting. The refs seem to be pretty aware of who Blake Griffin is.
SECONDTIMEOUT 25-10 HOGS
Warren again from the left wing.
Mike Sanchez is playing good.
RC buries one against a matchup zone. Just killer shooting.
Jeff Capel has interesting facial hair. Pencil thin mustache and small horizontal flavor-saver below the bottom lip topped off with a chin patch. He looks like a slightly villainous Count.
Welsh again deep. Third make from 3rd different spot on the floor.
Austin Johnson can't hit anything and Stef pushes it back coast to coast. OU calls another TO.
Griffin just let Stef go. He doesn't want to get a second foul. Smart but just a bit self involved.
THIRD TIMEOUT 37-17
Gracious this is a whoopin'. OU hasn't used a single sub that is worth anything yet. I am actually starting to like our depth with Britt and Monk and Moore and Clark.
Crocker for OU looks like he is 37. I think I played against him in high school. He just got his second foul and should have been teed up..
Now he gets his 3rd on a bad call and goes absolutely ape. This time he gets a T. He should be tossed. He kept yelling and yelling and showing up the ref. Capel didn't say a word to him which is interesting. I am officially frightened of Crocker. He is an angry feller. Maybe some of his high school age children have been giving him trouble at home and made him testy.
RC misses a free throw. Gulp!
We might score 60 this half. So might Warren. I think he has 20 already.
Griffin gets away with a push off. He won't get a second foul this half.
Crocker's replacement is a bouncy white dude with a gelled up faux-hawk hairdo. He looks like a rejected member of the Cobra-Kai dojo in "Karate Kid".
Nice OU run. Wow Griffin with an OOP and his head was at the rim. Dude is pure NBA in terms of size and strength.
LAST TIMEOUT 42-31
Griffin showing signs of being utterly dominant. Big 4 minutes coming up obviously.
This should be Fortson time.
We continue to work outside in, whether from dribble penetration or good post feeds. Best offense of the year.
Capel gets Teed up after one of those weird Washington post moves. Big mistake.
And Griffin gets his second foul. Wow.
Monk has a surprisingly soft free throw stroke and the lead is 17 again.
Karate dude misses a jumper and Fortson with a beauty bounce pass to Monk. Fortson is OWNING Johnson.
T. Griffin DROPS CF with a backcourt pick. Ouch.
Fortson sure makes our end of the clock offense look good. They can't stay in front of him.
Washington outplays Griffin for a half. I would've lost that bet. Stef and RC hit big shots and Monk and Sanchez banged well. The story is Fortson though. Blake Griffin is the best player on the court but Fortson is the best COLLEGE player on the court.
In the college game with collapsing defenses a dominant guard (particularly a dominant point guard) is simply more important than a dominant inside player. Courtney is controlling every offensive possession and every player around him is better and more confident because of it. WooHoo!
They introduce the gymnastics team at halftime and they certainly are a cute bunch of itty bitty people.
It seems either I haven't been paying close enough attention or my beloved Stat Girl was recently promoted. She is looking lovely in a green silk blouse and srhe is sitting at the scorers table (just to the visitors side of the possession arrow) and wearing a headset. I assume she is reading off stats to the various announcers. She seems to be very much in control, and, I must say, a bit bossy. I like it very much. I'd like to think I have played a small but important part in her success.
There is a nervous edge as we head to the second half. Almost a sense of "when will it come" as far as an OU run. Men are standing by their seats, arms folded across their chests or hands on hips looking very serious and pointing things out to the other serious men standing nearby. I am doing this also. I feel like all of us are of the belief that the squad somehow needs our individual input and collective basketball brilliance before the second half. Alas we are not invited to the huddle.
Monk and Britt start and Pel starts doing that silly offense for defense substitution pattern early on. I realize that he is trying to be careful with fouls and to interrupt OU's flow but it not a good idea. Players lose continuity and so does our game. We are a rhythm team.
I would like to recommend actually guarding Willie Warren this half, jack him up a few times. This is easier said than done when he spots up on the same side as Griffin posts and we have to pick our poison and double down to stop Griffin leaving Warren wide open or take on Griffin one on one in the post. We have shown a bit of doubling from the back side and from the high post and we need more of that.
OU is pounding it to Griffin but if Johnson can't hit a jumper OU might be in trouble. Crocker is still on the bench with 4 fouls and the Karate Kid is in his place. He is 0-4 or something like that and he is bearing sweatbands or tape on both wrists. I'm not sure which is worse.
Stef gets his 3rd foul and will sit for a bit. The whistles are never ending, unless Griffin is involved.
I'd like to take this opportunity to start asking for the crowd to whistle rather than boo when bad things happen, like European soccer fans. There is something menacing and vaguely foreboding about a whistling crowd. (We can get to crowd singing later).
Warren has lost his mojo a bit after missing a couple of jumpers. He is sulking just a tad..
FIRST TIMEOUT 60-46
The refs have completely taken the legs and the pace out of this game. Drives me nuts..
I just noticed that the Griffens have NO tattoos. In today's game that is almost like playing nude.
Monk makes a difference on interior defense. He is strong and uses his hands pretty well.
Blake Griffin gets his 3rd on a cheapish one and Sanchez gets a nice hoop and they can't stop CF and we are back up 20.
RC misses a dagger in transition. Courtney gives him a wink.
Washington in foul trouble now and Stef is back in.
Fortson is unstoppable right now.
Crocker comes back which might make a difference because sweatband man hasn't done a thing.
Warren airballs and OU has a back up point guard in the game that looks like he could be a third, extremely runty, Griffin brother - perhaps put together at the same lab as the other two but as an afterthought and out of leftover parts.
RC with a huge transition 3 and we are up 25 and the place is bouncing.
Someone might want to watch Crocker. He just buried 2 deep ones.
THIRD TIMEOUT 72-53 HOGS
Still a slight sense of impending comeback but the fear is starting to wane, like we are invulnerable because of our guard play.
They did the "fan cam" thing where they flash shots of crowd members on the scoreboard and I have to tell you that people just couldn't seem more thrilled to see a picture of themselves. They go nuts. It's as if they have FINALLY been discovered and all the hard work and trials of a lifetime have paid off. It'll all be gravy from here on out now that they have been spotted and broadcast.
Another 3 from Crocker and Stef gets his 4th followed by a Griffin bucket, Johnson steal and Warren lay up. It's a 12 point game and I hope that doesn't get Warren off the schneid.
Wash and Welsh both sitting with 4. Jeez crocker just hit another and he is yapping about it. I would be too, he is on FIRE.
Monk gets 4 points from the line to stem the tide. Big.
THIRD TIMEOUT 73-62 Hogs
Crocker is wearing a long sleeve shirt. I'm guessing to cover up age spots on his arms.
Blake Griffin's eyes are so close together he almost looks like a cyclops. Not surprisingly playing against a mythological Greek monster can be a bit scary.
Austin Johnson back in for the runty kid. That is good for us.
Our post feeds and even kickouts are much, much better tonight.
CF gets a block call but he made the quickest hop to the right to try to take a charge I have ever seen.
Monk rolls and dunks. Goodness he is a heady player.
Griffin with a putback, steal and he threw it off RC while he was falling. It was an incredibly athletic play and you could tell that the game really moves slowly for him
3 from Warren, uh-oh. Turnover and another 3 from Warren. Crap!
CF makes a beautiful trap break and hits Washington for a dunk.
As a crowd we are collectively soiling ourselves.
We blow a couple bunnies but nice effort to salvage a jump ball.
LAST TIMEOUT 84-79
Courtney, Courtney, Courtney. Give him the ball.
Blake Griffin couldn't handle Washington on the box. Yes I just wrote that.
OU is tired and careless.
Oh my. CF holds it, drives and Wash scores. Crocker misses and that will be it.
Fortson strips Griffin then fouls out.
The fans are chanting SEC. I hate that. What does it mean? Maybe that's ok in football but in hoops the SEC is a joke right now.
The Karate Kid just fouled out. His line will be like 15 minutes, 0-5 maybe a rebound, no steals no assists, no blocks. Nice effort fella.
Another Griffin fouls out and OU puts in a kid that looks so surprised he is getting to play that he forgot to comb his hair for the game.
Not much else to say. It wasn't a loud loss like I predicted. It was more of a smackdown thumping.
It is big but this is what we should do to everyone that comes into BWA. We should jump on them hard and early and bomb them out of existence. I really liked the WAY we won - big runs and aggressive play.
That was fun.
(as a sidenote for those of you that recorded the game and are interested in Stat Girl - just after the buzzer the camera cuts to Pel at the scorers table and as it pans you see her at the table with a headset on)
People around here still talk about the 1990 game at Barnhill between the Hogs and the Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacy Augmon UNLV juggernaut. In terms of anticipation that game certainly was huge. But in terms of actual importance to the program it didn't mean much. Nolan had already made a Final Four a year earlier and his program was looking set.
Michael Washington led Arkansas with a double-double (24 points and 11 rebounds) and Stefan Welsh scored 19 (although it seemed like 50) as unranked Arkansas jumped out to a big lead and held on throughout the stretch to defeat the #4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners by a final of 96 - 88.
OU's phenom Blake Griffin was kept in check early and held to only 6 points in the first half and 21 for the game. Fortunately for the Sooners, Willie Warren and Tony Crocker were able to keep them in the game. Warren finished with 35 points and Crocker with 18. Crocker, who wore a tight, long-sleeved undershirt that would make Richard Simmons jealous, was limited in play as he drew three early fouls and a quick Technical for an angered and obnoxious reaction to a personal foul call committed on Rotnei Clarke.
It was said going in that an Arkansas victory would take a team effort: the team playing with heart and as one, Pelphrey commanding the game, and a rocking Bud Walton Arena. All of these necessities were accomplished.
Courtney Fortson also showed his basketball savvy and leadership as he contributed with a double-double as well finishing with 12 points and, more importantly, 10 assists. On a night when defense would set the tone for the Hogs, so many contributed, including Marcus Monk, Brandon Moore, and Marcus Britt.
Wait, did we say defense set the tone? Maybe it was offense... or was it defense? It was such a team effort that it was hard to tell. The offensive side of the Hogs' game plan showed its power as well. Six players scored in double digits. Clarke hit a three on the game's first shot attempt, and Michael Sanchez played like a beast; tearing into OU's defense under the board like Dom DeLuise into a King Crown Cake.
Pelphrey, it appears, has definitely turned the corner with this team in a short time. His personal style and discipline is mirrored by the attitudes, actions, and play from the athletes on the court.
Importantly, it must be added that Oklahoma fell out of the ranks of the unbeated to move to 12 - 1 while Arkansas is now 10 - 1 on the young season.
The game was so exciting that we forgot to see which fashion trend that our good friend Rich Schaeffer is bringing back next. Perhaps we will find that info in the next issue of GQ.
Way to go Hog players, staff, and fans, you all contributed to a huge victory that even the National Big Boys cannot deny - all while keeping the All-American in check. Great job.
Please check back soon for JCK's entertaining perspective on the game.
Please feel free to comment above and to e-mail me at email@example.com. The first one to correctly identify Rick's clothing brand wins a free haircut from his stylist.
There are storm clouds on the horizon. Claps of thunder and explosions of electricity. The storm has a name and a face, (all storms are female aren’t they? like ships and dining rooms and mayonnaise. Sleet is male I suppose – like ketchup and burgers. You have no idea how much time I spend worrying about things like this.) She (the storm) is even wearing a cute pantsuit and a misleadingly pleasant fragrance to disguise her intention.
I should have seen trouble coming. My girlfriend (Miss Seattle we will call her) is generally a reasonable woman. But there were omens. A poorly thought out gift on my part (who wouldn’t want a Blu-Ray player and a sweet surround sound system? How is that “Not very romantic”?). My ill-received decision to spend Christmas week out of town and Christmas day at work. The totally freaky weather on Friday.
The weather bothered me the most. I went to work at 5am and it was winter with frost on the windshield. I left at 7pm and it was warm and humid, my coat sticking to my back and sweat forming immediately from saturated air. I remember thinking that the world might end, that the weather was apocalyptic.
Turns out a nice little apocalypse would probably have been more pleasant than most of my Saturday. A woman’s wrath can be an ugly thing.
Since I am here to serve you, Hog Nation, I will pass on just a bit of advice today. Fear the Text Message. That is the advice. Fear the Text Message. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I was in a bad mood Saturday anyway. I was working and sick people during the holidays are, quite frankly, a depressive and hypochondriacal lot. And there are LOTS of them so the joint is way busy. Also, the prescription drug addicts had, as usual, failed to anticipate the holidays and refill their scripts early so they were out in force. (Maybe I should have given Miss Seattle a shot of Demerol for Christmas and all of this could have been avoided.) I was thinking to myself that I should hand out personal organizers to all the junkies so they could start to get things in order. They seem a disorganized lot.
On top of this I was going to miss the Hog’s game - not just miss going but not get to see it at all since I didn’t get off work until 7pm. I was Tivo-ing it and had to avoid all talk of hoops until I got home. It seems I bitched about this in a short text message to Miss Seattle.
“What about me?” was the response. “You miss me? I have only seen you once in the past 10 days. Are you more worried about basketball?”
Now Miss Seattle is a pretty funny woman so of course I thought she was just teasing. And therein lies the danger of the text conversation – the words are clear but the TONE of those words is tough to interpret.
“Well we’ve only been together 8 or 9 months and the Hogs have been my sportswife for 35 years.” I texted back. (It is here that I would recommend others insert an emoticon of some kind. This was an error on my part.) “Plus you never won a National Title” I added. Again no emoticon.
The storm erupted then. There was thunder. There was wind. Trees were falling and cars were in danger. And frankly the language was a touch unladylike.
And so my day went – a torrent of mean and misinterpreted texts flying back and forth on microwaves or through cellular towers or wherever text messages travel. The airwaves were ablaze with acrimony and insults.
So I’m home now and watching the game on Tivo. She is here and she is drinking gin & tonics. She made a tasty 7 layer dip so we have that going for us. She is wearing jeans tucked into boots which is just a bit slutty I think. I perceive this as part of a nefarious plot.
Let’s watch some ball!
NW State’s unis are hideous. Purple but not bluish and decent like the Vikings they are more like a color I can imagine Jasper Parnovik wearing on the golf course.
Courtney is in some sort of trouble. He must be a bit of a rascal that one. Stef is in the lineup and I will go ahead and say that this lineup ain’t scaring anyone. I’m realizing just how vital Fortson is to the makeup of this team.
We are down 8-2 off the bat. On the good side Stef seems to have put the headband in permanent storage – this bodes well for his future performances.
Courtney is back in – that’ll teach the kid a lesson. I think the lesson learned was “Hey we suck without me”.
FIRST TIMEOUT 9-8 Hogs
With Courtney the offense suddenly has purpose, a center to its being. Brandon Moore is in the early rotation which is good.
Who are these announcers? All I do is watch basketball and I’ve never seen these fellas. I think they might be the “B” team from the Sun Belt conference and got the gig because they offered to pay for their own gas.
RC and Stef hit threes. Have I ever mentioned my anger with Heath regarding the lack of shooters he recruited? I remain a bitter man.
Andre Clark runs the floor. His stroke is really good. He needs some time but he could be very good.
Apparently Northwestern leads the nation in turnovers. There first and second string point guards are short, scruffy faced and a tad pudgy. Also they are the sons of the coach. I’m just sayin’.
We are pressing after every make. Is this because we know they can’t handle or has Pel been cleverly adding elements to this team’s game every week?
RC gets knocked to the floor and Stef is the first guy there to help him up. Awwwwwwww.
SECOND TIMEOUT 19-12 HOGS
We look good. Easing into an identity. A fast paced but not frenetic team that is led from the point and really needs to shoot well. Defense that is extended and hopes to create turnovers.
Miss Seattle has posed a question. “So if you really had to choose between me and the Arkansas Basketball team which would it be? I’m serious, say you could never see them play again if you stayed with me.”
I sneak a look out of the corner of my eye to assess the situation. She is smoking Marlboro Reds even though she doesn’t smoke. She thinks this will piss me off but sadly I think it’s sexy. (I used to spend a lot of time in bars.)
“You’re just drunk” I respond. OOPS!
We are trapping in full AND half court! I’m getting a chubby. I love the way fast, pressure basketball opens up huge cracks in other team’s schemes.
Britt hits a trey. I love Marcus Britt. Stef from the other corner. He really has his shooting rhythm..
CF behind the back for a Washington dunk. This ball is rolling downhill fast. Courtney a deep 3.
On the downside our bigs can’t finish. They are all very slow from the time they catch a ball in deep until they release their shots.
RC is playing the best defense he has played. Sure it might be because the other team has a lttle white guy struggling to run the show but I actually think its because of the traps and pressure. He has good hands.
THIRD TIMEOUT 39-18 HOGS
Schniiikies. This be a whoopin’.
“I’m NOT drunk. I’m just seeing you more clearly now.” Miss Seattle is standing and pointing. She may be seeing clearly but her balance is not so good. She tripped over the coffee table and steadied herself by placing her left hand squarely in the dip. I laugh. OOPS! again.
Miss Seattle excuses herself to the bathroom but takes her smokes, the ashtray, her phone and her drink with her. Hmmmmmmm.
Mike Washington with a pretty drive and dunk. I appreciate that he is playing inside but for the umpteenth time I will insist he is a perimeter player and is best used there.
I just had a vision of this Hog team, with this personnel, playing a form of the Princeton offense. Kind of like Jim Beilien’s system. Open post or high post only. No screens only movement and back cuts, passing and 3s from four or five positions. Then pressure defense to take the heat off our thin bigs on the other end.
Stef with a DEEP 3 from the top. RC misses a pull up 3 but I love the idea. Throw daggers.
RC misses again and this is the first time I have ever seen his stroke off. His shooting rhythm is just a bit funky tonight.
More good, smooth play from Britt at both ends.
Moore misses a dunk but he has a terrific knack for tipping passes on the perimeter.
Britt needs to give our bigs a lesson on how to catch a pass in transition, not be in a hurry but maintain control and go up like you have the advantage underneath..
BTW, RC is way off but his floor game is his best yet. Nice passing.
LAST TIMEOUT 49-23 HOGS
Miss Seattle is still in the bathroom. Trails of smoke are coming from under the door. I tell her to disable the smoke alarm. She yells back but it didn’t seem very nice.
She texts me from the bathroom. We are getting into a weird area here. “U supposed to care bout me first” it says.
“If someone cared about me they would NEVER make me choose. Hog basketball is attached to me, like a siamese twin. We are connected at the heart.” I shout this and smile to myself, believing it to be a lovely sentiment.
Miss Seattle begins vomiting loudly, Gin and pureed beans splattering my bathroom. Women.
Andre Clark with a decent little jumper.
“Stat girl wouldn’t make you choose” she texts. “Why don’t you go buy HER a Blu-ray player?!!”
No, stat girl wouldn’t make me choose, I think to myself. She would love me for me and we would watch hoops all the time and snuggle in my Big Chair at home and eat dip and I would look at her tan, smooth skin stretched tight on her almost slightly chubby figure and dream of the Hog Basketball tattoo that I am quite sure must be on her low back.
I keep this thought to myself. I hear a thud and I assume Miss Seattle is eating porcelain.
Alley Oop to Fortson. Didn’t work but I love it.
HALFTIME 54-25 Hogs
Obviously that was a good half. Stef is hot and CF gets better and better. The defense is the story so far. It has been consistently good.
There is no halftime entertainment at Seattle’s house, unless you consider cleaning up a sloppy girlfriend entertaining.
She looks quite lovely sprawled on the tile floor, asking for a towel but afraid to lift her head because of all the spinning. I throw her one.
“F*** Stat Girl” she says and it echoes through the shower and the tub. I notice she has singed an eyebrow with her cigarette.
Early 2nd half is always difficult after a big 1st. No energy. Hogs call early TO.
RC misses deep. Stef hits deep. He has 20.
NW is pressing but we look okay. Stef hits again off the press break. WooHoo!
FIRST TIMEOUT 62-35 Hogs
Stef has 24 now. Jason Henry hasn’t played. I just realized this. Uh-oh.
Stef again with the catch and shoot. He has 27. Wow. Now he is limping.
Britt 3. Playa!
I stop watching the game for a while here, sticking Miss Seattle in the shower is proving difficult.
Miss Seattle has just come out of the shower and she has sobered a tiny bit. Her hair is wet and she is wearing a terry cloth robe and she looks clean scrubbed and very sexy. She trips walking over to my chair and curls up next to me. She smells of soap.
She is whispering apologies in my ear and asks if I want to crawl in bed.
“But you were just puking all over the bathroom.” I say without thinking. “That seems a bit gross don’t you think?” OOPS!
FINAL SCORE 95-56
(Note: I’m scheduled to work the night of the OU game. I’m trying to get out of it and will post if I am able to attend. Go Hogs)
The play started off slow... too slow.
Arkansas found itself down 8 - 2 early hosting Northwestern State Saturday Night.
[Enter Courtney Fortson - Stage Right]
Fortson, who was held out of the starting lineups for the 1st and 2nd halves, came off the bench at the 17:22 mark to ignite a 39 to 10 run for the Razorbacks which was capped off by a Michael Washington highlight reel dunk that would have made Mr. Holmes question his manhood with 7:29 remaining in the first half.
Fortson was passing, Stefan Welsh was scoring, Washington was rebounding, and Rick Schaeffer looked more fly than Al Boreland in his red-plaid shirt. Bud Walton Arena felt good again.
Even with Rotnei Clarke having a cold night, Arkansas dominated their way to a 54 - 25 halftime lead.
The second half started off the same: Fortson on the bench and the Hogs with a slow start. However, on a night when the 3's were falling more than Empires in a World History Class, and Welsh broke his career high early in the second half, it would not take long for Arkansas to settle itself back in and establish itself as the best team on the court.
The reason: The Hogs were running, they were hustling, they were diving on the floor, and they did appear to mix the old with the new - Old Hawgball and the new influence of Pelphrey's Petino-based philosophy. A philosophy that has Coach Pelphrey's fingerprint and mental twist all over it.
More Hog highlights consumed the 2nd half, and even though the Demons did their share of scoring in the latter part of the game, one almost felt sorry for Demon Head Coach Mike McConathy, who had called an extra practice this week in preparation for this game. Again, we said "almost felt sorry."
The playing of his two sons ad nauseam, the intentional foul on a hustling Fortson by his youngest son Logan (not to mention the grin on the coach's face immediately afterward), and his whining and crying in the second half all but eliminated any sympathy that a Hog fan might have had for family oriented McConathy.
One positive from the negative displayed by the visitors: Courtney Fortson's rebuttal with pure class and leadership to disrupt any attempt of physical confrontation between the two teams following Logan's hard foul and immediate barking. Barking which resembled a chihuahua squaring off against a well-trained and mild-tempered golden retriever.
The rest is all cliche as the Hogs finished the holiday weekend with a 95 - 56 victory over the Demons.
Teamwork and hustle, the heart and soul of all successful teams, were on display in Bud Walton Arena, just in time for the visiting Oklahoma Sooners who make their 247 mile trek on Tuesday, December 30th. A letdown is not in order. In fact, one has to think that it may no longer be on the menu with this team.
Please visit back soon for JCK's take on the game.
Feel free to comment and to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and Happy New Year.
Our apologies for the chihuahua and retriever reference.
Way to go, Auburn, you just made the SEC West tougher on all of us with your "top-notch" hire in Gene Chizik.
But, alas, before you go patting yourselves on the back, you might ponder what damage you have done to the hopes of your division competition.
You see, Auburn, it is not the fear of the SEC dominance that you desire from removing Tommy Tuberville and replacing him with a 5 - 19 head coach in Gene Chizik that worries the SEC West. It is not that at all.
It is the way that you have changed the recruiting landscape for Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, yourselves of course, and Alabama.... especially Alabama.
To clarify, we are not bragging about Chizik's recruiting record as a head coach - which in 2007, 2008, and 2009 ranked Nationally at 60th, 62nd, and 76th respectively.
No, we are talking about how you have made Nick Saban's recruiting in the state of Alabama easier than Madonna on Free Bat Night at Yankee Stadium. A Nick Saban led Alabama program that went undefeated during this past regular season and was an SEC Championship Game victory away from playing for the coveted 2008 BCS National Championship.
So thanks, Auburn, you have just made the already smooth trail of landing the best players in talent-rich Alabama just that much simpler for the Crimson Tide. Now the remaining four of us have to focus on knocking him (and them) of of his high horse.
What are your plans for the future?
Do not fret about even being competitive for awhile, Tigers; the word around town is that you will have reason to hate Michigan soon enough. But that is a whole other story.
Feel free to comment above and to e-mail me at email@example.com. Thanks.
Austin Peay Running Diary 12/17/08
The weather was soft tonight. The sky lacked depth. It was endless yet right up on you, a weightless cotton universe devoid of visibility. Everything was just slightly damp but it wasn’t raining, more like the air was gently sweating cool water. From inside my house and car the world looked cold and forbidding and maybe dead but when I stepped outside, into the soup, it was warm and nice and sort of refreshing, almost like a hot towel handed out in first class.
There was something classic about the weather today, something typical of winters in Arkansas. It was a day that if I stepped from a time capsule I could tell you where I was and that it was December. There is strange comfort in that sense of place and time.
I lived in Northern California for awhile. I liked it. I liked it very much. None of the things that bug most people bothered me. I didn’t mind the traffic and I loved the freaks. I could lay out in a park and read and have a chat with a fecal covered bum with legitimate opinions about the works of Don Delillo or Thomas Pynchon. If I asked him to move downwind he would. These were good folks.
But my problem was the weather. 75 degrees and sunny every day for 8 months sounds terrific and it is but I couldn’t keep a sense of time. I knew where I was but not WHEN I was. I lost the pattern of the seasons which seems like nothing but can sometimes be everything.
I missed the thunderstorms of spring and the beastly face-melting heat of summer. I missed the cool nightfall of football season and the schizophrenic daybreaks of winter. There is truth in rhythm. Seasons are like a heartbeat.
Basketball teams and basketball seasons have rhythm too, both for the good and for the bad. This Hog squad has been like Northern California to me, lots of stuff to love but missing a central heartbeat. This is a team of pieces without a core. There has been no real mission or identity. The crowd and the team don’t sync like they should. Sense of time and place have been lost at Bud Walton. The killer instinct has gone.
Tonight begins the chance to change that as the craptastic teams of season opening type give way to good but beatable teams that might prepare us for the big boys.
First for some housekeeping. They are calling this some sort of tournament for scheduling exemption reasons but it is no such thing. Its just a couple of games against teams with Austin in the title 3 days apart. The crowd is again dreadful, both in terms of numbers and attractiveness. Come on people, lets get some gym memberships and pesonal stylists for Christmas.
Courtney and Andre Clark seem to have joined Sanchez in tucking their warmup tops into their shorts. Can somebody not put a stop to this before it goes any further?
Also, Jimmy Counce is here and sitting with James Dickey and Pat Foster. Sutton certainly had some decent staffs back in the day.
Most importantly, my girlfriends daughter sent out “friend” requests on Facebook to Sanchez, Clarke and Cox (yes – all the white guys, what can I tell ya) and I can inform you that they all “added” her so they are now officially cyber-friendly. I want to say that its great that these fellas are nice to fans but what really comes to mind is that someone needs to warn these guys about responding to FIFTEEN YEAR-OLD GIRLS that think they are cute. Goodness gracious what a world.
Let’s play ball
Britt has replaced Welsh in the starting lineup. I’m somewhere between neutral and positive on this. Britt has been playing well on defense and not hurting us on offense. Stef is playing good defense but forcing shots. Plus Marcus is bigger and deserves a shot. He is a good player. Let’s see how it goes. Maybe Henry and Welsh can bring some punch off the bench.
Also I’m told McDonald is gone for good. I don’t really see this as such a bad thing. It makes the rotation simpler. The job is Henry’s now and he is a better offensive player anyway.
My girlfriend has described Austin Peay’s coach as “curmudgeonly”. I concur.
Nice inside out pass to RC but he misses. Good look though.
Silly foul on 3 point shooter by Courtney. My official position is going to be that CF’s headband and hair are a single unit that he wears as a hat. That way he can take it off and go out after games and nobody will recognize him. In other words he is like a super hero protecting his secret identity, kinda like Bruce Wayne.
Peay buries a 3.
Washington with a good steal and putback. He is about 4 inches taller than their biggest guy.
Defense really struggling.
RC buries a deep one. Sanchez gets his 2nd foul. We are hedging harder on ball screens which I like but it is hard to do well. (Please see UCLA for a clinic)
FIRST TIMEOUT 9-13 AUSTIN PEAY UP
Dude in a t-shirt wandered by. He has on a big furry hat that I’m sure he bought at Abercrombie or something but it looks like he skinned a Nutria and slapped it on his head. He seems to think this makes him cool. I’m begging to differ.
Nice little press there for the hogs after made free throws. Like it!
Washington is owning the boards.
Running a bit of pick and roll with Rotnei.
Austin Peay has mostly played man with a sprinkling of zone. Mike Washington is killing them inside.
Our interior defense has been bad since Sanchez went out.
Pel gets Teed up. I really like him. He is stone cold crazy at times.
Stef is in and puts a shot up right away. Misses but Washington cleans up.
Defensive pressure much better. Moore looks good defending outside.
SECOND TIMEOUT 21-21
Pork Chop the mascot is wandering around my section. I find this unsettling. I am uneasy about mascots in general but my problems with Pork Chop go way back. It was about a dozen or so years ago when I still had a bit of a drinking problem and involved some vanilla scented air freshener, a Thai “hostess” and the Taco Bell drive thru window. I won’t bore you with the details.
We press again after Welsh free throws and it looks good. Very disruptive.
Reed has an awful looking shot but he buries it.
TO by Stef. Why does he run the point on the second unit? I still think it should be Rotnei. He is a more natural 1. Henry is in.
Nice run by Austin Peay. They are up 5.
Andre Clark with a deep 2. Yikes.
Moore replaces him. Neither Cark or Moore can guard the post.
Another Stef miss and Washington put back. Steal in the press and Fortson nails a trey. And Henry almost makes another steal. That’s good ball.
THIRD TIMEOUT 31-29 HOGS
Moore starting to get his hands on a lot of balls. (tee-hee)
Press is as good as it has been.
3 by Rotnei in transition. Nice.
Another deep 3 for RC. Certainly comes in handy. He is stepping out a bit this game.
Moore is trapping well.
LAST TIMEOUT 40-35 HOGS
“I’m going to start tanning during Christmas break” my girlfriend just said, as if she had just decided a matter of national importance. “Rotnei Clarke is darker than me. This is just unacceptable.” I had no response to that.
Struggling a bit. RC with a TO and a miss on a tough jumper.
Reed is sweet for Peay.
Stef draws a charge and Courtney gets a rebound putback and is fouled.
Way deep 3 from Henry as the shot clock winds down.
Moore rebound putback. That was a tempo basket.
HALFTIME 50-41 HOGS
Best half of ball this year. Washington, Fortson and Clarke on offense and a combination of Moore, Fortson, Welsh and several other guys creating pressure and traps on defense.
The halftime show is 4 guys doing flips off trampolines and dunking. Apparently they are the”official” persons that do this sort of thing for the Memphis Grizzlies, so they have that going for them.
The flipping and all is quite impressive but I could do without the clapping and semi-dancing thing they have going on. A tiny part of me is hoping for a crash – kinda like a NASCAR race.
My favorite stat girl looks, well she looks fantastic. She is wearing a short black skirt with a thick black belt and buttoned top. Black stockings and mid sized heels.
I pointed her out to my girlfriend who said “I thought you said you made her up – just to be funny in your blog thingy.”
“Uhhh – yup, that’s right.” I said. “She’s sort of a composite character.”
My girlfriend snorted. Actually snorted. It wasn’t all that attractive to be honest.
Same starters as the first half. Britt didn’t get all that many minutes in the first but he played okay.
They have no answer for Mike Washington. Not sure I have ever written or even THOUGHT those words before.
Bad transition defense by the hogs.
Sanchez gets his 3rd on a weak call.
Washington with a block on one end and a mini-hook on the other.
4 on Sanchez. Horrible call. It was Rotnei reaching that fouled.
Britt hits a nice open 3. If he can do that he will get big minutes
FIRST TIMEOUT 59-49 HOGS
Washington popped out of his shoe for no apparent reason just before the timeout. Kind of like a jack-in-the-box. He is playing great but he is just the strangest player to watch.
Washington gets his 3rd on a tough charge/block call.
We are in a lull. Offense is stagnant – in part due to quite good defense.
Wow – Britt with a 12 footer off a feed from Moore.
Stef gets in and has to force one at the end of the shot clock. He can’t let that happen.
SECOND TIMEOUT 61-54
The dance team during the timeout did a little number wearing Santa hats. I suppose I shouldn’t find that arousing but there you go I think maybe I need to step the therapy sessions up to twice a week.
Washington’s jump shot used to be a strength but it looks way off tonight.
STEF HAS ABANDONED THE HEADBAND! I repeat STEF HAS ABANDONED THE HEADBAND!
And Boom he hits a runner and WASHINGTON THROWS OFF HIS! This is Huge. I feel like it should be on the scrolling banner at the bottom of ESPN.
Welsh misses and Washington puts back.
Henry with an ugly shot. Hmmmmm. The lead is 6.
Welsh causes a steal and Washington gets fouled on the other end (looked like he walked).
Fortson coast to coast. That is big, big, big.
Horrible call of a block on Welsh. At least it looked bad live.
THIRD TIMEOUT 69-59
My girlfriend, a native Arkansan is looking around the stadium at the crowd. “We Arkansans are just a homely bunch of folks aren’t we”, she says to noone in particular. “No wonder I grew up thinking I was so attractive.”
I suggest that we could use this concept to craft a new state motto – “Arkansas – it’ll boost your self-esteem.” She says I’m funny but “not ha-ha funny”.
Stef with a bad turnover on penetration.
Uh-oh. 3 from Peay and Henry steps on the line. 5 point game. Sanchez back in.
RC misses 2 threes from the left corner. Does he shoot better from the right side? Somebody with even less of a life than me should chart this.
Pelphrey doing offense for defense subs with Sanchez. I don’t like it. Messes with rhythm.
Big 3 from Peay and it is a 3 point game.
Washington’s 4th foul.
Stef with a ginormous 3 off a dish from RC.
LAST TIMEOUT 75-70 HOGS
Stef tries another at the end of the shot clock and misses but Courtney with a great rebound.
Late call of a foul on Washington but I think he got him. Washington is out.
Rotnei hits a 3 for a 7 point lead. Monster.
Sanchez draws a charge on the hedge. He was clearly fouling on that one but they owed him more than one.
Stef to the line up 7 with 51 seconds. Strokes’em.
Peay goes coast to coast for a layup. “You’ve gotta f****** help man” Courtney yelled at Moore. True ‘nuf but you gotta stop the ball when its your guy Courtney.
Stef hits 3 out of 4 more. He’s 7 for 8.
FINAL SCORE 89-80 HOGS WIN
The second half certainly didn’t measure up to the first but there were clutch shots from RC and Stef. Huge games from Courtney and Michael. More importantly there were signs of a defensive identity, particularly in the first half.
Defense is the heartbeat of a team. It determines the rhythm and pace of everything else. There was a time during the Eddie era and many, many times during the Nolan years when every game had a similar pulse. You could feel it build to a crescendo with the crowd and players hand in hand. Noise and steals and layups and more steals and the visiting team slowly crumbling – hopeless almost from the start. Somewhere we have the same thing with these players and this coach. We all just have to sense the time and remember where we are.
(Note: With all the Stef talk on various sites and the fact he wasn’t starting tonight I decided to do a little plus/minus stat on him during this game. That is just the basic “what was the score when he entered the game and what was the score when he left” stat. If the team is up by, say, 3 more points you are a plus 3. If the team has dropped from being up 10 to being up 7 you are minus 3.
Stef played just about 20 minutes and by my calculations during the game he was +13. That is extraordinary in a 9 point game. It means while he was playing the hogs won by 13. When he was out they lost by 4. 20 minute sample for each.
Interestingly, just watching live Stef made all the usual offensive mistakes – rushed shots, low percentage, a few turnovers. His free throws late certainly helped but he was +6 in the first half too. The difference is the defensive intensity and pace of the entire team when he is playing. I don’t know if it was coincidence, luck or skill but almost ALL of the good, solid pressure defense occurred with Stef on the floor and thus almost all of the RUNS occurred with Stef on the floor. I’ll try to pay attention to this for a few more games and see if it is just an aberration, but it’s something to consider when we criticize Stef.)
Driving to the game there is a stillness to things, a comfortable lull. College football coaches are playing musical chairs and making the one indisputable case for trashing the BCS that noone talks about – that the current system forces coaches to campaign for and accept jobs while they still have games to play. Holiday basketball tournaments are mostly over and they have taught us the surprising information that Carolina is , like, way good and that Duke has some shooters and that Paulus has, beyond all expectation, become even MORE annoying. Also, Xavier has a really good forward and excellent guard play – who woulda thunk it.
My beloved piggies have also reached a lull. A lull in which they play a crummy team then take a week off then repeat the same. This might be good for development but it is lousy for building fan momentum.
The holiday season is in a lull as well. The early shoppers are sitting in a bloated post-frenzy daze in the parking lots of Wal-Mart and Target, tending to battle wounds and counting scalps. The last second shoppers like myself are not yet feeling the pressure, content to sit on the sidelines and watch local homes not sell.
It is dark and cold when we arrive at the game, the parking lot 2/3 empty. We are jolly and weirdly satisfied by a meal of steakburgers and cheesefries at Steak & Shake although I can’t quit lamenting the fact that my meal looked like a shrunken version of the one promised in the glossy menu picture. Life is like that sometimes.
I am telling my girlfriend’s son about what Hog hoop games were like when I was his age. About driving north on old 71, the twists and the turns, hoping you didn’t get stuck behind a truck on the one lane road. About how the drive seemed to take you back in time a little, through older towns that were made of stone and sparse light and smokey chimneys. How we emerged into the lights of Fayetteville and how excited I got when I could see things glimmering on the hill.
I am telling him about how the games were as much about ritual and sameness and community as anything else, how they had little to do with the opponent. I am talking about a house with amazing Christmas lights just north of Alma that would be all lit up and almost steaming with heat every year as we headed up the mountain for early season games and how it would be dark and sleeping on our way home. I explain about how my brother would pretend to be asleep when we arrived home so my father would have to carry him into the house, and how this got a little creepy as it continued until my brother was 17.
I am telling about being excited about games all day, thinking Brewer and Moncrief and Delph and Reed and Walker and Robertson and even Norton and Tony Brown were not mere mortals but that it somehow seemed as if I knew them, that if I bumped into them somewhere they would recognize me and we would chat.
Her son looks up at me and asks if it is okay for him to run ahead to the arena because I’m acting a little weird.
As we sit down for the game I have to say that things have changed for me. In part because I am old and and my pants don’t fit well but I am thinking the young folks with comfortable pants don’t feel like I used to either. The crowd is smallish and quiet. We wait to be impressed rather than reveling in being part of crushing an inferior opponent early. The holidays are giving me the blues.
On to the game.
Texas Southern tonight who comes in still looking for a win. During warmups my girlfriend mentions that “Wow, they look like a whole team of grown ups”. Which in fact they do. They are big. So is their coach. He looks like a combo of Warren Sapp and Suge Knight. I’m thinking there is little back talk in practice.
My girlfriend’s teenage daughter agrees with her mother that Steven Cox is “really cute” but she hasn’t decided about RC, he seems “okay”. She likes Fortson because of the hair and his headband accessorizing and is impressed by Andre Clark’s eyebrow grooming. She refuses to rate Sanchez because he tucks his warmup top into his shorts which is unacceptable to our entire group ethos, which is to avoid being dorky.
The starting lineup hasn’t changed. Jason Henry IS dressed out and things start out a bit ugly. RC misses a three, stef misses a short jumper and both teams kind of toss the ball around a bit like it doesn’t mean too much.
Finally Fortson makes a 3 about 2 and a half minutes in. I’m liking his shot ant his perimeter shot selection more and more. The defense from TS is mostly 3 -2 zone with a guy and a half assigned to Rotnei.
Stef misses a jumper but gets the board and draws a foul.
Then misses a pair – yikes!
Sanchez gets a jam inside. very nice. He looks skinny – like he is losing bulk already. I am concerned about the minutes wearing him down but he does look quicker.
Washington doesn’t look healthy. He has had three straight turnovers or weak misses.
FIRST TIMEOUT 5-6 Texas Southern Leads
RC hits a 3. Gorgeous open court pass from Courtney to Sanchez. He is a very gifted player.
Rotnei appears markedly less tan. Either I was wrong about the tanning booth or he is due for a re-burn.
Britt and Henry are in.
Henry buries a 3 straight off. He is not shy.
Now he walks. Making things happen.
Henry with an oop from Stef after a steal. Hmmmmm, Someone is responding well to discipline.
This group is playing better pressure defense and making a nice run.
2ND TIMEOUT 19-9 Hogs
Henry hits another 3. Wow he looks good. I’m getting a man crush. Britt hits a 3, now that’s just silly.
My girlfriend just asked if the band spends time practicing their cheers too, since they seem so coordinated.
Yes, I say, every Friday and Saturday night. (insert drum rimshot here). Who says vaudeville is dead?
Not only is the crowd small tonight it seems to be heavily salted with, shall we say, special needs folk. I’m looking at an entire section of the crowd and save for a dude that may or may not be the lead singer for Nickleback they all have the same vacant look on their face, as if they may start drooling soon. I’m wondering if it is some sort of promotion I missed.
“No, that’s just the way we look here in Arkansas sometimes honey. It’s past our bedtime.” My girlfriend says.” Don’t worry, it just makes us seem better looking in comparison and that’s what really matters.” Her daughter nods her head vigorously in agreement. I look at the boy and he looks at me and we both have pretzel cheese on our shirts. We shrug our shoulders at each other and move on.
Texas Southern’s coach got ejected. Seems unfair. I think you should be allowed to yell whatever you want as long as you stay politely seated and he was doing that. He calmly walks off the court followed by a comically skinny security guard who will be able to do absolutely nothing if this man decides to get mad and turn around.
There seems to be a battle going on between the TS assistants to NOT be saddled with coaching this crummy team for the rest of the game. The clipboard is a hot potato.
OH MY! Fortson oops of the board to Andre Clark. He never looked back. No idea how he knew where he was.
THIRD TIMEOUT 31-13
Henry gets a couple boards and a layup. Stef scores. RC misses a 3 pointer – struggling with rhythm yet he has about 7.
LAST TIMEOUT 39-19
RC gets a 3 pointer blocked by a fast closing defender – first time we have seen that I think.
Guy on Southern keeps complaining to the refs even while he is driving. Stepped a full foot out of bounds and complained. I love this guy. He has strips of black cloth coming out of the tops of his shoes that make them look like jester caps. That’ the kind of player you build a championship squad around.
Courtney gets an unbelievable tip in. He can FLY. I can’t wait for his first 2 hand cram in traffic. It is coming – I promise.
HALFTIME 43-25 Hogs
The lights go down and the dance squad comes out in red sequined thingies. They do a nice little Vegas themed dance but they wear far more clothing than the Vegas dancers I have been exposed to.
I get a text from my brother saying he feels sorry for Texas Southern.
“Why” I text back.
“They seem like the all-black Washington Generals” he replies. I love my brother.
I guess I need to mention that Southern is a crappy team in all facets. Bad defenders, bad ball handlers, bad shooters all brought together nicely with bad attitudes. Hopefully they have fresh oranges in the locker room to improve their collective mood.
We open with a Stef 3 and an RC miss then a Stef 2 and an RC 3. It is amazing how much better we are when everybody is shooting good.
Washington is the only one struggling tonight.
FIRST TIMEOUT 53-32 Hogs
Things are getting a bit sloppy as might be expected. Our teenage girl is asking when Cox is going to play. She thinks Rotnei is cuter now because he “shoots so good”. The 11 year old boy is yawning and asking if he can have my iPhone to play games.
I tell him I need it because I’m taking notes because I am a semi-famous blogger and literally tens of people are counting on me to write silly stuff about the game. He just rolls his eyes dubiously and turns back to the game, tasting some of the pretzel cheese from his shirt.
I’m not going to go into much more detail about the second half. They played well but the competition was poor. RC made a couple more and continued to show that he doesn’t force shots. Henry made another jumper and looked good. Andre Clark looked pretty decent. Brandon Moore looked lost on both ends at times. He launched another 3 that had Pel laughing as he immediately yanked him from the game. Stef is becoming a defensive demon and I will continue to argue that the former Razorback he is most like in career arc is Clint McDaniel.
My brother texted me again and said that we reminded him of “Van Exel era Cinncinatti”. I told him he had been changing too many diapers.
Cox got to play and made a free throw. He smiled and had very white teeth. Everyone was happy.
FINAL SCORE 80-61 Hogs
The drive home was pretty and quiet. I-540 is more sterile than old 71 but it is fast and safe. There are no shacks or cars on front lawns and I don’t get to hear my father string together expletives as he tries to pass an 18 wheeler. The kids didn’t sleep, they listened to iPods and texted friends. We didn’t slow down as we passed a special house with lights.
But it was still hoops and it was still the Hogs. Stef joked with a guy in the crowd when he chased a ball into the front row. Courtney threw one of the best passes I have ever seen live. And I watched the birth of a potential new star in Henry. Things are different now, but they will be the same again. Soon.
Coming into the basketball game the sky seems gray and low and layered. The air is cold and I am walking behind a youngish man with hypertrophied arms, bare and goose pimpled - overexposed in a too small short sleeve golf shirt. He is tightly gripping the upper arm of his much taller and semi-unhappy girlfriend like he is ushering a drunk out of a bar or a child away from a fight.
In front of me is an 8 year old boy in a black Arkansas jersey and a cut up basketball fitted over his head with facial features glued on that look weirdly like sponge-bob.
The sports fields are brown and smooth and dormant and sparse flocks of small blackbirds dart overhead and I start thinking of old weather rhymes about “birds flying low . . . ”. Maybe it isn’t going to snow but it has that FEEL. It feels like winter, like the holidays, like football is done and it is time to focus on basketball season. I think I have a semi-chub.
My beloved hoop Hogs are up against the something or others from Florida A&M. A squad that, based on their unis, appears to fancy themselves a kind of Miami – lite. Orange with green trim. Is their a dude somewhere in the state of Florida constantly pushing for teams to wear these colors? I kinda get the green, what with all the trees and wetlands they pave over in that state every day, but ORANGE? They look like sherbet.
Right here today I am proposing that the state of florida get behind a new set of state sports colors. I am suggesting Gray and Yellow. The gray can represent concrete and highways and prisons and the hair of retirees. The yellow can be the sun and heat and the smell of urine that permeates Disneyworld on a 95 degree summer day.
Bud Walton is half full and there are few students. This is disappointing but it is a holiday weekend against a poor opponent and the Hogs are as yet a team that hasn’t caught the imagination of the public. I don’t see McDonald or Henry warming up. Criminy. Maybe we can join a 6’4” and under league.
Hog starters remain the same and it appears this won’t change in the foreseeable future. Clarke, Fortson, Welsh on the perimeter and Washington and Sanchez inside. Headbands regrettably remain in place on Stef and Mike Washington. Rotnei has a black lycra sleeve on his left (non – shooting) elbow and Stef has one on his right (shooting) elbow. Do they sell these in pairs? Did Stef and RC pool their cash to get one set? These questions will have to wait for the press conference.
FAMU appears to be pretty typical for early season fodder type clubs. They have the look of a very good juco team. Slightly short center with some skills hampered by an eating disorder. Teeny tiny point guard who actually isn’t a point guard but more of a 2. And you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a swingman.
Let’s play ball
Stef makes an early drive and gets blocked. His penetration has improved and he draws body ontact well but he isn’t a natural finisher yet. He is as confident with the ball as I have seen him.
Washington with a nice run out. He can really cover the whole floor quickly.
Looks like FAMU will use multiple defenses. Zone traps and some man. RC has a giy chasing him around that looks like he could slide right into the cast of “Little People, Big World”.
FAMU wants to run and shoot early in the clock. It will be interesting to see how we respond if McDonald and Henry are out as it appears.
FIRT TIMEOUT 4-5 FAMU LEADS
This might be a good time to mention that I am at the game alone. This happens from time to time. I go to movies alone too. Is it possible I am not well liked?
In this case the reason is the holiday. The whole clan is in Boston with my sister and her midgets. I was there for 2 days also but as I have a job I had to catch a flight home at 5am Friday morning. When I arrived in Boston late Tuesday my sister told me that she had a chance to get 7 really good tickets to the Celtics game Friday night. But they were expensive – like $200 a pop. She was wondering if maybe I could treat.
I told her that I wasn’t going to be there Friday night. She hesitated for about a half second then said “Well then you’d only have to pay for 6.”
I paid and they emailed pictures of their smiling faces from the game. I love family.
Brandon Moore is in early. Nice to see that he is gonna get some run, even if it is out of pure necessity. I have no idea if he can play but he LOOKS like a ball player and in the end isn’t that what really matters.
Hogs played really good man to man on that trip. I’m wondering if they have different calls for different levels of pressure on their man defense because about 1 out of every 3 trips we look like a really tough defensive team. Welsh and Fortson can become a FORMIDABLE perimeter defensive pair. But then we lapse and allow easy penetration and open jumpers. Young team.
Courtney with a nice 3. When he just catches, elevates and shoots he looks really, really good. He seems to have a little hitch just before his release when he is being more casual and loses his touch. It is obvious he has worked hard on the shot and it is paying off.
Andre Clark in.
Sanchez with a full blown double post move after catching it on the block. Didn’t finish but got fouled. That was good to see. He needs to start thinking like he owns the block on offense.
SECOND TIMEOUT 10-12 FAMU LEADS
It appears Sanchez has indeed gotten a haircut but impossibly it looks WORSE. Gracious!
RC transition layup after his man scored – nice recovery. Courtney with another 3. Dangerous! Kareem Reid comparison retracted fully.
Another defensive lapse. Those are just killers but I think they will become fewer and fewer. Dribble pop for Stef, very controlled.
HEY! We’re TRAPPING. We’re actually TRAPPING. Be still my heart.
RC misses a good look.
THIRD TIMEOUT 20-21 FAMU LEADS
Stef needs to dish quick after beating his man off the dribble.
Nice run here. RC 3. Andre Clark with a little bank shot.
LAST TIMEOUT 28-24 HOGS
The people in the courtside folding chairs get little bitty bottles of soda brought to them free. I feel like such a loser.
Nice dish Fortson to Britt.
Free Throw shooting is still not what it should be.
Sanchez needs to EXPLODE up to the hole when he gets the ball under the basket. He is doing a good job getting boards and establishing position and drawing fouls but he isn’t getting anywhere near finishing. He needs to get where he is dunking those while being fouled. He is playing very hard.
Moore runs the floor and gets fouled. He looked like a baller there.
Our press is chasing from behind. Getting steals and touches with the backflow as they say. I LOVE it. Britt, Welsh, RC, Fortson. All have done a nice job the last couple possessions.
HALFTIME 36-29 HOGS
First some notes and some questions.
Played with good pressure at times both half-court and full. Inconsistent but that is ok for now.
Where was Washington after the first minute? Mostly ineffective. Is his back still hurt?
Where is McDonald?
Stephen Cox played about 3 solid minutes and he doesn’t look out of place. Where does he rate in the pantheon of walkons? Below Scott Rose and Ernie Murray obviously but who else makes the walkon starting five. Jimmy Dykes? Eugene Nash? Suggestions please.
Sanchez is visibly tired at times. He needs help.
If I am alone in my house and watch an episode of “The Ghost Whisperer” from beginning to end, does that make me gay? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that)
Finally – Tom Cruise is PHENOMENAL in Tropic Thunder. I laughed out loud. I take back all the horrble things I have been saying about him since “Days of Thunder”.
Halftime entertainment includes the contest between students dribbling for layup and then hustling to sit down in a chair. Sort of hoop musical chairs. There is one blonde contestant with white teeth and white Uggs that is kinda cute. She is basking in the glow of her celebrity. She gets knocked out in 3rd place and waves to an appreciative crowd.
Moore starts the 2nd half – I’m worried about Washington’s back. Moore layup.
Moore shoots a 3 after standing there thinking about it for 5 minutes and squaring up 4 different times. He misses. It appears decision making may be one of the things that has been keeping him on the bench.
Washington is in. We have 3 straight turnovers.
Make it 4. Welsh with a charge. Ugh.
FIRST TIMEOUT 38-36 HOGS
Just want to point out a little quibble with the Bud Walton changes. Many of the seats now have cup holders. But the large sodas sold at the concession stand – the plastic cups – don’t fit in the holders. I’m just sayin’.
We look dead legged to open the 2nd half.
The dance squad has TWO brunettes today. Not sure if they brought in a back-up or if someone got a dye job. I’ll look into it and report back.
Sanchez has 3 fouls. Stef with a driving layup.
FAMU is starting to groove. 2 straight 3’s to take the lead. My prostate is irritated.
Courtney misses a 3 that looks kinda bad.
Washington misses a pair of tosses. Stef fighting hard on the boards. He is a surprisingly good rebounding guard at both ends.
Courtney has 3 fouls. Then he converts a BIG layup.
Washington with a follow layup and he is fouled. He is playing hard and it is obvious he is hurting.
SECOND TIMEOUT 49-45 HOGS
It’s time to impose our will on these little fellas, but our lack of depth is a serious problem.
Washington misses a FT but we get the board and he gets fouled again and makes both. He is living at the line.
Britt with a drive, draw and dish to MW. Very nice.
I haven’t mentioned Britt but he is playing well. Maybe his best game. Controlled. Good defense (mostly). Rebounding. Passing. God awful looking shot though.
Washington can’t even bend over to get a ball at his feet.
Britt runs the floor for a hoop and a foul.
Do teams travel with bimbos? FAMU has a couple of classic C+ grade bimbi behind the bench and I have noticed this is true of many teams. If teams DO travel with babes I think this would be something I would heavily promote in recruiting as it would be much cheaper than a practice facility.
MW to a cutting Britt. Great interior passing. Amazing how a little ball movement and court vision can get things going.
We’ve had like 33 free throws and they’ve had maybe 7. It’s good to be the king.
Britt MAKES a 3. Goodness!
THIRD TIMEOUT 62-50
There is a skinny, youngish dark haired guy in the courtside chairs with tinted eyeglasses, gel-spiked hair, small, pointy goatee and an oversized sportscoat that looks like a cartoon villain or maybe the guy in an action movie that stays behind and works magic on the computer while making amusing wisecracks.
Britt rebounds an RC miss. Courtney with a 3. Things rolling now.
Big time OOP to Andre Clark for a lefty jam. Wow.
Lefty layup from RC.
Andre is rebounding fairly well and he has a nice stroke at the line. He has 7 points.
Our defense is doing a better job of talking to each other.
Andre Clark walks like he has a groin rash that is chafing or perhaps some large and uncomfortable hemorrhoids.
Clark gets a couple nice boards despite the chafing.
LAST TIMEOUT 77-56
Drive, draw and dish – Britt to Moore for a layup. Moore has 7.
Welsh is passing up shots so they can work on the young guys (Moore and Clark) trying to work in the post.
FINAL SCORE 86-61 HOGS WIN
It is still winter as I leave the game, maybe even a little more winter than before. A couple of 4 year olds are throwing a nerf football to each other and dropping every single pass. Every one. They will be sitting in courtside seats with goatees and sipping little sodas some day. Perhaps one will add a beret.
I’m walking a bit like Andre Clark due to my inflamed prostate making me feel as if I have been sodomized by a red hot fireplace poker but I’m a baller so a play through it. It’s all good anyway. I have no idea what to think of this team. They are inconsistent and soft but young and improving and full of potential. That is the beauty of early winter. It is full of hope.