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

TIPOFF

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.

SECOND HALF

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.)

JCK

2 comments

  1. Hayden Hodges // December 18, 2008 at 9:54 AM  

    Nicely done. Great read as always.

    This part is hilarious:

    (Referring to the Cheerleaders)

    "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."

  2. DoubleK // December 21, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

    I'm glad I wasn't the only one wishing that one of those Memphis Grizzly dunkers would have slammed into the backboard or busted a nose on the rim.
    I would have been much more inclined to clap and cheer if one of them was still doing flips and dunking while his broken nose gushed with blood all the while.