There's a favorite soap opera of mine that I enjoy watching while at the gym. You may have heard of it in fact, The Young and the Restless. No, of course I don't actually watch the show, but the title transitions us nicely into the metaphor I'm about to make involving the Pac-12 Conference.
Aside from the top three teams in the league (Arizona, Utah, Stanford-and as we'll see, even they included), each club fits into either the "young" or the "restless" category. The parody from all-around the league has been tremendous to watch, but may not exactly produce tremendous results; only three teams (the three of whom are mentioned above) are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament.
Wednesday, Jan. 28
Arizona State 73 (11-10, 3-5), Oregon State 55 (14-6, 5-3): This game represents the ultimate summation of what the Pac-12 has been about all season long. It made no sense because it was a blow out, and not just because it was a blow out, but by who did the mauling, and who the victim was.
Jon Gilling and Bo Barnes may not be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they're the Splash Bros. of the Pac-12. Each would knock home three three-pointers off the bench, while the Sun Devils as a team would sink nine. The Beavers would attempt just nine (making only two).
Four different players would score in double-figures for ASU, who oddly controlled this one from the tip. Led by Shaquielle McKissic's 17-point effort, the Sun Devils blew the doors off what appears to be a more than competent OSU squad.
On the Beavers side, they couldn't have had a worse start to their Arizona road trip. With a trip to Tucson on the horizon, despite Gary Payton II's 23 points, they were hammered hard on the road. Outside of he, Malcolm Duvivier, and Jarmal Reid, the team combined for all of five points.
#6 Arizona 90 (19-2, 7-1), Oregon 56 (14-7, 4-4): The trend of the night in the desert was clearly mauling's. All five Arizona starters, along with Gabe York off the bench, would score in double figures as the Wildcats obliterated the Ducks.
Shooting nearly 60 per cent from the field by the time the game was over, Stanley Johnson had another coming out party, going for 12 points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals as he reaped the benefits of his team completely outclassing Oregon.
To put it simply: Oregon didn't play much defense, and neglected to score, as well. Elgin Cook would put forth a 16-point, seven-rebound effort, but the team assisted on only nine shots all evening, making it quite difficult to dig out of a 35-point hole.
Stanford 84 (15-5, 6-2), Washington 74 (14-6, 3-5): This one struck me as a major opportunity for Washington to find some of their mojo again, especially amongst the negativity surrounding the program following Robert Upshaw's departure.
Even though the Huskies battled tooth and nail throughout this one, their 24-point first half handcuffed them. In addition, it became difficult to match up with Stefan Nastic down low, while Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown had wide open slashing lines due to the loss of Upshaw at the basket.
Brown would lead all scorers, showing out with 23 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Teammate Chasson Randle would join him in the 20-point club with five rebounds and five assists to go along with it. The trio for the Cardinal once again proved too much to slow down on the offensive end.
The Huskies would have five different players (Nigel Williams-Goss, Mike Anderson, Quevyn Winters, Shawn Kemp Jr., Darin Johnson) in double-figures, but couldn't pick up the slack defensively. Despite Williams-Goss's flirtation with yet another triple-double (17 points, seven rebounds, seven assists), it was too little, too late for UW.
Thursday, Jan. 29
Colorado 98 (11-9, 4-4), USC 94 (9-11, 1-7) (3 OT): What a game. It was definitely not contested between the two best teams in this league, but this Colorado-USC showdown will go down as an instant classic.
The game literally oozed drama. There were three 30-point scorers, one 40-point scorer, three overtimes, an undetermined number of USC crucial mistakes in waning moments; it was pandemonium in its most beautiful sense.
Askia Booker nearly redefined what it meant to heat check. In his 51 minutes of playing time, he poured in an obscene 43 points. It helped that he would go 13-for-15 from the free throw stripe, but it seemed that nearly every offensive possession in overtime found it's way into his hands for the shot. His running lay-up as the second overtime closed sent the game to it's third extra frame where he'd put the finishing touches on the game from the free throw stripe-fittingly.
Nearly lost in the madness was the Trojans' own long-range sniper. Katin Reinhardt was otherworldly from deep on Thursday, knocking down nine threes, pouring in 35 points in total. To say that he wouldn't be able to carry his team to victory would be unfair to the sensational effort he put forth, but the Trojans as a unit did indeed come up just four points, or one defensive stop, short of pulling out their most thrilling win of the season.
Here are some absurd stats I found concerning the game that I liked: the Buffaloes somehow assisted on only eight buckets the entire contest. They played 55 minutes of basketball, scored 98 points, and had eight assists; both teams combined saw six players foul out of this contest, with there being three on each side; the total number of personal fouls was equal to the number of buckets made by both teams combined (61). It was a mind-numbing showcase from Pasadena on Thursday, but what a show it was.
UCLA 69 (12-9, 4-4), #11 Utah 59 (16-4, 6-2): Bill Walton on the call and look at what happens. Coincidence? I think not.
Maybe even more impressive than the fact that the Bruins actually won, was how they won. Their defense was actually quite efficient, but not nearly as much as the offensive end where they turned the ball over only six times. Bryce Alford alone had more assists than that (seven).
Even with no double double from Kevon Looney, the rest of the UCLA squad picked up the slack. Norman Powell had a game-high 23 points, to go with actual contribution off the bench from Thomas Welsh in his 13 minutes of play where he scored seven points and grabbed two rebounds.
If I'm the Utes, I'm not too concerned about this one. UCLA was playing with it's backs literally pinned to the walls, and they came out and nabbed a much better than average Utes squad. Jordan Loveridge being in foul trouble can't happen every single game, so ignore his three point, 1-for-8 shooting effort over 20 minutes. Utah will be more than fine, and it seems the Bruins have a pulse.
California 76 (12-9, 2-6), Washington State 67 (9-11, 3-5): In what seemed like a must-win for the Cal Bears, they nudged out a victory just in the knick of time for when they had to.
Closing the game on a 12-2 run when they trailed with less than four minutes to play, Cal got all nine points Jordan Mathews would score the entire night in the game's most critical moments. Teammate Tyrone Wallace would do the heavy lifting for the other 36 minutes, knocking down 10 of his 17 shots from the floor, finishing with 26 points and seven rebounds.
By now, you know the Cougars. A double double from Josh Hawkinson, a bunch of scoring from DaVonte Lacy, and then a whole bunch of nothingness. If there's any solace to take, it's that they took care of the ball much better, turning it over only seven times. Unfortunately, they shot just over 33 per cent from the field; maybe it would have been better had they turned it over.