Tar Heel Fan

Friday, March 24, 2006

Great Finishes

Aside from the Duke-LSU game, which in reality, was a horrible game to watch from the perspective of good basketball, two other Tournament games last night provided sensational endings. In Atlanta, Texas and West Virginia played a classic. Texas led by 12 at halftime but West Virginia on hot three point shooting got back in the game. As the game neared its conclusion, Texas led 71-68 and West Virgnia had the ball. They find Kevin Pittsnogle for the three pointer to tie the game with 5 seconds left. Now here is one of the great dilemmas in college basketball. Do you call timeout and set a play or do you immediately inbound the ball and try to get a shot off while the defense is somewhat scattered. Coaches and analysts alike are pretty evenly split on which option is the best one. I happen to think that if you have a quality veteran point guard then skip the timeout and let him run with it, especially if it is a tie game. Texas' Rick Barnes did exactly that and point guard P.J. Tucker quickly brought the ball up and found Kenton Paulino for a three pointer as time expired. Texas wins 74-71. Hope is still alive in my bracket. However, as thrilling as that game was, the Gonzaga-UCLA game was even better. Gonzaga was up by as much as 17 points and with 3:13 left in the game led by nine at 71-62. That would be all the points Gonzaga would score the rest of the way. UCLA started chipping away at the lead as Gonzaga would go 0-6 over the final three minutes including three missed shots by POY candidate Adam Morrison. UCLA eventually close the lead to 71-70 with 20 seconds left in the game. What followed next was nothing short of incredible. UCLA put on a full court press following a made free throw. Gonzaga inbounds to Adam Morrison in the right corner and he is immediately double teamed. Now, at this point, even with the clock running down, UCLA players do something that I think other players in the same situation should have done in every close game in the past two weeks: they played tough defense without fouling. There have been multiple games where a team needed to get the ball back and either they foul right away or fail to simply use good defense to force the turnover. In this case Morrison is trapped in the corner, so instead of fouling, the Bruins players simply hold their hands straight up and force him to lob as pass out. The pass goes J.P. Batista off the foul line who is immediately besieged by two Bruins defenders. Do they foul him? No, they actually make a play for the ball because Batista is holding it out in front of him while looking around a for his point guard who IS STANDING WIDE OPEN BEHIND HIM UNDER THE BASKET!!! In fact Batista would have been better off to throw the ball up in the air towards his basket rather than stand there holding it out where it could be easily picked out of his hands. Which is exactly what UCLA's Jordan Farmar did. Farmar then catches a streaking Luc Richard Mbouh a Moute(wow, that is a mouthful) going to the basket for a layup with four seconds left. Gonzaga panics, throw the ball to midcourt where it is intercepted by UCLA and tied up for a jump ball. UCLA has the possession arrow, gets fouled and makes 1 of 2 free throws with 1.9 seconds left. Gonzaga throws the ball the length of the court to Batista who takes a valiant shot at the basket from 15 feet and misses off the backboard. UCLA wins 73-71. CBS announcer Gus Johnson has perhaps the best call of the tournament as UCLA gets the jump ball with four seconds left by exclaiming, "Are you kidding me?!?!" That is an often used phrase but in that moment it seemed proper and added to the annals of March Madness. And Adam Morrison provided us with the brutal reminder of how crushing these games can be as he starting breaking down when UCLA got the jump ball and then collapsed the floor in tears when the game ended. I guess we know which clip they will be using in One Shining Moment for the line, "When it's done, win or lose"

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