Anyone else want to MmmBop Kelly Olynyk in the face this morning?
Good morning and Happy Thursday, Cougs! Some game last night, huh? In case you missed it (or also missed Sean's morning post), the Cougar men's hoopers fell to 10th ranked (!) Gonzaga lastnight 71-69 in front of a rowdy crowd at Beasley Coliseum. I see you, Zzu Cru. You know it was a strange game when it led to me kicking off a recap post by searching for pictures of Isaac Hanson. You see, somewhere along the line, Kelly Olynyk of the Zags decided he should look exactly like the eldest brother from Hanson circa 1998. Additionally, at some point last night, he became a real thorn in the Cougs' sides to the tune of 22 second half points. As such, I am now openly loathsome of one Kelly Olynyk. For more of my thoughts on one helluva ball game in Pullman last night, please continue reading. Pretty please.
Let's attack last night's action with bullet points. I'm typing with a splint on my thumb today, which kinda stinks (yes, this is a thinly veiled excuse to avoid things like narrative and sentence structure).
Is it just me, or has Elias Harris officially reached, "Whoa he's still in college?!" status? It turns out he is a senior, but it feels like he's been a Zag for a solid 7 years. It also felt like he could have scored 40 last night had he felt so inclined. I'm an unabashed DJ Shelton fan, he was no match for Harris defensively. When the Cougs did ultimately start to double him, it led to open threes and more devastatingly later, the Kelly Olynyk onslaught.
The ESPNU commentators last night were Miles Simon and some dude named Roxy. I thought one of those names was funny, but I won't say which one because that would be mean.
Before things turn south on the Ken Bone analysis front, he deserves huge credit for one of his moves last night. The Cougs came out defensively playing man-to-man,and more importantly, had Dexter Kernich-Drew guarding Kevin Pangos (yeah, that dude who hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 3's on us last year). DKD's length completely neutralized Pangos and his awful fu-manchu. Props to Coach Bone for giving this coaching thing a whirl.
Mark Few's not too shabby himself. Noting the Cougs' lack of a ball handler, aggressive ball pressure was the name of the game. Those Zags are relentless defensively, largely because they have the depth to be able to do it. Even during the Cougs' strong start, the Zags were able to get easy buckets from steals.
Some people hate Will DiIorio *cough Nusser cough*. Some people appreciate him for what he brings to the table (energy, I guess?). I appreciate him for running the single strangest fast break I've ever seen. With an open path to the basket, DiIorio stopped, waited for a few seconds, and still somehow uncovered, tossed up an 18 footer that wasn't close. It may not have been good basketball, but it was good performance art, and I enjoyed it.
It's said that basketball is a game of runs. Midway through the first half, Wazzu unleashed a 12-0 run that ensured the Zzu Cru would be going bat-poop crazy for the remainder of the night. It was great to see.
You know what sucks about hitting half-time buzzer beaters? Nothing. They're awesome.
I have a beef with the sport of basketball. Block/charge situations are a total crapshoot and they make watching 1.8% less fun. The Zags lived up to the stereotype of using a scrappy-white-guy-who-takes-charges, giving Mike Hart significant minutes. This played right into the hands of the incompetent officials who called block/charges several different ways, but seemingly never the right way. I don't know what can be done about this, but I find it annoying.
At some point during the second half, Coach Bone must have felt Gonzaga needed some wide open three's and offensive rebounds so he put the Cougs into the vaunted Bone Zone. The effect was immediate, as the Zags did in fact start having wide open three's and a bunch of offensive rebounds. And some of you think Ken Bone can't make adjustments to impact a game. (In fairness, the move was likely made to combat fatigue, but still.)
Speaking of defense, Brock Motum is an abysmal pick-and-roll defender. I love the guy (perhaps to a degree that some may label "inappropriate"), but there were times when it looked like he simply didn't know what to do defensively. Much of Olynyk's 22 point second half barrage was the result of easy buckets rolling to the hoop. Also, it was the result of being a damn giant.
On the other hand, I love Brock Motum. What he and DaVonte Lacy did to shoot the Cougs back into the game was remarkable. There were a few different times where it looked like it was time to trot out the "Good job, good effort" and rest on the laurels of our moral victory. Lacy and Motum made sure it wouldn't happen until the bitter end. I'm glad those dudes are on our side. On top of the big shots, each of them is working on cementing his legacy alongside Deangelo Casto in the Firing Up the Zzu Cru Hall of Fame.
It had to be Pangos. On a night that the "Pangos just hit another three" meme looked to meet its demise, the kid made a terrific play and a tough shot to get the win. I tip my hat.
All in all, it was a fantastic game and a great effort by the Cougs. That's a funny word, effort. I suspect you'll be hearing it a lot this season, as the Cougar coaching staff has been praising it already. Looking at the roster, you'd be hard pressed to say this team will blow by anyone with talent, but we'll have to ride out the death by 100 scrappy plays approach. It certainly makes these guys pretty easy to root for. There's an argument about whether intangibles like effort, heart and desire are ultimately the difference in winning sporting events or if their just fun buzzwords for old-timey commentators. On the other side of the argument, there are metrics and words like skill and efficiency. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but I'm not sure you can watch events like Apple Cup 2012 or last night's basketball game and not come away thinking that even an overmatched team that is playing with inspiration and an assist from a raucous crowd can find success.