Monday, January 31, 2011

Thompson leads Cougars to 87-80 upset win over 18th ranked Huskies



By Kshell

The Washington State Cougars(15-6,5-4) finally got that much needed big win under Ken Bone. The Cougars defeated cross state rival #18 Washington Huskies(15-5,7-2) 87-80 in front of a raucous crowd at Friel Court in Pullman. For the first time for any player on the Cougars roster they finally defeated the Huskies. Klay Thompson lead the Cougars with 25 points which is a far cry from his previous four games where he scored just 29 points total. I documented his struggles right here the other night against the Huskies. He turned those struggles around against the Huskies and it was the Huskies who struggled against the Cougars. The Cougars won a very important game to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. As for the Huskies they remain in first place in the Pac-10 at the conclusion of the first half of the Pac-10 schedule.

In the first half the Huskies got plenty of help from their role players. The Huskies were attacking the zone against the Cougars. At one point the Huskies had hit 5-11 from three point range to extend their lead to 37-33. That would be the last lead the Huskies would hold. The Cougars would start playing lockdown defense on the Huskies and go on a run going up 45-41. Before the half ended Isaiah Thomas drove to the hole and was knocked down by DeAngelo Casto with 0.3 seconds left. Thomas would sink both free throws to pull the Huskies within two points trailing 45-43. That play was important as Casto picked up his third foul of the half. The Cougars led by Klay Thompson finally scored in double figures against the Huskies had 11 points on 5-10 shooting, Casto had 11 points on five for nine shooting and grabbed five rebounds, and newcomer Faisal Aden had 10 poitns on 4-10 shooting including two three pointers.


The Huskies were led by their role players in the first half as their two stars struggled. Isaiah Thomas who didn't hold back when dissing on the city of Pullman also missed all seven field goal attempts in the first half scoring just four points. Matthew Bryan-Amaning also struggled scoring just four points while missing four of six free throws. The Huskies were bailed out by Darnell Gant who scored nine points on three for four shooting including a three poitner. Gant also had three rebounds and three assists off the bench. The Huskies also had Scott Suggs who scored seven points on three for four shooting including a three and Terrence Ross who scored eight points on three for seven shooting including two threes help lead the Huskies. Justin Holiday scored seven points with four rebounds but shot just one for five from three point range.

It was hard to imagine the Huskies only being down two points with Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning shooting a combined 1-12 in the first half. The Cougars were also shooting 47.2% from the field compared to the Huskies 40.5% from the field. The Huskies were in the game due to 20 rebounds to only nine by the Cougars. The Huskies owned the glass with seven offensive rebounds. The Huskies were poised to have a big second half unfortunately the Cougars had other plans.


The second half began well for the Huskies. With Thomas driving to the rim constantly Casto picked up his fourth foul and Thompson picked up his third foul. The Cougars had to sit their two best players. That is when everyone figured a big run was going to happen. The problem for the Huskies is it was the Cougars who went on the run going on a 10-1 run to take a 55-44 lead. The Huskies would often pull within four or five points but could never get a key stop to pull any closer. Whenever the Huskies would cut the lead down the Cougars would often hit a wide open three point shot or get a bucket plus the foul. The Cougars finally inserted their two stars Thompson and Casto to put the game away. The Cougars had upset the Huskies 87-80 and the fans stormed the court like they had just won the national championship.

For the Cougars nobody on this roster had ever beaten the Huskies. This is easily the biggest win of the Ken Bone era who used to be a former Huskies assistent coach. Klay Thompson who had struggled in the past finally shined in his fifth carer game against the Huskies. Thompson scored 25 points on 9-18 shooting including hitting three three pointers. Thompson also added four assists and five steals to lead the Cougars upset. He received help from his teammates as well. Reggie Moore from Rainier Beach scored 18 points on four for eight shooting while Faisal Aden scored 15 points on 6-17 shooting. The Cougars shot 30-62(48.4%) from the field and 8-17 from downtown(47.1%). The only thing the Cougars did wrong was from the free throw line shooting 19-30(63.3%) but the Cougars made up for it with good team ball. The Cougars had an amazing 18 assists on their 30 made field goal attempts with just 12 turnovers. The Cougars also had 13 steals and three blocks on the day. Not often you brag about a team's defense when they allow 80 points but the Cougars defense did an exceptional job against the Huskies.


For the Huskies they have to be wondering how they lost this game. The Huskies had a great size advantage on the Cougars and dominated the glass outrebounding the Cougars 44-28 including 14 offensive rebounds. The Cougars main big man DeAngelo Casto sat most of the second half before fouling out having played just 21 minutes. The Huskies also had the Cougars in the double bonus with 10 minutes to go in the game. The Huskies were actually making their free throws too this game shooting 15-17(88.2%) in the second half on free throws. You would have thought the Huskies would have pounded the ball inside to Matthew Bryan-Amaning but instead the Huskies shot 31 three point field goal attempts making just 11.

The Huskies couldn't and especially Bryan-Amaning couldn't take advantage of their size. Bryan-Amaning who has been terrific in Pac-10 play this season finished just one for eight shooting for six points but did grab 11 rebounds. The Huskies decided to settle for three point shots as Isiah Thomas was the only one driving the lane. Thomas missed his first 10 field goals before finally hitting his last three shots. Thomas finished 3-13 with 19 points and five assists. Thomas was also 11 for 12 from free throws and did make two three pointers. Thomas also had seven turnovers on the game as he played 37 minutes at the point. The other main Husky scoring option didn't play very well either in Justin Holiday who finished with 16 points but just 4-12 shooting including 2-7 on three point shots. Holiday did collect a career high 12 rebounds including five offensive. Unlike the previous four games against Thompson he struggled to slow down Thompson today. The role players for the Huskies shined with Terrence Ross scoring 14 points on 5 for 10 shooting including four for eight on three pointers, Scott Suggs scored 12 points on 5-12 shooting in 35 minutes made just two for seven from three point range and Darnell Gant finished with nine points with a season high seven rebounds. The Huskies got great efforts from their bench but when your three stars combined to shoot 8-33(24.2%) from the field that is hard to win.

The Huskies also didn't take care of the ball enough to win as well. The Huskies turned the ball over 24 times to just 12 assists. The Huskies shot miserable too making just 23-62(37.1%) from the field and 11-31(35.5%) from threes. The Huskies did make 23-29(79.3%) from their free throws the lone positive of the game. The Huskies failed to take advantage of the Cougars foul trouble and go inside. The Huskies didn't play their best ball at all but only lost by seven points on the road.

All in all this will be a tough loss to swallow for the Huskies. Lorenzo Romar I'm sure didn't draw up a gameplan that including half the field goal attempts to be three point shots. The Huskies often times gave up easy threes and could never hit that open three point shot to make things interesting. The Huskies still went 7-2 in the first half of the Pac-10 season and are tied for first place. The Huskies must learn from this loss and use this loss to their advantage. This win is also dangerous for the Cougars as they reacted as if they won the National Championship. Still plenty of work to be done in Pullman as the Cougars are scratching and clawing their way into the NCAA tournament. Should be a fun second half of the season just remember Cougar fans you still have to come to Hec Ed where the Huskies have lost just three times the past three seasons.

Observations:
- I'll never understand why the Huskies didn't try to go inside. I know Bryan-Amaning was off but the Huskies were in the double bonus. The Cougars already lacking size had Casto on the bench whole second half yet the Huskies let the Cougars off the hook.

Thomas despite playing poorly was the only one who drove to the rim to draw those fouls. The Huskies with 10 minutes to go would get two free throws which they were making tonight everytime the Cougars fouled them didn't take advantage. Instead the Huskies settled for three point shots which of course nobody found a hot streak. The Huskies began the game 5-11 from three point shots but finished ice cold connecting on just 6-20 from beyond the arc.

This seems to be a trend for the Huskies in their losses this year which is jack up threes, get no assists while turning the ball over like crazy. Against Kentucky the Huskies shot 3-13(23.1%) from three point range while turning the ball over 14 times to just nine assists. Against Michigan State the Huskies shot 6-15(40.0%) from three point range while turning the ball over 15 times to just 13 assists. Against Texas A & M the Huskies shot 6-22(27.3%) from three point range, turned the ball over 20 times to just 11 assists. Against Stanford the Huskies shot 8-26(30.8%) from three point range with 14 turnovers to just 11 assists. Then today the Huskies shot 11-31(35.5%) from three point range, with 24 turnovers to just 12 assists.

If you add it all up in the Huskies five losses on the year they are shooting just 34-107(31.8%) from three point range. The Huskies in their defeats have turned the ball over 87 times to just 56 assists which is easy to see why the Huskies lost those games. When you aren't taking care of the ball and jacking up three makes it very difficult to win the game.



- Thomas didn't play his best game today that is pretty safe to say. He missed his first 10 field goal attempts of the game including some easy layups. He also turned the ball over seven times today. He also never quit playing hard which is expected of him.

Thomas despite all that drove the lane hard. He basically fouled out Casto and was a big reason why Thompson had to sit so long. Thomas was also 11-12(91.7%) from the free throw line today. Thomas was the only one being agressive and going to the hole. While his teammates were busy jacking up three point shots, Thomas was driving to set up his teammates who ultimately let him down today.

Thomas also needs help badly at the point guard position. He played 37 minutes while mostly running the point. With Abdul Gaddy being injured for the season and Venoy Overton being a no show his Senior year it is all on Thomas. Having a healthy Gaddy would have been nice in a game like today. A taller guard who can dribble the ball and shoot the three point shot. Instead Thomas had to play 37 minutes and Suggs played 35 minutes who also had five turnovers. Thomas needs help or some team in March who is more athletic than the Cougars will put a bigger guy on Thomas. The Cougars put Klay Thompson on Thomas at first and it appeared to have worked.

Overall back to the drawing board for the Huskies. Both the Huskies and Cougars have completed the hardest parts of their schedule since the California road trip is over. For the Huskies they have five games at home plus four on the road(three of which are the bottom feeders of the Pac-10). The Huskies will only be an underdog in one more regular season game rest of the way. That game will be at Arizona on February 19th which will play a big part in who wins the Pac-10 championship. As for the Cougars they sit at 5-4 in conference trying to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in the Klay Thompson era. The Cougars will have a tougher second half since they are only 1-3 in Pac-10 play on the road while still having to go to Arizona and Washington. The Cougars have a great chance this week in Oregon to gain some road confidence.

In conclusion the Huskies don't need to press any panic buttons. The Huskies are still the most talented team and experienced team in the conference. The Huskies are tied for first place and are in great shape going forward. The Huskies are in a position to play in the March Madness NCAA tournament for the third straight season. The Huskies however must stop jacking up three point shots all the time and run an offense. The Huskies have to take care of the ball as they are averaging over 17 turnovers a game in their losses. I think the Huskies should be able to go on a five game winning streak which should put them at 12-2 in the conference heading into the showdown game at Arizona. After that game the Huskies close out with three home games in a row. So as the Cougars celebrated today like they won the NCAA championship they must remember it is the Huskies who still remain in first place. It is the Huskies not the Cougars who control their own destiny to win the Pac-10 championship. Also memo to the Cougars you still have a return trip to Seattle on February 27th. I'm sure the Huskies will remember the way your fans behaved tonight. Isaiah Thomas already stated he is taking mental notes so beware of the dawgpack my Cougar friends.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Apple Cup preview on the hardwood!



By Kshell

The #18 Washington Huskies(15-4,7-1) travel to Pullman this Sunday to take on the Washington State Cougars(14-6,4-4) in a very important Pac-10 game for both teams. This game is important for both teams for two very different reasons. For the Washington Huskies this game is important to keep their one game lead over the Arizona Wildcats. The Huskies are seeking their second conference championship in three seasons. For the Cougars this game is important to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The Cougars have missed the NCAA tournament the past two seasons. The Huskies head into this rivalry with a four game winning streak over the Cougars which features players who have plenty of experience in this big game.



For the Cougars the experience in this Apple Cup series hasn't been very kind to them. The Cougars don't have a single player on their current roster who has ever beaten the Huskies. In fact their best players have typically had poor games against the Washington Huskies. The Cougars are led by super Junior Klay Thompson who is having a monster season. Thompson this year is averaging 22.2 points per game, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 46.2% from the field. He is also averaging 1.9 steals a game and 1.1 blocks per game. There is a reason why Thompson's name often comes up for Pac-10 player of the year talk. Thompson has been terrific as a Cougar but in the apple cup he has been dreadful. Thompson has scored just 29 points(7.3 points per game) while shooting 10-47(21.2%) from the field. For the Cougars to pull off the upset and keep their tourney hopes alive they must get a better game out of Thompson. Thompson is the only Cougar who has struggled against the Huskies.

No Cougar on this current roster has tasted success against the Huskies. DeAngelo Casto had a big game against the Huskies in a 59-52 loss in Pullman last season. Casto in that game scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds while shooting 8-16 from the field. That was a good game for Casto unfortunately for him in his previous three apple cups he scored just 14 points(4.7 points per game) while grabbing just two rebounds a game. Marcus Capers in his freshman year didn't score a single point against the Huskies. As a sophomore he scored just 11 points while shooting 4-13(30.7%) in two games. Another Cougar who struggles was Reggie Moore who being from Seattle didn't make Lorenzo Romar regret not recruiting him. Moore in his first apple cup in Seattle scored 13 points on three for nine shooting but also turned the ball over eight times. In the rematch in Pullman Moore shot one for eight while scoring eight points but once again turned the ball over four times. The Cougars are trying to reverse a trend from the past two seasons against the Huskies who feature the same prominent players.



For the Huskies who have enjoyed great success over the Cougars the last two years have seen some major stars graduate. No longer is Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Quincy Pondexter around to help dominate the Cougars. It was only just two years ago the Huskies had to defeat their own demons snapping a seven game losing streak to the Cougars which spanned three years. The Huskies still feature plenty of older guys who have played plenty of games against the Cougars. This Huskies roster is an experienced group which features three Seniors and three Juniors. The Huskies will have three players making their apple cup debut but for the most part this is a veteran group.


The Husky who has had the most success against the Cougars is Isaiah Thomas who has success against everyone. Thomas like Thompson is a Pac-10 player of the year candidate averaging 16.9 points per game, dishing out 5.8 assists and grabbing 3.9 rebounds a game. Thomas is shooting 46.4% from the field on the year while getting 1.4 steals a game. Thomas in Pac-10 play has been lights out though averaging 18.5 points per game while dishing out 8.4 assists per game. Thomas has also shot 45-94(47.8%) from the field which shows he is having better shot selection. Thomas is playing his best ball of his career and against the Cougars has destroyed them in the past. In four career games which are all wins Thomas has scored 66 points(16.5 per game) while shooting 20-48(41.7%) from the field. Last year in Pullman Thomas scored 22 points on 7-15 shooting to help the Huskies keep their lead against the Cougars and prevent a second half collapse. Although they play different positions Thomas has emerged over Thompson in the four apple cup meetings which could play a role in determing the conference player of the year.



Other Huskies have had some success against the Cougars in a single game but overall not much success. Matthew Bryan-Amaning who started his great play last year had a big game in Pullman. Bryan-Amaning scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds while shooting 8-11 from the floor. Bryan-Amaning against the Cougars in Seattle which the Huskies won 92-64 scored nine points on four for six shooting. He out played Casto both games last season and has played great so far this year. Bryan-Amaning is averaging 16.2 points per game while grabbing 7.7 rebounds a game. He is also shooting 58.9% from the floor while blocking 1.4 shots a game. In Pac-10 play Bryan-Amaning has simply been dominating averaging 19.3 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game. He is also shooting 62 for 101(61.4%) from the field in Pac-10 play. Whoever wins the Bryan-Amaning/Casto matchup could determine the winner on Sunday.

Two other Huskies have had mixed results when playing the Cougars. First of all is Justin Holiday who has scored just 11 points (2.8 points per game) in the last four games against the Cougars which isn't good. Then you factor in Holiday wasn't much of a scorer before this season and that makes sense. Holiday also in the blowout game in Seattle grabbed 10 rebounds. As a sophomore he shot a perfect three for three against the Cougars helping the Huskies capture the Pac-10 championship. Holiday is a big reason why Klay Thompson has struggled so much. Another player is Venoy Overton who against the Cougars in Seattle had six points and seven assists last year and was a big reason for Reggie Moore turning the ball over eight times. Overton was huge in the Huskies 67-60 win over the Cougars two years ago that clinched the Pac-10 regular season title scoring 14 poitns on three for five shooting. The Huskies need more from Overton and Holiday if they expect to win in a tough hostile environment.



Lorenzo Romar will be facing off with good friend Ken Bone who Romar has never lost to. Romar is 5-0(3-0 when Bone was at Portland State, 2-0 at WSU) all-time against Ken Bone. Romar has seen this rivalry have it's ups and downs. While at Washington Romar 9-8 all-time against the Cougars. Romar is currently on a four game winning streak against the Cougars after suffering seven straight losses to the Cougars which was coming off a four game winning streak against the Cougars. In fact these teams haven't split a season series since Romar's first year in 2002-03 season. Typically one team has the upper hand for a few years at a time.

This game is pretty important for both teams. For the Cougars a possible NCAA tournament berth is at stake. For the Huskies a possible Pac-10 championship is on the line. If the Huskies win Sunday at Pullman it would appear they would be favored in eight of their remaining nine games by a big margain. Also you have the individual wars between Isaiah Thomas against Klay Thompson who are both going for best player in the conference. Both players have given the other team bulletin board material. First Thompson said Derrick Williams is the best player in the conference over Thomas. Thomas later in the week dissed on Pullman wondering why anyone would ever go there. I'm sure Pullman will lay into Thomas and Overton on Sunday. Then you have the big man battle between Matthew Bryan-Amaning and DeAngelo Casto. All these matchups between two pretty good teams. You can tell this isn't football anymore as both teams haven plenty to play for. Just remember there is a rematch in Seattle which should be fun. The atmosphere will be great in Pullman this Sunday. This game is a huge game for both teams for two very different reasons.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bryan-Amaning scores career high in #20 Huskies 88-75 win over Sun Devils


By Kshell

The #20 Washington Huskies(15-4,7-1) were able to avoid the upset at home to the Arizona State Sun Devils(9-10,1-6) by winning 88-75. The Huskies were able to overcome the hot shooting of the Sun Devils due to Matthew Bryan-Amaning scoring a career high 30 points. Bryan-Amaning scored a career high 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds along with Isaiah Thomas who scored 19 points and dished out eight assists helped keep the Huskies in first place. The Huskies may have looked past this opponent after defeating Arizona Wildcats in a big game on Thursday but the Huskies are lucky to have survived this game with a win.

In the first half the Huskies couldn't stop the Sun Devils from scoring as the Sun Devils scored 39 first half points. Thankfully for Husky fans Matthew Bryan-Amaning scored 16 points in the first half to give the Huskies a 40-39 lead at halftime. Bryan-Amaning scored the Huskies 10 of their first 13 points in the first half. He finished the half shooting six of nine from the field including a perfect four for four from the free line. Isaiah Thomas helped Bryan-Amaning out in the first half scoring nine points, grabbing four rebounds and dishing out two assists. Thomas shot just two for five including a thre pointer but was four for five from three point range. Freshman Terrence Ross scored six points both on three point shots. The Huskies shot 14-28(50.0%) from the field but just 3-10(30.0%) from three point range. The Huskies were 9-11(81.8%) from the foul line.


The Huskies were only up one point and found themselves trailing 33-25 because the Sun Devils were red hot. The Sun Devils were led by Ty Abbott who had 13 points on four for six shooting including hitting all three three point attempts. Trent Lockett scored nine points on four for five shooting. The Sun Devils shot an outstanding 15-29(51.7%) from the field including five of eight from three point range. The Sun Devils were matching the Huskies point for point in the first half and unlike previous teams this year they kept that pace in the second half.

In the second half the Huskies were in a battle. Typically the Huskies will blow out opponents in the second half but today wasn't the case. Bryan-Amaning and Thomas continued to carry the team in the second but it was a couple of role players who provided big shots for the Huskies in the second half. With the scored tied at 63 with under six minutes left in the game C.J. Wilcox who has been in a month long slump drilled a three pointer to give the Huskies the lead. Venoy Overton would score a layup to give the Huskies a 68-63 lead that they wouldn't look back on. After two huge crucial three pointers by Scott Suggs late in the game the Huskies held on for the 88-75 win.


Bryan-Amaning in the second half scored 14 points on five for seven shooting and like the first half was perfect four for four from the foul line. Bryan-Amaning grabbed six rebounds in the second half to finish the game with nine rebounds. Thomas scored 10 points on three for six shooting and was four for five at the foul line in the second half. Thomas was able to find his teammates better in the second half as well. After having just two assists first half Thomas had six assists in the second half. Scott Suggs added six points in the second half hitting both three pointers. Wilcox finished with five points all in the second half. The Huskies shot 17-29(58.6%) from the field in the second half and considering they were just 3-10 from three point range that means they were 14-19(73.7%) on two point field goals.

For the game the Huskies survived hot shooting from the Sun Devils who shot 26-52(50.0%) from the field and 9-15(60.0%) from three point field goals. The Sun Devils had two 20 point performances from Ty Abbott who added 20 points and Trent Lockett who also scored 20 points. In the end the Huskies showed why they are the best team in the conference. They took on the Sun Devils best game of the year and still won by 13 points thank to Bryan-Amaning scoring a career high 30 points. Thomas finished with 19 points, eight assists and six rebounds including three steals. The Huskies also got 10 points from Scott Suggs, Six points from Terrence Ross and five points from C.J. Wilcox. The Huskies had just five points from Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton. Overton did have five assists to just one turnover and somehow recorded two blocks.

The Huskies now improve to 7-1 in Pac-10 play for the first time in the Lorenzo Romar era. The Huskies are clearly the best team in the conference and that isn't even up for debate. When the Huskies play to their capabilities nobody in this conference can beat this team espcially at Hec Ed. When the Huskies are featuring Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Isaiah Thomas is doing what he does best which is help his teammates out the Huskies can win. The Huskies won today despite their opponent shooting 50.0% from the field and 60.0% from three point range. The Huskies won today despite Justin Holiday scoring just five points. The Huskies won because they have two of the best players in the conference in Thomas and Bryan-Amaning. Thomas is the best player in the conference right now and is playing his best ball of his career(More on him later). Romar has to be happy with his team so far this year as this is probably his most balanced team he has ever had.

Observations:

- Although Isaiah Thomas had a huge week this week I think his teammate Matthew Bryan-Amaning will win Pac-10 player of the week. For the week Bryan-Amaning averaged 24 points per game, grabbed eight rebounds a game and blocked 2.5 shots a game. He also shot 18-29(62.1%) from the field and also made 12-16(75.0%) from the foul line.

Bryan-Amaning is having a terrific Senior season which usually happens under Romar. Bryan-Amaning in Pac-10 play is now averaging 19.3 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game. He is also shooting 62 for 101(61.4%) from the field in Pac-10 play. Bryan-Amaning is having a monster year and has stepped up his game in Pac-10 play.


- Isaiah Thomas for the seventh straight game had at least seven assists or more. Thomas in those seven games is averaging 9.1 assists per game. He is racking up assists while still maintaining a high scoring average. He is averaging 19.7 points per game during that stretch. His scoring has increased and he is helping his teammates score.

Thomas showed this week why he is the best Pac-10 player right now today. Derrick Williams may have a brighter NBA future but for college Thomas right now today is the best player in the conference. Thomas emergence has allowed Bryan-Amaning to dominate the Pac-10 like he has. Bryan-Amaning mainly has to just catch the ball and have an easy dunk or lay up.

- The role players of Scott Suggs, C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross finally all played well together in the same game. Suggs finally had a good game as a starter. Suggs scored 10 points on two for two shooting from three point range in the second half. He is currently leading the Pac-10 in three point field goal percentage. Safe to say Suggs should be shooting more.

Terrence Ross scored six points in the first half hitting two threes. While other freshman C.J. Wilcox who has been MIA for a month it feels like finally hit a huge three pointer to break the tie. Wilcox added five points for the Huskies.

The Huskies don't need much from these three guys just for them to contribute. They don't need to go off but if each guy can knock down some threes and play smart out there that is huge. These three guys combined had 21 points and most importantly hit five three pointers.

All in all the Huskies should win this conference for the second time in three years. The Huskies have two of the four best players in the conference on their team. The Huskies feature the best player in the conference on their roster. The Huskies are the deepest team in the Pac-10 as well. Despite the Sun Devils playing out of their minds today the Huskies still won by 13 points. The Huskies will have a tough test next Sunday against the Washington State Cougars who will be playing for their NCAA tournament lives. The Huskies have beaten the Cougars four straight times so should be interesting to see how the Huskies respond in a hostile environment. The Huskies are 7-1 for the first time under Lorenzo Romar in Pac-10 play. The Huskies are looking to be 8-1 in the first half of the season. As long as they are featuring Matthew Bryan-Amaning I don't see the Huskies losing anytime soon.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thomas leads #20 Huskies over #25 Wildcats 85-68



By Kshell

Isaiah Thomas recorded another double-double in a battle for first place in the Pac-10. The #20 Washington Huskies(14-4,6-1) defeated the Arizona Wildcats(15-4,4-2) for the fourth straight year in a big Pac-10 battle 85-68. The Huskies were once again led by their big three players of Isaiah Thomas who scored 22 points and dished out 10 assists, Justin Holiday who also scored 22 points and Matthew Bryan-Amaning who scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The Huskies overcame poor free throw shooting with great defense and some hustle. Along with some ESPN highlight dunks the Huskies showed once again why they are 45-3 in their last 48 home games.



The Huskies in the first half traded runs with the Wildcats the entire half. The Huskies would have a 10 point lead only to see the Wildcats cut it to two points in a matter of minutes. Some first half highlights saw Isaiah Thomas at the top of the drive to the hole and lob up a high pass where Matthew Bryan-Amaning threw down a hard dunk to tie the score up at 4-4. Then later in the game once again Thomas drove and threw an alley oop to Venoy Overton who threw it down to give the Huskies a 30-20 lead. That dunk had the Huskies dawg pack going crazy. Arizona would rally from that to see themselves only trail 36-31 at halftime.

At halftime the Huskies were led by Thomas who had 12 points on four for seven shooting including two for three from three point range. Thomas also had four assists but was just two for six from the free throw line. Justin Holiday hit his first five shots of the game in socring 12 points on five for six shooting and was two for two from the foul line. The Huskies led by the big man duo of Aziz N'Diaye and Darnell Gant along with help from Bryan-Amaning held Arizona superstar Derrick Williams to just seven points on two for seven shooting from the field. The Huskies shot 13-29(44.8%) from the field but only 3-10(30%) from three point range and an awful 8-12(66.7%) from the free throw line.



In the second half saw both big men wake up. The Wildcats Williams started the second half scoring six points in a row while Bryan-Amaning had scored eight straight for the Huskies. The second half saw the Wildcats grab their first lead of the game at 44-43. That is when the Huskies started to turn up the heat on defense which featured some key plays. The turning point in the game was when the Huskies were up 56-50, Darnell Gant had turned the ball over but hustled down the court to get a huge rejection. Then to save the ball Thomas dove into the stands to save the pass. After he finally got back he brought the ball up and then fired a pass to Gant for an open three pointer which he drilled to give the Huskies a 59-50 lead. After an Arizona timeout the dawg pack was going nuts. Then the dagger in the game was with the Huskies up 70-61 with four minutes to go Holiday hit a three pointer to go up 73-61. At that point the Wildcats basically gave up and the Huskies rolled to an 85-68 win.



The Huskies prevailed once again at home by double figures. Under Lorenzo Romar the Huskies have the toughest home court advantage in the entire Pac-10. Including this year the Huskies have lost just two home games or less in seven of the last eight seasons. The Huskies were led by Isaiah Thomas who scored 22 points on 7-12 shooting including hitting two for three from three point range. Thomas who missed his first four three throws would end up making his last six. Thomas would once again show off his passing skills with 10 assists to just one turnover. He was helped out by Justin Holiday who added 22 points on 8-11 shooting while hitting two threes and was four for five from free throws. After a slow first half Matthew Bryan-Amaning ended up with 18 points on 7-13 shooting with seven rebounds and three blocks.

The Huskies also had great games from role players that doesn't show up in the box score. Starting center Aziz N'Diaye played a career high 27 minutes and while he only scored two points he did grab a team high eight rebounds and had a block. He also contained Derrick Williams. Darnell Gant was another unsung hero scoring just three points but added six rebounds and two block shots. Venoy Overton broke out of his slump scoring seven points and three assists on three for five shooting. Freshman Terrence Ross made just one shot but ended up with eight points by being agressive and making five of six from the foul line. The Huskies despite shooting 7-23(30.4%) from three point range and 20-31(64.5%) from the free line recorded a very important win.

The Huskies held onto homecourt and showed the rest of the conference beating them at home will be difficult. With the way Isaiah Thomas is playing the Huskies looks very unstoppable at times. With better shooting from either the three point line or free line the Huskies would have won by over 20 rather easily. As is Romar has his most balanced team he has ever had. This team features great guard play and good play from the bigs. Today was a battle for who was the best player in the Pac-10 and Thomas clearly won that battle. Thomas once again accounted for over half the Huskies points today through his points and assists. Romar has finally found the right rotation it appears and the Huskies are rolling.

Observations:


- When Romar signed Aziz N'Diaye it wasn't for run and gun teams. It was for big physical teams like Arizona, UCLA and USC. Although N'Diaye doesn't have great offensive stats on the year his impact defensively has been incredible.

His performance today along with Darnell Gant against Derrick Williams shouldn't go unnoticed. Williams still scored 22 points with 11 rebounds but shot 8-15(53.3%) a far cry from his usual 64.7% from the field. N'Diaye played a career high 27 minutes and Gant played 18 minutes. Combined those two added just five points but had 14 rebounds and three block shots.

Those two doing the dirty work on Williams allowed Matthew Bryan-Amaning to stay out of foul trouble. Bryan-Amaning scored 18 points grabbed seven rebounds with three blocks. Bryan-Amaning scored 14 points in the second half and traded bucket for bucket with Williams. Bryan-Amaning showed that he is one of the elite big men in the Pac-10. When Bryan-Amaning is named first team all Pac-10 he should thank N'Diaye and Gant for doing the little things that typically go unnoticed.



- Venoy Overton for the second straight game came off the bench. Overton looked like the Overton of old which was full of passion and great energy. We can all speculate why he played poorly in the Bay Area but he played well against Arizona.

He had seven points including an amazing alley oop dunk that brought back memories of Curtis Allen to Nate Robinson ironically also against Arizona. Overton also had back to back lay ups after Arizona pulled within three points. Both layups should have been called a foul but they weren't. Overton didn't do anything stupid and played his game.

When Overton is providing that spark off the bench the Huskies are a dangerous team. The Huskies have three scorers(Thomas, Holiday and Bryan-Amaning) and a defensive specialist(N'Diaye and Gant) they now need the fifth guy to step up. Terrence Ross at times has shown he can do that. Since Scott Suggs has been starting he hasn't done that. Ultimately though Overton will be asked to finish the games so he needs to step up his play. Hopefully for Overton he can get back to playing basketball instead of worrying about other distractions.



- Isaiah Thomas is playing out of his mind right now. He is passing(10 assists, passed Nate Robinson for 9th all-time in school history), scoring(22 points on just 7-12 shooting) and hustling(six rebounds, diving out of bounds). Thomas is having a magical season while completely changing his game.

Usually when a player changes his game that is because he was playing poorly. Thomas although at times was frustrating the old Thomas was still a great player. Thomas the last two years was only freshman of the year, first team all Pac-10, honorable mention the other year and Pac-10 tournament MVP. He also was part of a Pac-10 championship regular champion as a freshman and tournament champion as a sophomore.

When Abdul Gaddy went down the Huskies needed a point guard. Thomas took over and hasn't looked back. Thomas has had at least seven assists in six straight games now. He is scoring more points than he did before while taking smarter shots. Thomas with the Huskies high pick and roll are also getting the other teams big man in foul trouble. When Williams picked up his fourth foul with 10 minutes to go in the game that was the ballgame. Against UCLA, Josh Smith fouled out due to that play as well.

When Thomas is driving to the hole the other team has some options and none of them are good. The first option is to collapse on him and force him to pass it out. The problem with that is Thomas usually finds Matthew Bryan-Amaning for an easy bucket who is shooting 58.0% from the field. The second option is collapse on Thomas while still covering Bryan-Amaning. The problem with that is Thomas can kick it to a wide open three point shooter. The Huskies have four guys besides Thomas and the injured Gaddy who make a three pointer a game. The Huskies also have five guys besides those two who shoot 35% or better from three point range. The last option is to defend Thomas straight up. Well we all know why that is bad since Thomas will blow by anyone. With Thomas playing this way I don't see the Huskies losing very many more games the rest of the year.

Ultimately all the Huskies did was win a home game in the first half of the Pac-10 season. The Huskies still have 11 more games left in Pac-10 play which we have seen shows there is plenty of basketball left to be played. Unlike previous years the Huskies haven't trapped themselves into a corner where they are forced to go on a late run just to make the NCAA tournament. The Huskies barring a total collapse which I can't see happening in this conference or with this talent will make the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. Romar will keep his guys focused but today was another example of how hustle and defense can overcome anything. The Huskies shot terrible but were still victorious due to the hustle and defense. Oh yes this guy named Isaiah Thomas helps as well. When Thomas is setting up his teammates the Huskies look almost unstoppable.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Flashback to my first college basketball game



By Kshell

In my lifetime I've gone to several Husky football games, many Seahawks games and way to many Mariners games. One sporting event I had never been to before 2005 was college basketball. There was plenty of reasons why I hadn't been to a game before. First of all the product was usually pretty terrible as the Huskies were typically doormats and hadn't placed in the top three in conference since 1987(I was two years old). Another reason is Pac-10 games are on Thursdays and Saturdays so Thursday's were always school nights for me and Saturday nights I was busy on weekends with wrestling tournaments.

With tomorrow's matchup with the Arizona Wildcats at home with first place on the line it brought up memories. It brought be back to my first ever college basketball game that I went to. That game took place in late February which was Senior night and first place was on the line. I was going to Central Washington University at the time and had no tickets to the game. I decided to drive to the game early and have my dad meet me there. We would scalp tickets to the game. Let's just say once again the scalpers won. Once we got out tickets it didn't matter it was time for at the time the biggest home game in Husky basketball history. It was also the last home game for Tre Simmons, Hakeem Rollins and captain Will Conroy. Many like myself believed this would be Nate Robinson's last home as well(It was as he left early after his Junior season).

February 26th, 2005: #9 Arizona Wildcats(24-4,14-2) at #14 Washington Huskies(22-4,12-3)

In front of a sold out crowd the atmosphere at the game was very electric. Both teams featured plenty of future NBA players. For the Arizona Wildcats they starred Channing Frye, Salim Stoudamire and Hassan Adams. For the Huskies they had a much deeper roster starring Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Tre Simmons, Bobby Jones and 6th man Brandon Roy. Huskies recruits Jon Brockman and Martell Webster were in the stands along with newly hired head football coach Tyrone Willingham. Former Husky great Donald Watts was also at the game(He was in my section actually with his kid). Another face was Arizona recruit Marcus Williams who was from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington. He kept hearing chants of "Martell's better" throughout the game.



Then it was time for the game to begin. At first it was a back and forth game between Channing Frye who was unstoppable and Tre Simmons playing in his final home game as a Husky. Simmons began the game hitting his first three shots all from three point range to help keep the Huskies in the game as they trailed 10-9. Hakeem Rollins got the start at center over normal starting center Mike Jensen due to the game being Senior day(Lorenzo Romar starts all Seniors on Senior night always). He had the tough task of slowing down Frye. Frye would get his points but nobody else on the Wildcats had a good game. At the end of the first half the Huskies led 42-35 with both teams shooting 17-34 from the field. The difference is the Huskies were 5-12 from three point range while the Wildcats were just 1-11. The Huskies were also three of five from the foul line while the Wildcats didn't attempt any free throws.



In the second half it appeared the Huskies were poised to put the Wildcats away. The Huskies extended their lead 52-39 at one point after Mike Jensen hit a three pointer. The crowd was going crazy at that point. Arizona would rally eventually cutting the lead to 77-74 which made the game extremely awkward. After a missed three pointer Hakeem Rollins hustled to save the ball to Nate Robinson who hit a huge three pointer to extend the lead to 80-74. On the next possession after a miss Rollins once again outhustled Frye to tip the ball in which was the dagger. At the end of the game Romar pulled his Seniors who all received standing ovations. He inserted walk-on Senior Alex Johnson as well. When Conroy was lifted the gave him a standing ovation and he ran over to midcourt and kissed the purple W at the middle of the floor(Venoy Overton did the same thing his Senior year in high school after winning the state title).

The Huskies would go on to win the game 93-85 in a great game for both teams. The Huskies which was typical for Romar teams would prevail with balance. Led by Senior Tre Simmons scoring 24 points on 9-14 shooting including 5-10 from three point range. The Huskies also had 22 points from Nate Robinson who shot 6-12 from the field and was three for six from beyond the arc. Bobby Jones added 13 points making both three pointers and Brandon Roy added 10 points on five for six shooting and nine rebounds. Will Conroy in his last game scored nine points, grabbed five rebounds and four assists. The Huskies for the game shot 34-60(56.7%) and 11-24(45.8%) from three point range.

For the Arizona Wildcats they had a terrific performance from Channing Frye who scored 30 points on 13-15 shooting but had just five rebounds. Hassan Adams added 18 points and nine rebounds on 9-15 shooting, while Salim Stoudamire had 15 points but shot just 5-15 from the field. Stoudamire the previous game against the Washington State Cougars struggled scoring just eight points. So throughout the game he kept hearing "Bricks in Pullman". The Wildcats would have to wait to clinch the Pac-10 regular season title. The Huskies would drop a game the very next week to Stanford when Stanford shot 48 free throws to the Huskies six.



These two teams would meet again two weeks later for the Pac-10 championship game. The 14th ranked Huskies would defeat the 8th ranked Wildcats 81-72. The Wildcats had 37 points from Salim Stoudamire while the Huskies were led by Tre Simmons scoring 18 points. The Huskies also had 12 second half points by Will Conroy who hit the go ahead three pointer. Nate Robinson added 18 points and Jamaal Williams scored 16 points for Pac-10 champions Huskies. That would be Lorenzo Romar's fifth win in the last two seasons over legendary head coach Lute Olsen. The Huskies would go on to be the #1 seed in the West regional for the NCAA tournament. The Arizona Wildcats would go on to the elite 8.



One thing I'll always remember about the game I went to was the passion the crowd showed towards Will Conroy. Conroy was the only four year member on the Huskies roster that season. Conroy only scored nine points in the game I went to but he was the leader of that team. Conroy has played some in the NBA over the years but mainly has destroyed the NBDL waiting for his chance. I'll always remember the build up to that game and all the good college players and future NBA players playing in the game and in the stands. The atmosphere was great and those years is what paved the way for the Huskies to succeed today. Romar proved to everyone in the Pac-10 that him and the Huskies aren't going anywhere anytime soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thomas has career night in #17 Huskies 92-71 win over Golden Bears



By Kshell

Lorenzo Romar made yet another starting lineup change before the game at California. Which seems to be the theme after losses Romar started Scott Suggs who over Venoy Overton. That switch allowed Isaiah Thomas to fully take over as the point guard which he relishes. Thomas scored 27 points and dished out 13 assists in leading the #17 Washington Huskies (13-4,5-1) over the California Golden Bears(9-8,2-3) 92-71 down in Berkley. Thomas made sure there would be no sweep on this road trip as he came out scoring and setting up teammates. With help from Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday the Huskies defeated the California Golden Bears rather easily which sets up a home showdown with the Arizona Wildcats.



In the first half the Huskies got off to a slow start trailing 5-0 but then Thomas started to take over. Trailing 5-2, Thomas would hit Scott Suggs making his first career start for a three point shot to tie up the score. The Huskies would go on a run to extend their lead 19-11. The California Golden Bears would pull within 23-22 before the Huskies would go on a 13-2 run to extend the lead to 36-24. The Huskies would end the half making eight of ten field goals and lead 48-33.

Led by Isaiah Thomas who had 18 points on five for nine shooting, three for six from three point range while making all five free throws. If that wasn't enough Thomas also had six assists. Unlike the previous game the Huskies featured Matthew Byran-Amaning who made five of nine field goal attempts for 11 points and six rebounds. Justin Holiday added seven points on three for four shooting including a three pointer and three assists. Darnell Gant provided a spark off the bench scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds including hitting a three. For the half the Huskies shot 17-34 from the field, 7-14 from three point range and 7-7 from free throws. The Huskies also outrebounded the Bears 18-13.



In the second half Justin Holiday made sure the California Golden Bears wouldn't be making any second half comebacks. Holiday scored the first five points of the second half to give the Huskies a 53-33 lead. The game would never get closer than 14 points and whenever it did Thomas, Bryan-Amaning or Holiday would score to end the comeback attempt. Holiday in the second half would score 16 points while making 6 of 10 shots including four of six from the three point line. Bryan-Amaning would score 11 points on five for six shooting while controlling the glass with five more rebounds. Thomas wouldn't slow down scoring nine points on three for seven shooting with seven more assists. The Huskies would go on to win 92-71 improving to 5-1 in Pac-10 play.

The Huskies won at Berkley for just the third time in the Lorenzo Romar era and blew out a Mike Montgomery team who many consider to be the Pac-10's best coach. The Huskies were led by their big three of Isaiah Thomas who scored a season high 27 points on 8-16 shooting while making all eight free throw attemps. He also stole two passes and made three three pointers. He also set a career high in assists with 13 the most since Will Conroy had 14 at California in 2005. Justin Holiday scored a career high 23 points while making 9-14 shots, he also hit a career high five three pointers. Matthew Bryan-Amaning continueing his destruction of the Pac-10 scored 22 points on 10-15 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds with two blocks. The Huskies big three combined to score 72 points which is enough to beat the entire California team.

The Huskies now return home to take on both Arizona schools. All eyes will be on the Thursday matchup where the winner will be in first place. The Huskies have defeated Arizona in Seattle the last three years. Romar is 9-9 all-time against Arizona which isn't bad considering they were the premiere team in the conference when he first took over. The Huskies got a split in the bay area and sure fans would have loved to get a sweep they'll take a split. The Huskies despite starting off on the road four of their first six Pac-10 games are now 5-1 which any fan would sign up for. The Huskies are now done playing in the state of California after going 3-1 until the Pac-10 tournament. With the way Isaiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning have been playing the Huskies still remain the favorites in the conference.

Observations:

- No offense to Klay Thompson or Derrick Williams who are both great players but Isaiah Thomas is the best player in the conference and it's not even close. Thomas on the year is averaging 16.5 points per game, 5.4 assists, 3.6 rebounds while getting 1.4 steals a game. He is also shooting 45.7% from the field while making close to two three pointers a game.

In Pac-10 play Thomas has been even better since he has transformed his game into a point guard. In league play so far Thomas is averaging 17.8 points per game, 8.2 assists per game, 3.3 rebounds while getting 1.7 steals a game. He is also shooting 33 for 71(46.5%) while making two three pointers a game. Thomas is stepping his game up in league play and that could lead to him playing in the NBA next season. Thomas is showing scouts he can play point guard while being a scorer at the same time.



- Justin Holiday came on strong in the second half against Stanford scoring a game high 16 points all in the second half. Against California Holiday scored a career high 23 points which once again saw him score 16 in the second half. Holiday hit five three pointers which was also a career high.

Holiday was also asked to guard freshman Allen Crabbe who torched the Washington State Cougars for 30 points previous game. Crabbe was held to 16 points on 4-10 shooting. With Holiday you always have the defense and with his scoring it was a nice touch for the Huskies. The Huskies have two consistent scorers and the bay area trip was good for Holiday to break out of his slump.

- The Huskies didn't get much from their bench against California. One guy on the bench did produce which was Darnell Gant. Gant hit an early three pointer, and when Thomas was trapped kicked it to an open Gant who drilled the jumper. With Aziz N'Diaye in foul trouble Gant once again was asked to play some minutes.

Gant finished with five points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. Gant has bailed the team out several times this year that the average fan won't noticed. He stretches the floor which allows Bryan-Amaning to dominate inside and Gant is also a good defender. Gant can set screens which helps three point shooters such as Scott Suggs, Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox.



- It was nice to see the Huskies feature Matthew Bryan-Amaning once again. In the Huskies four losses this year Bryan-Amaning is averaging just 9.5 points per game with just 4.8 rebounds per game. Safe to say when Bryan-Amaning has an off game the Huskies can't and won't win.

This game Bryan-Amaning was more agressive and making his shots. Bryan-Amaning made 10 of his 15 field goal attempts. Bryan-Amaning at times is the best big man in the conference. The pick and roll plays with him and Thomas is dangerous and ends up with an easy bucket for Bryan-Amaning. This game Bryan-Amaning had 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. He controlled the paint on the offensive end and defensive end.

For the year Bryan-Amaning is averaging 15.2 points per game, grabbing 7.7 rebounds a game while blocking 1.3 shots per game. Bryan-Amaning is shooting 58.3% from the field on the season. Like Thomas in Pac-10 play he has stepped up his game averaging 17.7 points per game, grabbing 9.8 rebounds per game while blocking 1.2 shots per game. In league play Bryan-Amaning is shooting 44 for 72(61.1%) from the field which is really really good. Even if the Pac-10 had a five man first team all-league Bryan-Amaning would be on the team along with Isaiah Thomas. Given that they have a 10 team first team I'd say Bryan-Amaning is a lock.

Just like previous bad losses Romar made a lineup change and it appears to have worked. With Thomas you need another taller shooter on the floor. Although Suggs had just three points he was able to stretch the floor which allowed Thomas to do damage in the paint. When Thomas is running the point and kicking it out to shooters or dumping it off for easy layups to Bryan-Amaning the Huskies are almost unstoppable to beat. The Huskies are now 5-1 in Pac-10 play and most importantly went 3-1 in the state of California. If the Huskies win on Thursday against Arizona at home they will have positioned themselves to win the Pac-10 early given that all four California teams have to go to their gym while Arizona has yet to play at the California schools. Should be a fun atmosphere this Thursday at Hec Ed where the Huskies have lost just three times the past two years. Just remember if Thomas and Bryan-Amaning play the way they are capable of the opponent doesn't matter as the Huskies will win.

Bears end Seahawks season 35-24



By Kshell

The Chicago Bears ended the Seattle Seahawks season 35-24 behind four touchdowns from quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler making his first career postseason start since High School played one of his best games of his career. The Seahawks couldn't run the ball or catch the ball which led to plenty of punts. The Bears defense unlike last game actually put pressure on Matt Hasselbeck. Unlike the last meeting the Bears were actually able to convert key third downs. In snowy Chicago the Bears will be moving on to host the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers. As for the Seahawks they'll be making the flight home disappointed.



The game couldn't have started any better for the Bears. The Seahawks on their first play of the game did a nice trick play to Leon Washington who ran for a gain of nine yards. Then following a Marshawn Lynch loss of two yards the Seahawks faced a key third and three. Matt Hasselbeck hit Brandon Stokley who was losing his footing and dropped the ball. The Seahawks had to punt to the Bears and to Jay Cutler making his first career start in the postseason since High School. In the previous meeting the Bears were 0-12 on third down conversations. The Bears facing a third and two from their own 42 yard line asked Cutler to throw his first postseason pass of his career, facing a blitz Cutler threw it downfield to a wide open Greg Olsen who got behind Lawyer Milloy for a 58 yard touchdown pass to give the Bears a 7-0 lead.



Just when the Seahawks thought things couldn't get any worse they did. After Hasselbeck hit tight end John Carlson for a gain of 14, Carlson went down with a concussion. He would have to be carried off in a stretcher. Later in the drive Hasselbeck would hit Carlson's backup Cameron Morrah for what should have been a gain of 20, instead Morrah dropped the pass. Facing a fourth and one from the Bears 40 yard line Pete Carroll decided to punt the ball. After both teams traded punts the Seahawks Jon Ryan punted the ball to Devin Hester who returned the punt 26 yards to midfield which gave Cutler great field position.



The Bears would take advantage of the good field position. Cutler would hit Olsen once again in the flat which Olsen would bust for a 33 yard gain to the Bears 12 yard line. After a gain of nine, the Bears had the ball on the Seahawks three yard line facing a second and one. Cutler would throw a pass right to Seahawks defender Jordan Babineaux who dropped the easy interception. That would be Babineaux's second dropped interception of the game early. Instead of a possible interception that was ran back for a touchdown the Seahawks had to wonder what if. Facing a fourth and one, Cutler on a quarterback sneak ran it for two yards. Then Chester Taylor ran from one yard out to give the Bears a commanding 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The Seahawks offense would continue to do nothing. With no running game at all from Marshawn Lynch who had just four carries for two yards and with receivers dropping passes made for a frustrating day for Matt Hasselbeck who actually played well. The Seahawks also missed some chances to make it a game in the first half with the two dropped interceptions. Then Raheem Brock sacked Cutler and forced a fumble but of course the Seahawks couldn't recover the fumble. When trying to pull an upset you can't make that many mistakes and expect to win.



The Bears had the Seahawks down and didn't let up one bit. The Bears had the ball on their own 37 yard line when Cutler would once again hit Olsen for a gain of 22 yards. Taylor would rush for 11 yards on his next two carries giving the Bears the ball on the Seahawks 30 yard line. After a Cutler completion to the 11 yard line and a Matt Forte run to the Seahawks six the Bears offense slowed down. Facing a third and five from the Seahawks six yard line the Bears called a designed quarterback draw which saw Cutler break tackles from Babineaux and rookie safety Earl Thomas for the six yard rushing touchdown. At this point the Bears led 21-0 which they would take into halftime.



The Bears on their second possession of the second half would eat up some clock. The Bears would go 70 yards in 14 plays taking up over eight minutes of clock. On that drive the Bears would convert all four third down conversations a far cry from going 0-12 back in October. Facing a third and two from their own 38, Cutler after having all day to throw finally took off for eight yards to get the first down. Facing a third and five from the Seahawks 39 yard line, Cutler then hit Johnny Knox for 15 yards. Facing a third and one from the Seahawks 15 yard line, Forte would get the necessary two yards to extend the drive. Then facing a third and six from the Seahawks nine yard, Mike Martz would call for a QB sweep which saw Cutler get around the corner and rush for a nine yard touchdown to give the Bears a commanding 28-0 lead.



The Seahawks would finally get some life when Leon Washington would take the kickoff 62 yards to the Bears 30 yard line. Hasselbeck would hit the only receiver to have a good game Stokley for a gain of 10 to the Bears 20 yard line. After getting to the 12 yard line the Seahawks couldn't do anything more. Facing a fourth and nine from the 12 yard line in a sign that Carroll was playing for pride instead of the win decided to kick the field goal. Olindo Mare who had a good season made the 30 yard field goal to prevent the shutout. The Seahawks still trailed 28-3 heading into the fourth quarter.

Someone must have forgot to tell Mike Martz his team had a 28-3 lead. Typically when up 28-3 you run the ball and try to stall the clock instead Martz was trying to pile on the whole fourth quarter. The Seahawks still couldn't stop Cutler from rushing which made fans wonder if Michael Vick was playing for the Bears. Cutler facing a third and eight from his own 22 yard line would rush up the middle for 21 yards to the Bears 43. Then trying to get cute the Bears had Matt Forte attempt a halfback pass out of a direct snap, instead he threw the ball right to Aaron Curry who returned the ball 23 yards to the Bears 33 yard line.



Matt Hasselbeck wasn't willing to quit that easily. He once again would hit Stokley for a gain of nine yards to set up third and one. On fourth and one Hasselbeck would throw an interception but the Bears were called for defensive holding which gave the Seahawks new life. Facing a third and four from the Bears 13 yard line Hasselbeck would hit Stokley once again for a gain of 11 yards. Then on third and goal from the Bears two yard line, Hasselbeck would hit Mike Williams for a two yard touchdown to pull within 28-10.



The Seahawks would onside kick the ball and despite what seemed to be nothing but white jersey's around the ball the Bears somehow recovered the onside kick. After trading punts the Bears would have the ball on the Seahawks 48 yard line. Facing a third and one with under five minutes to go up 18 points the Bears showed no mercy. The Bears called a play action bomb which Cutler hit Kellen Davis for a 39 yard touchdown pass. On the play Earl Thomas just barely missed getting an interception. That play summed up the game, this time the Bears were converting on third downs(10-18), the Seahawks couldn't come up with the big play and Cutler brought his "A" game. On that touchdown pass Cutler became just the second quarterback in NFL playoff history to throw for two touchdowns and rush for two touchdowns. The other was Otto Graham. The Bears led 35-10 at that point which set off chants of "Packers suck" rest of the game.

The Seahawks wouldn't give up as Hasselbeck wouldn't let his team fold. Hasselbeck would hit Williams for a two yard touchdown pass which hit off of Charles "Peanut" Tillman to cut the lead to 35-17. Then after the Bears went for it on fourth down and passed the ball as Martz kept trying to pile on the Bears were stuff. Hasselbeck would hit Ben Obomanu for a gain of 46 yards. On the next play Hasselbeck would hit Stokley for a nine yard touchdown pass to pull within 35-24. The Bears would then recover the onside kick and take a knee which would finally end the Seahawks season.



For the Seahawks the season comes to an end. I think all would agree the Seahawks went further than anyone could have predicted. You can read here and here just how little faith I had in the team heading into the year. As you can see on the predictions very few people had faith in this year Seattle Seahawks. This year still had plenty of problems as the Seahawks ultimately went 8-10 with all 10 losses being by double digits.

For the game Matt Hasselbeck showed Seahawks fans and the rest of the NFL he still has game. Hasselbeck finished 26 of 46 for 258 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Hasselbeck mainly hit Stokley who finished with eight receptions for 85 yards and a touchdown. His main receiver Mike Williams didn't have a good game at all only catching four passes for 15 yards but did have two touchdowns. The Seahawks had nothing that resembled a rushing game a far cry from the last two weeks. Marshawn Lynch had just four carries for two yards, Justin Forsett had four carries for nine yards. Golden Tate was your leading rusher when he took a reverse 13 yards. Leon Washington had the longest run amongst running backs when he had a gain of nine on the games first play.



As for the Bears well this is why they traded all those draft picks to acquire Jay Cutler. Cutler finished 15 of 28 for 274 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Cutler also added 43 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His main target was tight end Greg Olsen who had three catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Matt Forte had a good solid game rushing for 80 yards and having 54 yards receiving on the game. All in all the Bears played well offensively and the defense just pressured Hasselbeck all game long. Tommie Harris had two sacks and several hurries on Hasselbeck.

All in all, the Seahawks season is now over which has people immediately thinking about the offseason. Before we think about the offseason stop and appreciate this playoff run. Remember from 1988-1999 we didn't have playoff football in Seattle so you never know when you will get back here. Hopefully this wasn't Hasselbeck's last playoff game as a Seahawks quarterback. If this was Hasselbecks last performance well he went out on top in my opinion. The Seahawks simply lost to a better team but they accomplished a lot this year. They won the 2010 NFC Western Division Championship and shocked the nation by ending the defending Super Bowl champs season. Be proud of your Seahawks Seattle fans, even in today's game they fought to the bitter end.

Observations:
- Pete Carroll accomplished a lot in his first season. Just like Chuck Knox and Mike Holmgren he led the Seahawks to the playoffs in his first season. Unlike Holmgren who had to wait until his seventh season in Seattle to win his first playoff game, Carroll took care of that this year. Unlike Knox who had to wait until his sixth season to win the division title, Carroll took care of that in his first year.

Carroll came in and blew up the roster while getting rid of all the bad attitudes(T.J.Houshmandzadeh). Carroll got the players to not only believe in him but themselves as well. There is a reason why when the Seahawks beat the Saints they weren't shocked. Same reason why the Seahawks didn't accept losing to the Bears because they believed they could win. Carroll has the players believing which is half the battle, now he must get some better players at key positions(Offensive Line and Secondary).



- Hopefully this wasn't Matt Hasselbeck's last game as Seahawks quarterback. I personally think he will be resigned as Carroll realized his mistake in Charlie Whitehurst. Hasselbeck despite being 35 yards old(same age as Peyton Manning I might add) played his best playoff football of his career.

Hasselbeck this playoffs was 48 of 81 passing for 530 yards passing with seven touchdowns and just one interception. His quarterback rating for this year's postseason was 102.4. For his career Hasselbeck had 18 touchdowns to nine interceptions in the playoffs and has thrown a touchdown pass in 10 straight games(He has played 11 games, the one game he didn't he threw for over 300 yards). You would never know he was a playoff warrior since idiots just think of him unfairly as a choke artist because of the "I want the ball and we are going to score".

Hasselbeck for the third straight regular season had a bad year nobody can deny that. Hasselbeck has no weapons at all, most of his receivers are cast offs which has been the way his whole career. His offensive line once again are cast offs so he has no running game at all. Hasselbeck has had average to crappy defensives so if he doesn't put up a ton of points the team typically loses and yet he gets blamed. Fans were sure quick to run Dave Krieg out of town for Kelly Stouffer remember that? How did that turn out? Oh yea that's right 11 years until we made the playoffs. If you chanted "Charlie" at the Falcons game do all the true fans a favor and don't ever show up to a game again please.

Regardless of my financial situation or where I'm living the day Hasselbeck is inducted into the ring of honor I'll make sure to be there. He is a class act and I'm glad he had a great postseason. The Seahawks need to resign him and surround him with better players.



- That picture says it all for Marshawn Lynch. He had just two yards rushing on four carries a week after rushing for 131 yards on 19 carries. Lynch every time he ran the ball was met in the backfield. I do believe Lynch is the answer at running back but hard to run against a good defense with second rate offensive lineman.

I can't think of a single playoff team who can win when their starting running back has just two yards rushing. Lynch was taken out of the game early because Bates realized the team couldn't run at all. Bates also had no choice as the game got out of hand quickly. Bates knew the only way back in the game was passing the ball but once again against the Bears that is tough.

Don't give up on Lynch he showed that he is a good running back. Give Lynch the offensive line that Shaun Alexander had and he may have put up better numbers. Lynch runs hard and you can tell truly cares. He doesn't ever go down by the first defender. He had a rough game but that wasn't his fault.

Well the season is finally over. This playoff run sure beats out picking in the top 15 I must say. The Seahawks gave the city hope which in sports lately we haven't had much of. The Mariners have been terrible, the Sonics left, Huskies football before this year was horrible, Cougars football still is terrible. So to the Seahawks I say thank you for giving me a great three week ride which I won't take for granted. The Seahawks have plenty of work to do in the offseason but this division championship plus the Saints win I'll probably watch about 50 times this offseason at the very least. Great job Seahawks and I can't wait til September when the NFL is starting back up again!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Bears are who we thought they were



By Kshell

"The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were. We played them in preseason — who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it's bullshit? Bullshit! We played them in the third game — everybody played three quarters — the Bears are who we thought they were! That's why we took the damn field. Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!"- Dennis Green following a crushing Monday Night Football loss to the Bears 24-23

Whenever I think of the Chicago Bears at least recently I think of that Dennis Green rant. That rant also hits home to me because during that season to be more precise the Seahawks season ended in Chicago 27-24 in overtime. That loss hurt as everyone knew some key people on the Seahawks run of four consecutive division titles were getting up there in age. This Sunday at Chicago the Seahawks have a chance to avenge that loss although so very few players are on the Seahawks roster who were there in 2006. Just like that year nobody gave the Seahawks a chance to win that particular game against the Bears despite being the defending NFC Champions. I'll get that game in more detailed shortly.

This year the Seattle Seahawks have already proven they can walk into Chicago and defeat them which you can read here. In that game Mike Williams due to his size destroyed the Bears catching 10 passes that game. That game from start to finish and given the opponent was the Seahawks best game of the year in the short Pete Carroll era. The Seahawks hope to continue to attack the Bears secondary with Mike Williams and attack Cutler with the corner/safety blitzes.

The Seahawks will be hoping to snap their seven game road losing streak in the playoffs. In fact the last time the Seahawks won a playoff road game Dan Marino was just a rookie quarterback and Joe Montana had won just one Super Bowl. That year was in 1983 when nobody gave the Seahawks a chance against Dan Marino and the Dolphins who had the best record in the AFC. The Seahawks won that game but would go on to lose the AFC Championship game in Los Angeles(Where Seattlehawk94 was there in person).

In that seven game losing streak the Seahawks have lost to three teams who went on the Super Bowl and three of those games were lost in overtime. One of those losses happened in Chicago four years ago today. During the 2006 season the defending NFC champions Seattle Seahawks were hurt by injuries. The Seahawks had lost Shaun Alexander for six games, Matt Hasselbeck for four games. In the playoffs the Seahawks lost both starting cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Kelly Herndon the last week of the regular season. The Seahawks won a memorable playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys 21-20 because Tony Romo couldn't hold on to a snap for basically an extra point. The Seahawks were 9-7 and had lost three of their last four games heading into the playoffs but still had that championship swagger.

Meanwhile in Chicago the Bears were enjoying a terrific season. The previous year the Bears were the #2 seed in the NFC but went one and done to the Carolina Panthers(Who were destroyed next week by the Seahawks). The Bears also enjoyed the NFC's best record behind an amazing defense led by Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. The Bears also had a great running game with Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson. The Bears also featured a game changer on special teams in rookie Devin Hester. The only thing holding the Bears back was Rex Grossman who makes Jay Cutler look like Tom Brady. Nobody gave the Seahawks a chance as the Bears had already killed the Seahawks 37-6 on a primetime Sunday Night football game. Should be noted the Seahawks were without previous league MVP Shaun Alexander.


The playoff rematch would feature the last great game of Shaun Alexander's career. The Seahawks found themselves trailing 14-7 when Shaun Alexander began to take over. Alexander would tie the score up with a four yard touchdown run. Still the Seahawks found themselves trailing 21-14 when Thomas Jones ran one in from seven yards out. The Seahawks would get a field goal from Josh Brown to pull within 21-17. Then once again Alexander would give the Seahawks the lead with a 13 yard rushing touchdown to give the Seahawks a 24-21 lead. The Bears would eventually tie up the score 24-24 then win in overtime on Robbie Gould's game winning 49 yard field goal 27-24. The Bears would go on to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks would go home asking tons of what if's.



After a tough loss like that there was plenty of blame to go around. One guy you couldn't blame was Shaun Alexander who ran for 108 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns against this tough Bears defense. One guy who took blame was Matt Hasselbeck who was 18 of 33 passing for 195 yards with a touchdown and a costly interception that tied the score up at 24-24. Another guy who many blamed was Mike Holmgren. The usually conservative coach took some risks this game going for it on fourth three times with the Seahawks failing to convert twice. Utlimately the blame it to be at the hands of Tim Ruskell who let all-pro guard Steve Hutchinson walk. Having an all-pro would have been nice on those key third/fourth and short situations.

Now that painful loss has nothing to do with what will happen this Sunday in Chicago. If anything that game proves that the Seahawks can play in the cold weather before and that weather shouldn't be a factor. The Seahawks already defeated the Bears this year in Chicago so they know they can win there again. The Bears have been playing much better as of late but Jay Cutler is still the quarterback. Cutler will be playing in his first career playoff game while Matt Hasselbeck will be playing in his 11th career playoff game.

Since 2003 quarterbacks making their first career start are 5-19 in the playoffs. Some former pro bowlers have lost their playoff debut like our very own Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Marc Bulger, Trent Green and Eli Manning. That is a pretty impressive list and with the exception of Young you would take all those quarterbacks over Jay Cutler. Cutler never even played in a bowl game in college. Cutler hasn't played in very many pressure like situations in his career.

At the end of the day whether the Seahawks will win or not they have a chance. The Bears like in 2006 are the better team. Just like in 2006 I think the Seahawks can compete with the Bears and then watch Cutler fold under pressure. If your a Bears fan and your team is trailing in the fourth quarter are you confident in Cutler? I'm guessing probably not. While the Seahawks with a veteran like Hasselbeck know he is capable of playing in pressure situations. He has started a Super Bowl before and has even played in a playoff game in Chicago. Hasselbeck has been there and done that while Cutler will be learning on the spot. I think regardless of the outcome Hasselbeck and Cutler will be the stories of this game. Just remember though the Bears are who we thought they were, nobody takes the sixth game of the regular season like it's bullshit! I'm not willing to crown the Bears ass just yet and hopefully after Sunday the Seahawks can finally earn some respect.