Friday, March 24, 2006

I Cannot Believe What I Just Saw

Last night…wow last night. I was so stunned that I couldn’t even do a write up at the time. Hell, I don’t think I can even do justice to a write up at this point. But I’ve got nothing else today, so why not give it a shot?

Let’s start with UCLA-Zags, since I was less emotionally invested in it. Truth be told, I’m entered in two pools, one with my first instinct picks and the other with my reasoned-out picks (one of these years, I’m going to come up with the perfect mix of logic and intuition, netting me a pool victory). In both pools I had a UCLA-Gonzaga match-up, and since I had a dickens of a time deciding who would win that potential game, I split them. Not the most decisive move of my life, but hey, if the game happened, I had one winner guaranteed.

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Now, I’m assuming most of you watched last night, since for some unbeknownst reason, we on the East Coast got the Zags-UCLA game. Yeah, because we don’t care about regional considerations or anything. No one would have rather seen the entirety of the Big East game at all. Nooooo. Thankfully, those kind folks over at NCAAsports.com continue with their on-demand service, allowing me to watch 40 minutes of Kevin Pittsnoggle.

Thankfully, the powers that be at CBS realized they had a classic in the making, as WVU surged in the second half, even leading at some points after trailing by 12 at the half. So I watched on my TV – considerably larger than my computer screen – as WVU kept it within five in the final minutes of the game, agonizing over each missed shot. Take the nail-biter situation the game was in and combine it with my attachment to Big East teams, and you have Joe laying on the floor, hanging on to an ever-slimming chance that these seniors will outlast their opponents.

WVU down by three, waning seconds of the game, and with five ticks left, Kevin Pittsnoggle nailed a three to tie it. There isn’t a screenwriter out there who could have devised a more appropriate and thrilling end to regulation. The affable senior, the guy getting all the hype, Kevin Pittsnoggle, nailing down the clutch three to give his team another life.

But before I could finish screaming “PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTTTTTTTSSSSSSSSSSNOOOOOOOOOOOGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGLLLLLEEEEEEEE!,” Kenton Paulino was lining up for a Texas miracle. As he launched it, all I saw was a WVU paw in his grill, easing me a bit. “He’s not going to make an off-balance, long three with a hand in his face,” thought I, resolved that WVU could run away with the game in OT. But the ball was moving in slow motion in my mind, and the closer it got to the hoop, the more I knew it was hitting the bottom of the net. My eyes may not have been wide with amazement when the ball was launched, but they surely were before the net splashed. It was over. My precious Mountaineers were eliminated.

CBS didn’t allow me any time to mourn, as they immediately switched back to the Zags-Bruins game, which was heating up a bit. Zags still had a convincing lead, but UCLA wasn’t playing like the chump team they were in the first half. In fact, Zags came out in cruise control for the second half. UCLA cut the lead with some well timed shots and some sloppy play from the Bulldogs, forcing Mark Few to call a quick timeout. And it happened again around the 14 minute mark; more sloppy play forced Zags into another timeout to regroup. While they still held a convincing lead, they weren’t the dominant team from the first half.

When you have a 42-29 game at halftime, you don’t expect much different in the second half. It’s like a three games to one baseball playoff series: the reason one team is up 3-1 is usually because they’re the clear-cut better team. But sometimes the other team can come back from that deficit; sometimes a basketball team can overcome a gruesome halftime score. And let me tell you, the Bruins looked like a team facing sodomy upon defeat.

My biggest gripe: how did the Bulldogs not have a strategy for beating the press? I mean, they were only up by one with less than 35 on the game clock, so you know UCLA is running a massive press. They ran some impeccable traps and forced Zags to hand the ball to Batista, which was a horrible mistake. He hadn’t a clue what to do with the ball, and forcing a turnover there was no more difficult than swatting a 12-year-old. An easy layup, and UCLA was on top with some 1.9 seconds left.

It was all over from there. Adam Morrison was already crying on the floor; there wasn’t a chance in hell the Bulldogs were coming back here, 1.9 seconds or no 1.9 seconds. Game over.

I haven’t seen a night like this in quite a while. I hardly had time to pick my jaw up off the floor after the WVU game before it dropped again in the Bruins improbable comeback. This, folks, is why I am enamored with sports. When someone asks me, “why are you so obsessed with sports?” I’ll be able to point them to last night as a prime example.