28 Shots Later. The Cougs' perfect day at the line against Oregon (28 for 28) is both a school record and a Pac-10 conference record. Ever try to make that many free throws in a row in your backyard? Then you know how ridiculous that stat is. It is also amazing that a couple of those free throws were drained by DeAngelo Casto, a 59% FT shooter coming in. We already know how good Rochestie is, but you have to love how great Aron Baynes is at the line, especially for a big man. Those two shouldered much of the load yesterday.
You can't understate the importance of a Pac-10 road sweep. Sure, the Oregon schools are reeling, but 2007 was the first time this decade the Cougars had defeated either Oregon school on their home floor. It's not easy to go on the road in conference - especially this conference - and win. The two worst teams in the Pac-10 are still a huge step above most mid-major teams that we've faced. We should be glad that we took care of business this weekend, and got ourselves to 3-2 in conference. If you can go 1-1 on any road trip in the Pac-10, you've done your job. If you go 2-0, you've hit the best case scenario. We did, and it's a good thing with UCLA coming to town on Thursday.
The road trip had its surprises, though. I'm talking mainly about how Oregon State turned out to be a much more game competitor than their rival, the Oregon Ducks. Maybe it shouldn't be a surprise, as OSU is currently ahead of the Ducks for 9th place in the conference standings, and Craig Robinson has the Beavs playing more fundamentally sound basketball than they have in quite some time. They remind me a lot of the 2003-04 Cougars, in terms of pace and discipline, and losing games in heartbreaking fashion. However, their Princeton offense and zone defense sets them apart from the Dick Bennett Cougars. OSU had already defeated USC in overtime at home, and they were hungry once again when the Cougs came to town. We were lucky to get out of there with a W.
There was also the matter of motivation for OSU, as they played 40 strong minutes against the Cougs before coming apart in overtime. This attitude was the opposite of the one they showed last night against UW, where they essentially gave up on defense on a number of possessions. Don't let a Husky fan tell you they are so much better than us because of their win margin over the Beavs. They played a completely different OSU team in the second half. To say the Beavers quit would be an understatement.
But the Huskies are still pretty good, and the secret is rebounding. Look what they did to OSU last night:
I mean, just look at that offensive rebounding differential. That's insane. Remember, the Cougs had zero offensive boards in the first half against OSU and didn't exactly dominate there in the second half. The Cougars struggled in this area against the Huskies, too. The key to winning the rematch at Hec Ed: box out. The Huskies don't do anything else especially well.
Oregon, on the other hand, was a team on the verge of collapse. It didn't take much for the Cougars to push the Ducks over the edge - or at least Ernie Kent, who was ejected for the first time in his 12 years in Oregon. Kent's anger had just as much to do with his own frustration as it did with anger at the officials. This is an Oregon team with no identity, sliding to 0-6 in conference. When the Cougs opened up the game to 45-28, it was pretty much over. Kent's ejection sparked some hope - and by hope, I mean Tajuan Porter's jump shot - but it was too little too late. Ernie's going to have to trust Porter more if Oregon wants to attempt to salvage their season.
And let's be honest: the officiating was awful yesterday. Once I got a chance to see the replay on FSN it became abundantly clear. Baynes' first three of his career never really should have counted. However, like the FSN announcers said, the blame falls on Oregon's own timekeepers, and the fact that the officials can't retroactively expire the shot clock.
Great form from the Big Fella though. This shouldn't shock those of us who come way too early to the games, though - we've seen Baynes do this sort of thing in warmups. Of course, warmups are a different thing than the actual game. That's what made it so much fun to watch Baynes square up to the basket and drain it. In the context of the game, it was huge. Oregon's next three would have cut the lead to six instead of nine, if that shot had not been counted.
[Fun with stats: Aron Baynes is the team leader this year in 3-point shooting percentage (100%). His 33% career 3-point percentage is higher than Nikola Koprivica (25.4%)]
And how about the ensuing foul on Casto? I hope someone YouTubes it, because it is the worst foul call I've seen all year. Casto's hands were straight up, and after drawing some initial contact on the move by Catron, Casto held his ground on the way to the basket. Had the foul been called on the first bump, I might have understood it. But it wasn't. It was one of those whistles that appeared to happen in anticipation of a foul under the basket, not because of the actual act.
What exactly can post defenders do these days? It appears the Pac-10 officials don't know the answer to that question either. They should probably figure it out, because the "hands straight up" doctrine doesn't seem to apply the way it used to.
The team itself shouldn't even be allowed to mention the word "postseason", but we're a blog and we can. Realistically, if the Cougs want to make it to their third straight Dance, they need to finish 10-8 in conference. At least. We're on track for that at the moment. That fact alone will surprise some people, especially Buster Sports' Nick Daschel, who said he'd be shocked if we topped six conference wins. We're already halfway there.
Of course, we haven't done anything yet. The one-point win over Stanford is the most impressive on our tournament resume, and we still don't know how good the Cardinal actually are. Plus there's the whole winning seven more games thing, much easier said than done. Four of our next six are still on the road, and we'll get a good idea by the end of the road swing exactly where this team stands. That's also the halfway point of the conference slate. One thing's for sure: you have to be glad that we're still in it.
Rochestie = The Third Scorer
Remember when Nuss brought up that one year after Weaver, Low and Baynes, we desperately needed a third scorer? Outside of Klay Thompson and Baynes this year, it looked like we'd never find one. Rochestie was struggling, Harmeling was (and still is) trying to find his shot, Koprivica is too raw, and the rest of the field just too unpredictable.
The good thing is that the most likely guy to take the role did just that. Taylor Rochestie's 30 was the most prolific Cougar scoring effort since D-Low's 37 against the same Oregon Duck team. And I just want to bring up his line from the weekend again, because it's so flipping awesome:
84 minutes, 44 points, 14 assists, 2 turnovers
The question is: who is more deserving of conference player of the week? Rochestie, with the line mentioned, or Baynes, who dominated quietly with 36 and 23 against the Oregon schools.
If neither Cougar wins player of the week, I will egg the Pac-10 front offices. That is a written threat.
My vote goes to Baynes, because as awesome as Rochestie's scoring output was, about a fourth of it came from late fouling by the Ducks. Baynes was the key to both games - dominating the inside, and helping to open things up on the perimeter. And a double-double at the pace the Cougs play is something to be praised for.
And Baynes can boast a 100% effort from three-point range.
Something that Taylor, sadly, could not match.