Low Takes Third in Three-Point Contest

A couple of thoughts:

He knocked himself out by going 1 for 5 on the first rack, otherwise he was money all night.

Low beat out the guy who led the nation in 3-point shooting percentage.

I really should’ve put money on Neitzel failing to advance past the first round.

And as much as I dislike the guy, Ryan Appleby probably deserved to be there. I just want to see how he’d do.

Also, the campaign starts now to get Harmeling in the contest for 2009.

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Top 10 Cougar Plays: #10

November 30: Derrick Low hits the second of two consecutive threes to give the Cougs a 63-60 lead over Baylor.

Game Recap

It was Derrick Low’s consecutive threes that capped a furious comeback by the Cougars in the Pac-10/Big XII challenge against Baylor in Waco, TX. Baylor led 44-30 with 18:14 remaining when Low hit a three, his first basket of the game. The Cougs then outscored the Bears 27-16 before Low added the other two treys that would give Wazzu a 63-60 lead with 2:22 remaining. They never relinquished the lead.

That was all the scoring Low would do, actually: 9 points on 3 of 11 shooting. It would be all the Cougs would need behind a 41 point second half and a 38-point contribution from Baynes, Cowgill, and Harmeling. The game kept WSU perfect at 7-0 in non-conference play and gave the Cougs their first win of the season over a BCS conference opponent. It was a mostly unheralded game, stashed over on ESPNU, but the significance turned out to be huge. Baylor went on to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years and claim a victory in the “game of the year”, a five-overtime thriller against Texas A&M. This loss was Baylor’s only defeat in their first 12 games.

One of the great things about Derrick Low was his perseverance. No points in the first half? No problem. He’ll go for 19 in the second. Which is exactly what he did against Air Force in Spokane, which leads to my favorite Derrick Low quote of the year: “We prayed to the Spokane Arena gods to have mercy on us when we are shooting.” It worked. When asked about Daven Harmeling’s struggles in the same game, Tony joked, “..he didn’t get heard.” (ESPN)

Stadium Way’s End of the Season Awards

Time to take a break from all this Bennett rumor madness and reflect on a great season that is suddenly behind us. Here now, are Stadium Way’s first annual End of the Season Awards for basketball.

Player of the Year: Kyle Weaver, G – I’ve never seen any Cougar player in any sport do as many things well as Kyle Weaver. 12.2 points per game (19th in the Pac-10). 5.1 rebounds per game (17th Pac-10 and higher than Robbie Cowgill). 4.3 assists per game (5th Pac-10). 1.7 steals per game (4th Pac-10). 8th in conference assist-to-turnover ratio. He shot 46.3% from the floor. His only weakness, according to some people, was three-point shooting (he shot 23.7% in 2006-07). This year, he improved on that by shooting 36.4% all while taking 28 more attempts and making threes in big games and big situations. Oh yeah, it’s also worth noting that he’s a NBA-caliber defender (more on that later). There won’t ever be another Kyle Weaver, and it will be tough to see him go. If there was one player from this squad whose jersey might deserve to be retired, it’s Kyle’s. The good news is that we can still watch Kyle continue his career next year as a member of the NBA. NBADraft.net projects Kyle at #24 to San Antonio (which would be a near-perfect fit for him), but I think he has lottery-pick talent.

Offensive Player of the Year: Derrick Low, G. It’s hard to deny Taylor Rochestie and his 4.7 assists per game this award, but I have a feeling he will be a sure thing for it next year. Low deserves it this year – his team high 14.1 points per game is good for 12th in the conference. I know, 14.1 doesn’t sound like much, but when you play on one of the 10 slowest college teams in the nation, that number becomes a lot more impressive. Low was also third in the conference in made threes – led by only Ryan Appleby (UW’s all-time leader) and some guy named O.J. Mayo.

Low also has a hidden talent – he’s a great shooter inside the arc. Low made 74 of 145 attempts from 2-point range, good for a 51.0% clip. 50% is a very good percentage for a low post player (Baynes shoots 60%). Derrick does it from the guard position, all while being part of a three guard attack that helped the Cougs lead the conference in turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio. If you don’t believe me about Low’s talent, just ask Alabama coach Mark Gottfried:

“Derrick Low is one of the most underrated players in the nation. Period. He is really, really, really good,” said Alabama coach Mark Gottfried…. “I’m saying he’s really good. If he ends up having a career in the NBA like [John] Stockton or [Steve] Nash, it would not shock me. He’s that good.” (ESPN)

Defensive Player of the Year: Kyle Weaver, G – An obvious selection here, but let’s not understate how good he was. He finished fourth in the conference in steals (1.7 SPG) and shut down any number of good players. Not just good players, but players who can attack multiple ways. OJ Mayo (6 for 15 on 2/9), Ryan Appleby (2 for 8 on 1/5), Matt Bouldin (0 for 9), and a host of other players who he limited with his play on the defensive end. It was fitting when the one word chosen by Cowgill and Low to describe Weaver was “cool”. He made great defense and offense look so effortless, and so……well, cool.

Newcomer of the Year: Stephen Sauls, G – This award goes to the best incoming freshman or transfer player. Sauls could almost earn this award just by the effort he has shown in trying to make a recovery from a scary injury in January. Sauls was knocked unconscious by an inadvertent elbow to the head and had CPR started on him before regaining consciousness. He still experiences headaches on a daily basis, according to the coaches, and in all likelihood will be unable to return to Wazzu to continue his career. It’s a shame as Sauls showed great promise as an offensive and defensive player. Sauls shot 54% in only eight games this season, and seemed like a perfect fit to replace outgoing transfers Mac Hopson and Chris Matthews. Let’s hope he gets back to good health soon, and has an opportunity to continue playing ball, regardless of the school he ends up at.

Tremendous Upside Potential Award: Abe Lodwick, G – This kid is going to be fun to watch. We didn’t see Lodwick on the court during a game this season as Tony preferred to redshirt the freshman from Bend, Oregon. Nevertheless, if you were able to look in on a practice or watch warm-ups before the game you know that Lodwick can flat out shoot. His form is near perfect and his 6’7″ height will make him difficult to defend for smaller guards and forwards (like Daven Harmeling is now). If he can get to the defensive level of our current guards he’s going to be a mainstay of future Cougar lineups.

Breakout Player of the Year: Taylor Rochestie, G – Ok, let’s be honest. We always knew Taylor would be good. What we didn’t know is just how good: A ridiculous 43% 3-point shooter this year, Rochestie added 10.4 points per game to his 4.7 assists per game (2nd in the Pac-10; he led this category for much of the year). He is horrifically efficient; leading the Pac-10 with a 2.8 assist/turnover ratio, and is always looking to involve others first. He perfomed best when it mattered most with a season-high 10 assists against Winthrop. He can also take over the game offensively, like he did with a 24 point performance during a surprising cold night for the other Cougars against Oregon State. He also wants the ball with the game on the line. He’s the kind of player Wazzu desperately needed under Dick Bennett when turnovers and missed shots cost the Cougs far too many close games. Oh yeah, there’s also that whole thing about giving up his scholarship to help the team next season. I think it’s safe to say #10 replica jerseys will fly off the shelf next fall.

Player you Should be Excited About for Next Year: Aron Baynes, C – Let’s see: 60% shooting? Check. Dominating low-post scoring and rebounding presence? Check. Playing in a Pac-10 without the Lopez twins? Check. Yoga lessons? Check. Awesomeness? Intensity? Rugby Experience? Check, check and check. If he stays out of foul trouble and secures the ball in those big hands, he’s going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch for one more year. Just look at that performance against North Carolina and first-team all-American Tyler Hansbrough. Or the fact he almost averaged a double-double in the tournament (13.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG).

Sixth Man Award: Daven Harmeling, F – Daven Harmeling has many of the qualities you want in a starting forward: good shooting, height, rebounding, defense, and the ability to have a big night on offense. The fact that he only started one game speaks volumes about how talented this year’s Coguar team was. Harmeling’s numbers were actually down a bit in 07-08 but you have to take into consideration the two freak injuries that sidelined Daven for some games this season. First, he broke his right thumb in practice in December. Then, he sprained an ankle, again in practice, which really shortened the Cougar bench in the final weeks of the season. Maybe we should just apply Allen Iverson’s theory of practice to Harmeling.

But few players recover from injuries like Harmeling has. A dislocated shoulder suffered in the first game of the 2005-06 season caused him to miss the entire year and receive a medical redshirt. Harmeling responded by shooting threes in practice and pre-game warmups. One-handed. And that suddenly perfected one-handed form led to Daven becoming a force from behind the arc – shooting 43% from long range the next year. This year, it was the cast on Daven’s wrist that acutally helped him find his stroke again, to the tune of a season-high 19 points in an impressive win over USC. Harmeling is a perpetual x-factor: a solid player who can burn you from out of nowhere. Just ask the three opponents he took for 20 or more points last year: Gonzaga, Arizona, and Cal. His injuries this year have slowed him and it’s a shame: he only averaged close to 12 minutes per game in the tournament. But he’s still a phenomenal player. And we’re lucky that because of an injury he returns next year.

Author’s note: Edited on 4/1/08 to include the sixth man award.

The Triforce

Deadspin, one of my favorite sports blogs, has been serving up tournament game previews all week, and their Washington State vs. Winthrop preview is a sample of their knowledgeable writing and the sometimes smart-aleck attitude that make Deadspin a good read. It is also easy to tell that actual time and research went into discussing the tournament teams; too often an ESPN discussion of the tourney bracket goes something like this:

Analyst A: I like Washington State because of Derrick Low and the fact that they are a very tough style of basketball to play against.

Analyst B: Good point; but I love Notre Dame to make the Sweet 16 because of Luke Harangody. I think they’ll get it done.

This exchange is followed by no mention of a Top-25 Washington State team or its players for the next 55 minutes. In fact, if you asked Digger Phelps to name the Cougars’ starting five I guarantee you he couldn’t do it off the top of his head.

So, out of the backlash against ESPN and their strange practice of force-feeding the nation the same sports discussion topics over and over again comes Deadspin. Brian Tesch writes the Cougar summary; I have no idea if he is connected to WSU or is just an outsider looking in. Either way, he has coined the nickname “The Triforce” for Robbie Cowgill, Derrick Low, and Kyle Weaver. This is an absolutely awesome idea.

So why am I angry?

Well, two reasons. One, I didn’t come up with it. Two, we only get to use it for at the most a couple more weeks, and then Robbie, Derrick and Kyle ride off into the sunset. If only we had the chance to give this nickname the one or two good years it deserved. I still plan on using it beyond the tournament, however, and you should too. It’s just that it won’t get the recognition it should now that it’s been discovered too late.