There Is No Box: Running With the Cougs

I’ve always been a fan of Bill Simmons, even more so after today’s Sonics-related mailbag. So in honor of the Sports Guy, I’ll be writing my first running diary of a cougar basketball game tonight.

So here we go. It’s the WSU Cougars versus the California Bears. ESPN already has a hold on the adjective “spectacular”, so I’m going to say that tonight’s game is on glorious FSN HD. It’s my first FSN HD experience, and let’s hope it’s not the last. My last opportunity to watch the cougs in high def was spoiled by the fact the house I was at did not get local channels (ABC) in HD.

Pregame

Before the game, I have witnessed:

-Another awkwardly hilarious Dick Vitale Hooters commercial

-Husky guard Joel Smith making a pizza on FSN

-Quinnipiac beating Central Connecticut on a half court shot at the buzzer. By the way, is it really necessary to specify the direction of Central Conn.? Is there any other direction in Connecticut but “central”? I’ll apologize in advance to Northern Connecticut, if it exists.

USC is up 68-58 on Arizona with: 45 to play. Huge win for the Trojans; Arizona will be just fine with that whole #1 strength of schedule thing to fall back on. The cougs now need a win tonight to maintain their essentially two-game (1 game plus tie-break) advantage over the Trojans for third place.

Game time. Barry Tompkins looks wonderful in glorious FSN HD.

Same starting lineup as always for the Cougs.

My projected lineups were wrong; Cal goes with Vierneisel at forward.

First Half

20:00 D-Harm officially out for the evening. Baynes scores the game’s first bucket on a slam.

18:48 Cowgill drains an almost-three. Good start for the cougs, until Weaver misses a lay-in on the other end.

18:11 Weaver drains a three. I could get used to this offense. 7-2 good guys.

17:43 Our first Forrest Fire sighting

17:23 Cal misses about 7 consecutive shots under the bucket. Good times.

17:00 Found out D-Harm’s injury was because he stepped on a ball. Couldn’t Tony just lie and say “fought off four grizzly bears” or “sprained his ankle coming down from a dunk over Baynes and Cowgill”? Clumsy injuries just aren’t manly. No offense D-Harm.

16:03: Rochestie saved a ball while diving out of bounds that was then picked up by Forrest who was also diving on the floor. I love this team.

Commerical Break #1 – Anyone still watch the Best Damn Sports Show? Didn’t think so.

14:43 – Second foul on Cowgill. That’s not good.

13:42 – Rochestie drains a three. Still not sure why he sports the t-shirt recently, but he grabs a board on the other end.

12:28 – Randle hits a 3 to make it 12-10. FSN calls it a “big, big, shot”. Really? This early?

11:45 – Bonus points to Tompkins for being one of the few announcers that can pronounce Koprivica. Rochestie tosses a dime to Baynes for another dunk. Sharing is caring.

Break #2 – Love to see all the different college commercials. I give Cal’s a 6 out of 10.

11:30 – CHRIS HENRY SIGHTING!!! Somehow Boykin makes a circus shot over him.

10:20 – Boykin misses a three. Chris Henry all over that on D. Low drains a trey.

9:31 – I would’ve gone nuts if that Chris Henry jump-shot had gone in. O-reb leads to a Koprivica trip to the foul line.

8:49 – Shouldn’t Ryan Anderson look like more of a dominant player? He looks like a tennis player out there, and for some reason this bothers me.

7:44 – Weaver partially blocks Vierniesel leading to a “that’s what Weaver does” comment. You can always count on FSN to state the obvious.

7:18 – A guy in a dress shirt and tie in the stands is very upset about the call that retains possession for WSU.

Break #3 – Apparently there is no box. Also, Cougars save baby seals from oil spills. Suck on that, Cal Berkeley.

6:15 – Low makes the same try-to-draw-a-foul jumper that Weaver just missed.

5:40 – Weaver with a beautiful finger roll lay-in. Memphis is on the clock.

4:08 – Koprivica gets stuffed by Anderson. Gotta like the aggressiveness, just not the finish.

3:55 – Forrest picks up foul number 3, and if I’m not mistaken at least 2 have led to three-point plays. Yikes.

Break #4 – There is still no box.

3:21 – Kyyyllllllllllllleee Weaver! 27-20 Cougs.

2:37 – Small lineup for the cougs – essentially four guards (Kyle, D-Low, Taylor, Nik) and Baynes. Baynes makes a two on a spin move.

2:17 – Weaver to Baynes. 31-20. Run away with this, guys.

1:46 – Second on Baynes. The likelihood of more Chris Henry just went up. Actually, he just checked in.

1:18 – Phantom foul on Nik. Thanks stripes. Cal cuts it to 31-26. Ugh.

:39 – Chris Henry steal. That’s what I’m talking about. X-mo confirms how close that non-call on the Hardin block was. Tough call – I’m more upset about the prior foul on NK.

:00 – 31-26 Cougs at the half. Eerily similar to the previous Cal game in the Cougs getting out to a decent lead before Cal cuts it down prior to halftime. The cougs were unable to score in the final 2:17 by my count. Still, a lead on the road at the half is always a positive.

Halftime

There is still no box.

Randy Jackson has diabetes, so test your blood sugar, dawg.

UCLA blowing out ASU at the half – that Bayless dunk against USC was sick (check sportscenter if you want to see), and the huskies are only down 6 against the ‘ford.

Still. No. Box. How many of these are we going to see tonight? This isn’t going to make me watch more FX.

If nothing else, glorious FSN HD at least improves the visuals on the “Hooters best damn dream girl” commercial.

Stillnobox. Seriously, this is about the 7th FX commercial.

Barry Tompkins thinks the Cougs had an 11 point lead with 1:30 to play in the first half. Nope.

Cal only shooting 36%, including 1 of 12 from three(!). If the D stays that good in the second half we’re on our way.

FX again. Make it stop!!! If you’ve never seen HBO, this is essentially the poor man’s HBO commercial. For a network that is the poor man’s HBO.

Second Half

19:49 – Turnover on the first possession. Sigh.

19:22 – Anderson stops playing for a second to complain to a ref. The no-call was correct.

18:45 – Steal by Robbie. Great to see him back out there.

18:14 – Taylor for three. Cal timeout. 36-26. Rochestie could care less that there is no box.

X-mo on that previous Low shot. Anyone else notice how good Derrick’s shooting has been inside the arc?

17:13 – Wow. Do not agree with that travel call on Christopher. See, I’m fair to both sides.

16:55 – Weaver makes disgustingly hard passes look easy. 37-26.

16:30 – Low drains another two. I’m on to something here.

15:58 – Wow. Randle misses two lay-ins after an atrocious no-call. Weaver gets the board. Another trip to the line for AB.

Timeout. But is there a box?

EMPHATIC NO. Turns out there’s also no picket fence or loyal sidekick or laugh track or very special episode. There is, however, Brandon Fraser, and he’s swimming directly at you.

Very difficult to type during the swimsuit commerciacomedichve ckaewhi cahinkcvk.

15:34 – Baynes makes 1 of 2. 40-31 good guys.

15:02 – Weaver makes a stepback J. I only get to see this guy one more time live? #$%&.

14:17 – Ticky tack foul on Baynes. I’m glad to see he shaved though.

14:05 – Anderson drains a three. Can’t let him get hot. And now a turnover on Cowgill. 45-36 WSU.

13:00 – Taylor makes a ridiculous shot. 47-36.

12:23 – How hard is it the play in a conference where the seventh place team boasts (arguably) the best player?

11:55 – Low for three. 50-38.

11:25 – Boykin travels. Kyle’s putting on a defensive clinic.

There is no law. There is no order. There is no box. There is no limit to how many times we can run this commercial. Yoouuuuuu give meeeee something……

Why is Cal’s pep band wearing scout uniforms?

We just found out T-Roc (I just came up with that) is #8 in AST/TO ratio. In the entire nation. Nice.

11:03 – Low for THREE! 53-38.

10:18 – Cowgill drops another long two. Cal commits that inbounding violation you see once in about 10,000 plays. Love it.

9:52 – Forrest almost gives up another three point play. He’s been snakebit tonight. 57-42 cougars.

9:30 – Taylor Rochestie is en fuego. 60-42. Why on earth did Cal go to the zone there?

8:36 – Weaver layin followed immediately by a Randle layin.

8:14 – Cal climbs Low’s back and somehow gets a jump ball. That’s ridiculous.

7:45 – Randle keeps attacking Low but it fails this time.

There is no box. There is no box. There is no box. Must watch FX. Must watch FX. Must …..watch…..

Really can’t say enough about Robbie’s job on Anderson. 5 of 14 from the floor. 16 points, but he’s had to work for ‘em, as our announcers just stated.

7:11 – Chris Henry sighting!!! Too bad he gets lay-in’d on. 62-46.

6:39 – Cal has quite the obsession with buzz cuts.

6:31 – Alley oop to Robbie!

6:14 – Kyle’s lay-in circles around the rim and then gets stuck before Baynes knocks it out. Gotta dunk that one, Kyle.

5:09 – Anderson draws a foul. Does Cal have one more run in them?

All of my rooting interests worked out. USC, Stanford, and UCLA are winners.

4:54 – Cal had made 19 in a row at the FT line before the Anderson miss. Good Lord.

4:31 – Cougs are getting sloppy. Weaver misses a three and Randle gets to the line again. Tony is not happy. Forrest fouls out with 0 points. So much for my x-factor. Still a good effort by Caleb, as always.

Cal misses 2 FTs in a row!! It’s a miracle!

Make it 3!! The gods are with us.

4:09 – Baynes picks up his fifth foul on a charge. This has all the makings of one of our prolonged scoring droughts. Keep it together guys.

3:25 – Only four points in the last six minutes AND another turnover. Thank goodness for TV timeouts. And Cal’s sudden ability to miss free throws.

Wow. Hooters. Diabetes. And that’s it. Ladies and gentlemen, our first FX-free commercial break.

2:45 – Good defensive possesion by the cougs. And Taylor draws a foul on the other end. Solid. Tony looks slightly less upset.

2:12 – Cal can’t make ANYTHING now. Where was this team in Pullman?

2:11 – I think it’s Chris Henry time.

By the way, the Cougs were 5-2 on the road coming in and Cal was 2-5 at home. It doesn’t make sense, but we’ll take it.

1:30 – Rochestie swats an offensive board to Weaver for a brand new 35. That should do it.

1:03 – Circus shot by Weaver

:53.6: No showtime dunk on the fast break by Kyle? C’mon. He gets to the line anyway. 70-49. I think it’s safe to say the cougs will cover the spread.

Tom Abercrombie AND Chris Henry sighting!!! Hey, when you play Chris Henry, good things happen. Write it down. And I’m not being sarcastic in any way. I’m a huge Henry fan. People forget he was starting as recently as two years ago.

:31.8 J-Cross draws a foul. Man, it’s good to see the backups.

Actually, Cross carried? I’m not sure what happened there.

:16.8 Tom Abercrombie STUFFS Harper Kamp!!! That’s New Zealand’s finest right there.

:08 – Game over. And we’re officially dancing!!! Ten Pac-10 wins. It’s all about seeding now. And increasing that SOS.

Postgame

My glorious FSN HD gets cut off for a “check back to see if your favorite team is playing in HD” message. Booooo.

Well, what a game. The cougs dominated the second half on both sides. The guards were spectacular in this one – just about every big man minus Chris Henry was in foul trouble tonight and the cougs still made it work. Cowgill gets credit for a great defensive game on Ryan Anderson, who could barely hit the shots even when he was open tonight.

Bad news is that second place is out of reach with the Stanford win. However, the cougs have a one game lead in the standings for #3 (which is basically a two game lead with the tiebreaker over USC). USC has 3 games left so they must win 2 out of 3 to have a chance. If the cougs sweep their final two games, they have #3 in the bag. If not, it gets a little more complex, but but basically one win coupled with at least one USC loss and at least one Arizona loss would also do the trick.

What a performance tonight by the cougs. Only six cougs scored, but the team effort on defense is what made the difference. Cal had too many difficult shots, and missed too many shots when they were open.

The decision for the game ball is tough, but ultimately you have to give it to Rochestie, who had 18 points, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. He also added five rebounds. And six assists. And zero turnovers. Just another day at the office. But give credit to Robbie and Baynes who combined to go 7 for 7. That’s the kind of efficiency you dream of from your front line.

22nd win of the year, and it’s on to Stanford.