Desert Double take for week of February 11

A look around the state at Arizona, Arizona State, Northern Arizona and Grand Canyon and how their basketball teams fared this past week plus looking at what’s ahead this week on the hardwood.

Arizona

Sean Miller said it best after the Wildcats loss to UCLA. The winner of the Pac-12 will have at least two losses when all is said and done. Well, with seven games to play, the top three teams in the conference have three. Arizona received their third of both the conference and season to Cal on Sunday night after getting Crabbed. Allen Crabbe scores 31 points on 12-15 shooting plus seven rebounds and five assists in the win. Coach Mike Montgomery was brilliant switching his team to a zone defense that the Wildcats were not ready for and the Bears went on a 17-2 run because of it. Once the Wildcats figured it out, Crabbe was just to much.

It seemed like the Wildcats were starting to get their shooting stroke back in the win over Stanford because it hadn’t been there going back all the way to the UCLA loss. But the shooting woes returned against the Bears, shooting 39%. Getting into an offensive rhythm, especially early in games needs to be a point of emphasis for this team. In the last six games combined, Arizona has been outscored 50-39 from the start of the game to the first media timeout (first four minutes or so). Trailing at that point in each game in four of the six games. That could be the Wildcats biggest problem going forward or it could also speak on how resilient the team is as they have also won four of those six games. Either way, it would just make the Wildcats lives much easier if they would just come out fast.

Last week Wildcats MVP: Mark Lyons. Had one of his best games as a Wildcat against Stanford on Wednesday against Stanford and led the charge on key runs for the Wildcats against Cal.

Huge road test this week for Arizona starting with a Valentines Day date with the Colorado Buffalos. Arizona defeated the Buffs at McKale back at the start of conference play in what was one of the more controversial plays in the NCAA this season, waving off Sabatino Chen’s game winning three and ultimately winning in OT. Without question the Buffs will be out for blood in this one. The Wildcats better be prepared to respond to their intensity. Plus if you want to be the best in the conference, you don’t lost to the bottom feeder whether it’s at home or on the road. So Utah on Saturday is a big one as well.

Arizona State

The Sun Devils played two very different games last week. First, one of the more complete games they have played all season until the closing minutes of the game against Cal. The Sun Devils still pulled out the win but it was definitely a scary ending leading by eight with four and a half minutes left and then seeing that lead get down to as little as three. Herb Sendek said the end of the game was like watching a person drive stick shift in a car who’s never been instructed to do so before.

Then on Saturday, the Sun Devils did the opposite of the Cal game and came out flat against Stanford. They trailed by as much as 16 in the game and really couldn’t get anything going. But the senior Carrick Felix didn’t let the team give up and fueled an ASU run that after a Jon Gilling three, brought the Devils within three late. But it wasn’t enough.

Last week Sun Devils MVP: Carrick Felix. A double-double in both games against the NorCal schools, and it not for him, the Devils would not have been in position to sweep the NorCal schools at home.

This week starts with a must win game on Thursday against Utah. The Utes gave the Devils all they could handle the first time around taking them to overtime but ASU prevailed. ASU can ill-afford to fall to the conference’s worst team to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. Colorado will have a chip on their shoulder against ASU just like against U of A. The Sun Devils played fantastic against the Buffs in Tempe back at the beginning of conference play forcing them to an 0-2 start. Both the Buffs and the Devils are right on that tournament bubble. Every win at this point is extremely valuable and every loss could be detrimental. This is a huge weekend for Colorado so the Sun Devils also better be ready to match their intensity.

Northern Arizona

The Lumberjacks were on their way to one of their most productive weeks of the entire season after getting a great win on the road at Sacramento State and then taking care of business at home against a struggling Portland State team. No one knows what it is about Eastern Washington but the Jacks fell to them again, this time at home, preventing a NAU from getting a season long three-game win streak in an OT loss. Eastern Washington on has five Big Sky conference wins and two of them come at the hands of the Jacks. Regardless, NAU is just one game back of fourth place and two games back of third in the Big Sky.

Lumberjacks MVP this week: Gabe Rogers. I don’t want to sound like a broken record but this guy needs to be a house hold name in Arizona at this point. Scored 16 of his 22 points against Sac State to fuel the comeback. Also had a career best seven three’s in the win over Portland State. He has been a fantastic senior leader all season.

Very big road week for NAU. First face Northern Colorado who are right behind them in the conference standings. They will be looking for revenge at home as the almost pulled off the win in Flagstaff a few weeks back. Then it’s an opportunity for the Jacks to jump up a spot in the standings going up against North Dakota. They are currently in a tie for fourth in the Big Sky conference. Two big road wins would catapult NAU into great position for the closing weeks of the season. Two losses could put them in a big hole. NAU has won two of their last four road games.

Grand Canyon

The Lopes had just one game last week and responded well after their gut-wrenching home loss to Dixie State, knocking off Holy Names on the road 81-70. It was definitely a good win for the psych of the team. GCU had only shot 59% from the free throw line in the last three games but in Oakland last week, shot 17 of 18.

Last week Lopes MVP: Braylon Pickrel. Had a very solid 15 points and six rebounds leading the charge.

One game last week means three games this week for GCU. The three, all on the road against Notre Dame de Namur and Academy of Art who are both in the bottom half of the conference and then Dominican who stand fourth. It’s a big chance for GCU to really solidify themselves at the top of the conference along with Dixie State and Chaminade. Free throw shooting as well as shooting from the field in general will be key.