Desert Double Take for week of March 4th

Arizona

Yikes. Arizona went out to Los Angeles controlling their own destiny in the conference. Wound up getting swept by USC and UCLA. The game against the Trojans might have been the worst the Wildcats have looked from start to finish in a game all season. I think the worst loss of the season was the Cal game at home where they fell apart in the second half but at least the held a lead in that game in the first half. Against a USC team that they crushed a few weeks back in Tucson, the Wildcats came out flat and uninspired. They admitted it too after the game. Solomon Hill mentioned that the team had lost their way and Sean Miller said that this recent stretch that the team had been on is “the worst defensive team he has ever coached,” in nine years.

Then came Saturday which was one of the best atmosphere’s I have even been a part of out at Pauley Pavilion. You could just feel the UCLA-Arizona rivalry based on the buzz in the building. This game was not as much in my opinion about U of A playing poor as it was how great UCLA looked. Everyone from the Wear twins to Shabazz to Powell and Drew II has their A+ game. Credit the Wildcats however for coming back and being within one possession of the Bruins down the stretch. For a Freshman in Grant Jarrett to knock down two three’s in the last two minutes was as clutch shooting you will see out of a teenager at this level. But at the end of the day, it was another loss and the Wildcats are out of contention for the Pac-12 regular season crown unless Oregon, UCLA and Cal lose out. It’s worth noting that the Wildcats are winless this season against all three of those teams.

Wildcats MVP this week: Grant Jarrett. Tough to crown an MVP after two losses but if I were to credit one, Jarrett had 24 points, eight rebounds, and 6 three-pointers in the two. Two of those threes had the clutch factor mentioned above.

Final week/game of the regular season up ahead for the Wildcats as they take on ASU on Saturday. The first meeting between the two was one of the best games Arizona has played in conference all year. Mark Lyons did what he does best and something we haven’t seen as much from him in this recent stretch of games, which is attack the basket. He started to at the beginning of the last UCLA game but didn’t maintain it throughout the game. Nick Johnson also started to show flashes of getting his confidence back in the UCLA game as he finally started to see shots go through the net. This is a big opportunity for him to stay on the right track going into post-season play.

Arizona State

Yikes. ASU went out to Southern California needing to at least spilt the games to keep their tournament hopes alive and came up with a goose egg. The Sun Devils came out and played great against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Jon Gilling had one of his best games of the season knocking six three-pointers in the game and tying his second highest point total of the year with 18. UCLA battled back and took the lead late in the second half but Jahii Carson was a warrior again and was un-guardable in the final minutes. But the Sun Devils came up short in overtime and took the loss. Also cant leave out Carrick Felix’s fifth double-double in seven games with his 16 point and 18 rebound performance.

Then came Saturday afternoon and the USC game. For those who have not been to the Galen Center, it is one of the quietest and most un-energetic Arenas I have ever watched a college basketball game in. And that is also about as un-energetic as ASU came out and played. The Sun Devils could not knock down a shot to save their lives, got into no rhythm offensively, and had way too many turnovers. I noted on twitter at the game that at the 6:25 mark in the first half, the Sun Devils had only seven points, had eight turnovers, were shooting 21% and were trailing by 15. It was a nightmare for them. The Devils would fight back like they have all season long and had a chance to win the game on the final play but it was too little too late.

Sun Devils MVP last week: Jahii Carson. 45 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in the two games in SoCal. He is averaging over 21 points per game on the road in pac-12 play this season and was nominated for freshman of the year in the nation. I’m sure he would still take two wins last week over all of those accolades.

ASU’s hopes for an at large bid in the NCAA Tournament is pretty much toast as a result of last week. Their only hope is to pull a USC from 2009 or a Colorado from 2012 and run the table as a bubble team in the Pac-12 Tournament and get an automatic bid. A good tune up to get mentally prepared for the run they will have to go on is Saturday against the Wildcats in Tucson. The result of that game has no barring on their post-season hopes, it’s all about the conference tourney. However, bragging rights against your in-state rival is always a plus.

Northern Arizona

It was a wild week at home for the Lumberjacks. NAU started off great getting the win they were supposed to get against Idaho State. They held the last place team in the conference to just three field goals total in the second half in route to the win. Next was a huge game against the Weber State Wildcats who were sitting in second in the conference. NAU overcame an eight point deficit at halftime to hold a seven point lead with just over a minute to play in the game. But Weber State battled back on an 11-4 run and knocked off the ‘Jacks on their senior day. “Our five seniors left everything on the line,” said Head Coach Jack Murphy after the game. “I cannot say enough about them. Unfortunately, we did not finish the game off on senior day. But they played with great heart and determination.”

Lumberjacks MVP last week: Gabe Rogers. Was an absolute warrior for NAU last week. With his 24 points vs. Idaho State and 25 against a great defensive team in Weber State. He has scored in double-figures in 14 consecutive games.

Final week of the season for NAU on the road in Montana and their is a lot riding on it. NAU is stuck in a log jam with a four way tie for 5th place standing at 8-10 in conference and only a half game behind Northern Colorado for 4th. The first game is against Montana State who are one of the four teams that are 8-10 with NAU. Big opportunity for the Jacks to jump ahead of a team in the standings. Last is Montana who are currently first in the Big Sky Conference. NAU football went up their this past season and won for the first time since Jerome Sours became the coach. It would be a great time for Jack Murphy to get his first win in Missoula as well. Plus a successful week going into the all important Big Sky Tournament to determine their post-season fate.

Grand Canyon

GCU finished their 2012-13 season snapping their six game winning streak in a loss to Azusa Pacific in a tough overtime loss. The Lopes really struggled from the floor in the first half as they went eight minutes with out a field goal and almost six minutes without a point. Despite only shooting 35% for the game, they did make seven three’s which kept them close.

Lopes MVP last week: Killian Larson tied for a team high with 15 points.

Up next for GCU is the inaugural Pac West Tournament being hosted at Azusa Pacific. The Lopes have earned a two seed and will play the winner of Chaminade and Hawaii-Pacific on Friday. GCU beat both teams earlier in the year. They do not necessarily have to win the conference to get into the Division II tournament. They are in great position for an at-large big but seeding will be a factor so the next week will be very important for the Lopes.