Sunday, February 10, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/19: Freezing Cold, Bare-Knuckled Basketball, Marquette Squeaks by Nova; Duke and Zags Don't Squeak

1. We aren't in the midst of a deep freeze here in Kellogg, but it's a freeze. The flag across the street flapped much of the day. Temperatures hovered between about 8-12 degrees F, but with the wind chill factored in, it was a about ten degrees colder. It was one of those days when the elderly and those with breathing problems are advised to stay indoors. That's what I did. I drank hot coffee and tea, ate hot soup, nursed this fairly minor cold I've had for several days, and made myself very happy watching NCAA college basketball.

2. When play between poker players gets intense on the World Poker Tour, commentator Mike Sexton likes to say the competitors are "bare-knuckled in the center of the ring", an allusion to when boxers dueled without gloves on, once common, now rare.

Mike Sexton's metaphor was an apt one for today's basketball clash in Ann Arbor between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Michigan Wolverines. The referees gave the players room to bang on each other, play physical defense, and didn't impede the flow of the game by calling inconsequential physical contact between players. Unfortunately for Wisconsin, even with the looser officiating, their brilliant low post player, Ethan Happ, was whistled for his third foul early in the second half and had to take an extended and involuntary sabbatical and, when he returned to the game, was unable to dazzle the Wolverines with his interior spin moves and acrobatic shots the way he had in the first half. Having to ride the pine dislodged his equilibrium and disrupted his rhythm.

But, Michigan's low post giant, Happ's counterpart, Jon Teske, turned in a superb performance and, in the second stanza, Charles Matthews awakened from hibernation and poured in sixteen second half points.  Michigan won this bruising contest, 61-52.

After the game, Ethan Happ, looking ahead, I imagine, to the season ending Big Ten Conference tournament said to Michigan coach John Beilein, "I hope to see you again this season" and Coach Beilein quipped back, "No Ethan. I don't want to see you again the rest of my life."

I'm sure every Wisconsin opponent agrees with Coach Beilein.

3. Against Marquette in Milwaukee this afternoon, Villanova, a team that normally feasts on scoring from beyond the three point arc, starved themselves from out there today. Shots clanked, rimmed out, fell short, and caromed wildly off the iron and it looked like Villanova's undefeated conference record was in jeopardy. Marquette marksman Markus Howard and his backcourt running mate, Sacar Anim, dropped shots from outside, inside, and mid-range. But, Villanova gathered itself and staged a comeback as senior guard Phil Booth took over the late stages of the game with a string of timely baskets. Down a point with 14 seconds remaining, Villanova put the game's outcome in Phil Booth's hands. It looked like he had a clear lane to the basket with about four seconds left, but that lane got cut off by Marquette's Ed Morrow and, uncharacteristically, the usually cool Phil Booth seemed disoriented, got trapped under the basket, desperately heaved the ball to Jermaine Samuels who hoisted up a wild off-balance line drive that never had a prayer and Marquette won 66-65. Its boisterous fans went bonkers.

Later in the afternoon, Duke went bonkers, draining three point shot after three point shot -- the supposed weakness of their offense -- and vanquished Virginia, 81-71.

In the evening, I went over to Christy and Everett's for a bowl of hearty and delicious beef barley soup and watched Gonzaga make their longtime West Coast Conference rival, the St. Mary's Gaels, look like the St. Maries Lumberjacks of Idaho's high school 2A Central Idaho Conference. The Zags blasted to a thirty-three point halftime lead and humiliated the Gaels by a final score of 94-46.

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