Saturday, January 25, 2020

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/20: Virtue of Reading Slowly, What a Mess!, Ducks Win and Some Thoughts

1. Because it's taken me much of this week to get halfway through Master and Commander, it's a good thing I subscribe to Robertson Davies' arguments regarding the virtue of slow reading, of slowing things down, sometimes, by moving my lips, silently sounding out the sentences, tracing their main and subordinate clauses, which glide like rivers, fed by tributaries, enjoying how O'Brian's sentences flow out of the headwaters of the beginning capital letter to the sea of the period. (A quick online search will put you in touch with people with titles like "productivity trainer/consultant" who will discourage reading this way. It's not "productive" to move one's lips while reading; it impedes speed.)

I'm enjoying how O'Brian develops his novel's episodes both externally, as he takes us into the claps of rifles, thunder of cannons, and the storms of sea battles, and internally, as he continues to dive into the internal thoughts, reflections, emotions, and struggles of the story's characters. I follow the inward movement better than the battles, but I'm more familiar with fears, resentments, love, pride, doubt, yearning, self-examination, and memory than I am with gun powder and volleys.

2. The thought crossed my mind today that if I had a stroke or a heart attack or something and someone came into my house to make a welfare check, they might marvel at what a mess I'm currently living in -- dishwasher half full, sesame seeds on the kitchen floor and rug, a sink nearly full of dishes to be cleaned, open mail scattered on the kitchen table, grocery bags lying around.

It's evidence that I'm absorbed in reading a book. I chuckled tonight at the disarray. It reminded me of when, as a graduate student, I lived alone in a little basement apartment at 361 W. Broadway in Eugene and got so wrapped up in reading, writing, and grading students' papers that I'd become nearly oblivious to the empty coffee cups, plates and saucers and pans crusted with food, and little piles of clothes that needed to be laundered.

I did, however, complete some tasks today outside of reading battles erupting on the Mediterranean Sea: I laundered my sheets and pillow cases; went to the bank and signed a document for Debbie in the presence of a notary and sent it back to Eugene, helping further Debbie being able to draw her retirement pension; I returned Lucy Cooke's riveting book to the library; I entrusted my Avista bill to the parking lot drop box; I picked up a few things at Yoke's.

Mostly, though, I read, ignoring my house's clutter.

3. Seven o'clock rolled around and I secured myself comfortably in the Vizio room with a bowl of popcorn, made text message contact with Linda Schantol in Eugene, and tuned in to the Oregon/Oregon State women's basketball game at the U of O's Matthew Knight Arena.

The Beavers blazed to a 10-2 lead behind Destiny Slocum's three point splashes and Taylor Jones's low post prowess. The Ducks started out wobbly, but about halfway through the first quarter and throughout the second quarter, they dominated the Beavers. Their scoring came from everywhere: Sabrina Ionescu hit floaters in the key (and a rainbow three launched from St. Mary's Episcopal Church at 13th and Pearl to end the first quarter), Taylor Chavez peppered the hoop with threes, Ruthy Hebard danced around Taylor Jones in the pivot to make hook shots and short jumpers, Satou Sabally drove aggressively to the iron and drew fouls -- and made her free throws.

Oregon held a 45-29 lead at halftime and for a stretch of about 12-14 minutes looked indomitable. Not only were the Ducks scoring out of their offensive sets, but they disrupted the Beavers with energetic defense, converting Beaver turnovers into points in the open court.

The Beavers did not back down and actually outscored the Ducks 35-31 in the second half. The Beavers dug in on defense, forcing the Ducks into some off-balance and maybe even ill-chosen shots and both Destiny Slocum and Aleah Goodman made some crucial three pointers and Taylor Jones continued to score inside. The Beavers narrowed Oregon's lead to under ten points in the fourth quarter, but missed a series of shots late in the game and Oregon scored a combination of field goals and free throws and won the game, 76-64.

I'm no basketball expert, but the fun thing about writing in a blog is that I can try out some insights and see it they pan out over time.

So here's what I think about the Ducks as they prepare to play the Beavers again on Sunday, this time in Corvallis, at 1 p.m.

To me, the Ducks have three of the strongest players in the nation in Ionescu, Sabally, and Hebard. I also think highly of Erin Boley. She is a valuable part of the Ducks' offense. She sets excellent screens, is becoming increasingly adept at cutting to the basket and scoring off of other players' passes, is herself a fine passer, and is always a threat to score from deep -- in fact, at times, Boley can get rolling and score bunches of points from the outside.

I think, however, the Ducks haven't quite nailed down the fifth position on the floor. Last night, especially late in the game, Minyon Moore contributed very valuable minutes, especially on defense. I've read that her goal for this season was to be named the conference's defensive player of the year. I don't think that will happen, but no matter: she is a spirited and disrupting defender.

On offense, I'm not so sure about Moore's role. She started tonight's game, but Coach Graves pulled her in the first quarter and her time on the bench pretty much coincided with Ducks' great run in the first half, and, her substitute, Taylor Chavez contributed (I think) nine huge points off the bench.

The problem is that when Moore sits, Ionescu becomes the team's point guard and I think Ionsecu performs better when another player runs the offense and she serves as a kind of combination secondary point guard, shooting guard, and small forward. In the second half tonight, I thought there were times when the Ducks seemed more like a three member team than five -- a very good three member team, mind you, but Boley was on the bench a lot and it seemed to me that combinations of Moore, Chavez, and Jaz Shelly didn't always gel very well with Ionescu, Hebard, and Sabally.

I have to say that many teams across the country wish they were dealing with what I've described here!

Not only that, but if this is a problem that needs to be ironed out (and it might not be -- I might be totally wrong here!), the Ducks have several weeks to work on it before tournament time.

It's not at all unusual for teams in college basketball to be in the process of forging a team identity all through the season. I see the Ducks as continuing to work out how to compensate for the loss of last year's point guard, Maite Cazorla, to graduation. On the telecast a week ago, when the Ducks played Cal, the games' broadcasters made this very point. They thought Minyon Moore was progressing, learning more of the Duck playbook, discovering her role on this team, and always playing lock down defense, but they observed that it might be a while before she has totally learned and adapted to the Ducks' system. That's not a criticism, by the way. As brilliant as the Ducks are, this is not a deep team (only seven Ducks played last night) and as Minyon Moore and her teammates come to understand Moore's role on this team for fully and their comfort with one another grows, the Ducks will continue to improve.

I'm not looking for arguments about what I've said here, but if you've read this far, watch the Ducks, and have thoughts about what I've written here, I'd enjoy reading what you think.

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