Friday, December 12, 2008

Arizona Look-Back

OK - another apology for taking so long to get an Arizona recap out to you guys.

Last Friday night, the Aggies put together a HUGE rally and logged their first signature win of the 2008-2009 season. If the Aggies make this season something special, this may very well be the game that got it all started. It will not necessarily be who the Aggies beat, but the manner in which they came back to win the game. Do not get me wrong, I mean absolutely no disrespect to this year's Wildcat team. I think they are going to be very good and will certainly be a group you will not want to see again come March. All of that being said, they are not much more than a pretty good team that is amongst the 40 or 50 best teams in college basketball.

I think their power trio of Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill and Nic Wise would start for just about anyone in the nation, but they are severely lacking quality depth and contributing role players that can add meaningful minutes.

After seeing Chase Budinger in person for the first time, it's very easy to see why he is an all-American candidate and one of the best shooters in the game. When Budinger lets it fly, his release is super quick and his shot is nearly automatic (see his gaudy 59.5% 3-pointer shooting percentage).

Alright, let's take a quick look at the 60 minutes that made last Friday's 67-66 win so awesome.

The Aggies got off to just about as awful of a start as you could have imagined. They fell behind 15-2 after nearly 6 minutes, and you can't imagine how quiet Reed Arena was. The Aggies did not loose their cool and managed to put together a quick 10-0 run to cut the Arizona lead to only 15-12. The rally, however, was short lived as Arizona then pushed their lead back to 11 at 28-17. From that point, the Wildcats managed to keep the lead between 11 and 14 points for the balance of the 1st half.

As they headed to the break, the Aggies found themselves down 40-29 and getting outrebounded 20-5. Yes, they only managed to grab 5 boards in the first half. Yes, the game felt that lopsided.

Coming out of the break, the Aggies had a touch more energy and seemed to have a little better spring in their step, but Arizona kept shooting the lights out. Through the first 12 minutes of the second half the two teams had each scored 19 points, and the Arizona lead held steady at 11 points (59-48).

From this point (8:19 left in the game) the Aggies were nearly flawless on both ends of the court and put together a comeback that will resonate with Aggie fans for quite some time. A 14-3 run over the next 4:43 brought about the game's 1st tie when the Good Guys knotted it all up at 62 apiece. The huge rally got the Reed Arena crowd of 10,939 (the largest of the season) rockin' and The Brown Barn on the Brazos actually seemed pretty intimidating for the first time this year.

Arizona took the Aggies' best punch and then scored the next two buckets of the game and pulled back ahead 62-66 with 2:20 left. At this point it appeared they were on their way to escaping College Station with a win.

A funny thing happened in the final 140 seconds as the Aggies then turned around and held Arizona scoreless for the balance of the game. The lockdown was based primarily on the strength of some pretty awesome defense by Derrick Roland on Budinger. On their last 5 possessions A&M forced the Wildcats into 2 turnovers, 2 missed free-throws (both front ends of 1-and-1) and a missed shot by Chase Buddinger.

At the 1:01 mark BJ Holmes hit two huge free-throws to pull the Aggies within 2 at 64-66 before Nate Walkup nearly blew the top off the building when he hit a wide open 3 with 20 seconds remaining that gave the Aggies their first lead of the game at 67-66. Donald Sloan found Walkup wide open on the left side when his man collapsed in the lane to double-team Bryan Davis, and Walkup let one fly that found the bottom of the net and hopefully set the Aggies' season back on the right path.

I thought Walkup had a great quote after the game. When asked about his shot he humbly said, "All I did was play eight minutes and make one shot, so I don't want to steal the glory from all the other guys that contributed."

OK - A couple of quick hits before we take a look at the game vs. Alabama on Saturday night.

- - The Aggies have now won 51 straight non-conference home games.
- - B.J. Homes was tremendous again, for the 4th straight game as he has made 11 of his last 20 three point attempts (he started 1-for-9 in the first 3 games). The sophomore scored a team high 14 points against Arizona.
- - Bad: The Aggies got outrebounded 18-33
- - Good: The Aggies posted 16 assists (on 24 field goals) and only 4 turnovers
- - The other thing I will take away from this game was the athleticism and raw talent that Arizona's Jordan Hill showed. The kid seems to have a few attitude problems, but he made some moves on Friday night that just make you shake your head.
- - I can't stress enough how important Derrick Roland's defense on Chase Budinger was in the 2nd half of this game. Budinger was held to only 3 points in the second frame.

OK - We'll try to take a quick look at the Aggies game at Alabama on Saturday if we get time this afternoon.

Carry on.


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