Talk hoops all year long in Luke Winn's blog, a journal of commentary, news and reader-driven discussions about the college game.
1/30/2007 03:27:00 PM
Found: McKale 'Box' Photo
Behold the power of the blog: On Sunday, we put out an A.P.B. for a photo of the Special Christmas Box-themed signs from Arizona's McKale Center. Late Monday night, one of the wig-wearing sign-holders, U of A student Thomas Peterson, sent over the pic that appears below. Many thanks, Thomas.
Arizona won the signage battle ... but lost the war to UNC. By 28 points.
A frustrated Jeff Ruland (standing) looks on from the Iona bench.
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Under a shoe that was under his bed, J.B. Buono located his lucky necklace on Monday morning. "I couldn't find that goddamn thing for a long time," he said, "but today I put it on and thought, 'Maybe we'll get a win.'"
Iona legend J.B. Buono, with his lucky "horns" necklace, during halftime of Monday's game.
We, for the 95-year-old Buono, is Iona. Last season, every time he wore the necklace -- on which dangles a silver hand shaped in the "horns" symbol he has used to curse Gaels opponents for the past 58 years as either team trainer or, even in emeritus, a fixture on its bench -- Iona won. The Gaels finished 23-8 in 2005-06, good for first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and put up a respectable fight against LSU, before losing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Buono lost his lucky charm before this season started, though, and it remained in its unintentional hiding place while Iona suffered through an epic 20-game losing streak. On Monday night at Hynes Athletics Center, for the Gaels' 21st game of '06-07, a winnable affair against the MAAC's third-worst team, Canisius, Buono was at the end of the bench, telling the story of the necklace during halftime.
With four freshmen in its starting lineup, Iona managed to jump out to a 13-3 lead and clung to a 32-31 advantage over the Griffins at the break. The elusive win -- and at least the beginning of the end of coach Jeff Ruland's nightmare season -- was within reach. Of the prospect of that happening, Buono said, "Oh, we'll be celebrating. I've been telling the players, if you win, I'll get you laid. And if you lose, I'll ..." Regrettably (and I really mean that), the rest of that quote is unprintable.
Such is the state of these Gaels and the severity of their curse, that even the prospect of a night of carousing, the effect of Buono's charm or a rematch against an opponent they had taken to overtime on Jan. 18, could not save them. They blew their lead for good at the 13:19 mark of the second half and lost 71-61. Adding injury to insult, their leading scorer, senior Anthony Bruin, was unable to walk by the time the final gun sounded. The only active player who saw substantial minutes in last year's NCAA tourney run, Bruin sprained his ankle in the second half. While Ruland was leading his team through their 21st straight procession of depressing, post-game handshakes, Bruin was crutching toward the locker room.
"I think they're snakebitten, I really do," said Canisius coach Tom Parrotta. "Sometimes you'd rather be lucky than good. And they need a little luck."
Ruland, a former Iona All-American who went on to become an NBA All-Star, and then returned to coach the school to three NCAA tournaments, was somewhat despairing in his postgame press conference. "If I sat up at night, and tried to think of the different things that have happened [this season], I couldn't," he said. "Now our leading scorer goes down with an ankle injury. Talk about bad karma. I've led a pretty good life; I haven't been mean to anybody. I must have a lot of stuff coming my way. I should start buying some lotto tickets."
The Gaels came into this season without four senior starters (and four of their five leading scorers) from '05-06, including the vaunted backcourt of Steve Burtt (25.2 ppg), Ricky Soliver (16.1 ppg) and Marvin McCullough (4.5 apg). Progressively, they were robbed of the services of four of their projected new starters for '06-07. Forward Gary Springer, who averaged 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds as a sophomore, injured his knee in the offseason and is redshirting. He and Kyle Camper -- the junior point guard and team captain who broke his foot in November -- watched Monday's game in street clothes from the bench. Forward Dexter Gray, a transfer from St. John's, played four games and averaged 10.3 points before being ruled academically ineligible for the second semester. Kenny Jackson, an '05-06 reserve who could have started at two-guard alongside Camper, could not get eligible for his senior season and is no longer enrolled at Iona.
On top of all that, the Gaels lost three overtime games in January, and another, to Niagara, by one point. Current freshman starter Alejo Rodriguez, who starred on Monday by scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, is too hurt to even participate in team practices; he couldn't even speak with the media after the game because he was receiving treatment.
The prospect of an 0-29 season is ominously looming for the Gaels, but a pair of February games remain against St. Peter's, which is 1-9 in conference. In those two dates lie the hope for avoiding the infamy shared by Savannah State (in 2005) and Prairie View (in 1992). And in the banners that hang over the gym -- 10 MAAC Championships, and eight trips to the NCAAs -- lie the consolation that this is only a bump in the road for a program that's been a perennial league powerhouse. Ruland has vowed to get Iona back to the NCAA tournament in two years. And Troy Truesdale, an ex-Gaels player ('81-85) who was conversing with Buono at halftime, said, "This losing isn't going to last. This season is like Murphy's Law. You're going to see the program come back."
Truesdale then told the story of how, back in the day, Buono had a "special rub" for injured Iona players that brought them back into good health. "He had the magic touch," Truesdale said. In a situation so dire that even the horns aren't working, perhaps Buono needs to come out of retirement.
Iona players warm up 90 minutes before gametime on Monday.
Prep phenom O.J. Mayo was ejected from a high school game on Friday night in Charleston, W.V.
Yup. That's your potential No. 1 pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, USC recruit O.J. Mayo, being led off the court of a high school game in West Virginia by police on Friday. The same week his Huntington High team was named No. 1 in the Rise/SI.com prep rankings, Mayo was whistled for two technical fouls in a win over state rival (Charleston) Capital High. The first was for taunting a rival player after a dunk, and the second was for further verbal sparring on the other end of the floor. In the process of disputing the calls, Mayo made contact with the ref, Mike Lazo -- and Lazo fell to the ground. The conflict then escalated to the point where you see Mayo above, making his best Jon Scheyer face on the way to the exit.
The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch has been all over this story from the beginning, and while the initial reports seemed damning to Mayo, new details -- namely, videos of the incident -- make someone else look foolish: the ref. The two Ts Lazo whistled were within reason, but what happened when he was approached by Mayo was both embarrassing and hilarious. Sorry, Lazo, but this looks like a flop straight from a Best Of Vlade Divac tape. Bill Bands, an attorney from Charleston who was at the game, told the paper, "I think O.J. Mayo should have controlled himself better. But this ref took a dive. He wasn't pushed. It wasn't that necessary. It was definitely the worst officiated game I've seen on any level."
Blog Q&A With ... Virginia Tech's Deron Washington
The high-flying Deron Washington has the Hokies atop the ACC standings.
Richard C. Lewis/WireImage
As the latest in a series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Virginia Tech forward Deron Washington on Friday. Washington's Hokies have been the nation's biggest surprise East of the Mississippi, jumping out to a 16-5 start and sitting in the ACC lead with wins over Duke, North Carolina, Maryland and Georgia Tech. The versatile, 6-foot-7 junior is the team's third-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game, second-leading rebounder at 5.0 per game, and the regular subject of high-flying highlight clips.
Luke Winn: How much are you aware of the fact that, after almost every Virginia Tech game, there's a new photo -- or highlight -- out there of Deron Washington dunking? Whatever you're doing, it seems like you've become pretty photogenic.
Deron Washington: I have noticed that. I get calls from people in my family, or friends on Instant Messenger send me messages. My mom is the one who usually sends over the pictures; she e-mails them to me and I usually save them on my computer. LW: Do you have any kind of philosophy on taking the ball to the rim -- some sort of thinking that helps bring about a lot of these plays?
DW: Just go until somebody stops you -- and even then I feel like I can jump over them.
LW: So would you describe that as an aggressive mindset?
DW: Yeah. Basically, I just take it to the rim as strong as I can. It's either going to be a foul or a basket the majority of the time.
LW: Tell me what you know about YouTube. Are you fan of the site?
DW: I get on there quite a bit, to see highlights from pros I like. My favorite player is Sean Marion, so I usually look at his stuff. And then Vince Carter -- his college highlights from Carolina -- or old Shawn Kemp or Dominique Wilkins dunks.
DW: Yes. I've seen about four or five clips up there; it's everywhere right now. I've seen people with pictures of it on their computers, too. I think it's pretty nice. It's still kind of amazing, when I watch it, that I actually jumped over him.
LW: What did you think was going to happen on that play, before you jumped?
DW: I didn't know what to expect. I just took off. I didn't think he'd be able to step in front of me, and then slipped over and got there -- and I went over him.
LW: Was anything said between you guys after that?
LW: Where do you think basketball ranks on the Virginia Tech campus, in terms of things that the general student body cares about right now?
DW: The way everybody is acting lately, it seems like basketball is coming up. It's probably second behind football; everybody is starting to come to watch the games. I hope that we're developing into a football-basketball school.
LW: Last season -- when I'm sure you didn't get as much fan support [with a 14-16 record] -- your team was beset by numerous tragedies on and off the court. To you, what was the low point??
DW: It was all the stuff that happened off the court, with so many of the players' families. It seemed like everybody was down; the majority of people weren't able to enjoy basketball. A.D. Vassallo's [host mother] died of cancer. After what happened with Coleman Collins' dad [he passed away in February from lung cancer], his head wasn't into it. I was down when my situation [with his mom having to evacuate New Orleans due to Katrina] happened. And then when Allen Calloway got sick, that affected the whole team. He was just playing one day, and then the next we found out he had cancer.
LW: Tell me about what your mom had to leave behind in New Orleans.
DW: It was the house that she lived in for at least eight or nine years. It was in the Eighth Ward, about three or four miles from downtown. She called me and told me she was leaving a couple of days before the storm came, and then headed for Texas. I didn't hear from her for three or four days because of the cell phone problems. It was a little stressful.
LW: And have you seen the house again?
DW: Actually, I went back to see it and everything was all fixed up. There was only about three or four feet of water [flooding it], so there was mildew and they had to gut the house out, but they did that pretty quickly.
LW: What's the state of it now?
DW: She still owns it, but she's renting it out to a friend. She's living in Blacksburg now, in an apartment. I love having her around, because I haven't lived at home for about five or six years. I lived with my dad [his parents are divorced] for two years in high school, and then for another two years I went to prep school at National Christian Academy.
LW: Your dad, Lionel Washington, is the defensive backs coach for the Green Bay Packers, and played for 15 years in the NFL. What was it like growing up around professional football?
DW:DW: It made my childhood kind of fun. I'd get to visit my dad during seasons, and meet guys like Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen [when Lionel played for the Raiders from 1987-94]. I met a lot of famous people that I wouldn't have had a chance to meet otherwise.
LW: And were Bo and Marcus the most favorite guys you met?
DW: Well, one guy I really liked when my dad started coaching for the Packers [in 1999] was Aaron Brooks. I'd always play basketball against him in Green Bay. He always won those games; he had a pretty good shot and I had a hard time trying to check him.
LW: How old were you then?
DW: I was like 14 or 15. We'd play during the summers about once a week; either one-on-one or games of H-O-R-S-E.
LW: On the floor, you wear high socks, knee braces, elbow pads, a headband -- about as much gear as anyone in the country. Any specific reason?
DW: The headband is just something I've always worn. And the high socks are something I've always liked. The knee brace and the elbow brace I have to wear -- those are for injuries. But it does look like I'm always stacked up with something. People have told me, 'That's a lot of stuff.'
LW: And the braids you're wearing; what would those look like if you picked them out?
DW: I think it would be a lot similar to Joakim Noah; I'd have to put it in a ponytail. I did it for one game -- only because I couldn’t find somebody to do the braids, though. I'll let Noah keep his style.
DW: I've never heard any music that he listens to. I can't even imagine what it would be. I guess it would be something old; I don't see him listening to too much new stuff.
LW: How old are we talking? Like, Sinatra old, or classic rock old?
DW: Maybe Sinatra, that's what I guess I'd picture.
LW: And what's on your 'pod when you work out?
DW: I listen to a lot of Lil' Wayne. That's what a lot of people listen to when I'm in New Orleans. Everybody in Louisiana kind of loves him.
LW: If you had to give me your prime-time college dunkers -- and couldn't pick anyone on Virginia Tech -- whom would you pick?
DW: I like Reyshawn Terry [of North Carolina]; he's a pretty high flyer. I'm trying to think of some others. Oh -- I like Gist too. James Gist [from Maryland]. Me and him have had a couple of run-ins, dunking on each other. We play in a summer league together [the Kenner League in Washington] and he dunked on me this summer. He can get high up.
LW: Last one. If you could pick anyone in the country to dunk over, who would it be?
DW: There's two people I'd pick. Greg Oden [of Ohio State] and Sean Williams from BC ... if he could still play. Williams is one of the premier shot-blockers in the country; and he's a little bigger than me, so I think that would be bring some recognition.
LW: And why Oden?
DW: I've never dunked on a 7-footer before. It's something I've always wanted to do.
Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me in press row; I only used it to take the pregame shot at the top of this post. Anyone get a good picture of the Samberg/Timberlake-inspired signage? Hopefully the Heels found it amusing. Hard to get ticked about anything when you're beating a Top 25 team, on the road, by 28.
This is the third expansion of The Style Archive, which opened on Dec. 4, 2006, and has since grown to 26 exhibits. It's a blog-museum of sorts, dedicated to the most interesting stylistic elements of college hoops, from hairdos, to flair, to YouTube-worthy moves. Below are the six most recent additions; the complete Archive can be found here.
(Readers are encouraged to make archive nominations either in the blog comments or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and will be credited on the site for any successful suggestions.)
>> Jan. 23 Exhibits <<
Yo, Vanilla! Levon Kendall, 6-10 forward, Sr., Pitt Classification: Retro Vanilla Ice 'do Spotted: Jan. 16 vs. UConn by The Blog Notes: Big ups to Kendall for bringing back the cut worn by Robert Matthew Van Winkle in the early '90s. Kendall is stopping, collaborating and listening on the hardwood (as well as averaging 5.7 points per game).
The No-Tie Look Tony Bennett, head coach, Washington State Classification: Semi-formal coaching attire Spotted: Jan. 16 in Seth Davis' Hoop Thoughts Notes: The 37-year-old Bennett took over the Cougars after his father, Dick, retired in March 2006. Will Tony's instant success -- he's led Wazzu from the Pac-10 cellar to the top 25 -- start a sideline style trend?
The Vault II Deron Washington, 6-7 forward, Jr., Virginia Tech Classification: Posterizing layup Spotted: Jan. 6 at Duke by the Blog Notes: The Blue Devils' Greg Paulus would like to forget what Washington did to him at Cameron -- a crotch-in-the-face vault for a clutch layup -- but this play will be immortalized on YouTube.
The Clarence Clemons Warren Carter, 6-9 forward, Sr., Illinois Classification: Messy, spiked-out hairdo Spotted: Jan. 14 at Michigan State by the Blog Notes: We're calling Carter's look the Clarence Clemons -- rather than the Ernie (from Sesame Street), as one friend suggested -- because it looks exactly like this photo of the E Street Band saxophonist.
The Frizzled Frosh Robin Lopez, 7-0 center, Fr., Stanford Classification: Unkept curly 'fro Submitted by: Stanford student Michael Lazar Notes: Lopez is, to our knowledge, the second player (after Wazzu's Derrick Low) who keeps his mane in check with an accessory running over, rather than around, his head. It's a good way to tell him apart from his twin.
The Dangling Mouthpiece D.J. Augustin, 5-11 guard, Fr., Texas Classification: Constantly visible mouth flair Spotted: Jan. 20 at Villanova by the Blog Notes: Augustin, Kevin Durant's partner in crime on the Baby 'Horns, is bringing back a look that Illinois' Dee Brown was known for in 2003-04: He uses a mouthpiece, but never keeps it completely inside his mouth.
UPDATED: The Polynesian Revival Derrick Low, 6-2 guard, Jr., Wash. State Classification: Hip-to-ankle tattoo Spotted: Dec. 28 at UCLA by the Blog Notes: Originally we called this a knee-length tat -- but in the process of writing this story we learned the real details on the traditional Hawaiian tattoo Low got in the summer of 2006.
UPDATED: Great Oden's Beard Greg Oden, 7-0 center, Fr., Ohio State Classification: Old-man facial hair Spotted: Jan. 17 vs. Northwestern by The Blog Notes: Oden began the season with a 40-year-old's grizzly beard, but shaved it in advance of the Buckeyes' Jan. 17 date against Northwestern. He's no longer being asked for his birth certificate prior to games.
Dan Nwaelele scored 11 points in Saturday's win over San Diego State to help drive the Falcons' record to 18-2 on the season.
As part of a series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Air Force marksman Dan Nwaelele (pronounced Wah-LAY-lay) late last week. The senior wingman, who is averaging 15.2 points in Air Force's hybrid-Princeton offense -- the equivalent of averaging 19.1 at North Carolina -- is shooting 51.1 percent from long distance. We spoke while Dan was on a bus back to the Academy following a loss to Utah, only the Falcons' second this season. They're currently 18-2 and 5-1 in the Mountain West.
Luke Winn: Can you tell us about coach Jeff Bzdelik's Motown jones? We've heard that he's playing Motown music during your practices ...
Dan Nwaelele: He does -- he puts it on every once in a while at the beginning of practice. It's mostly the Temptations that he has going. It's kind of chill, and everybody enjoys the music. It sets a good mood for practice, but I haven't caught anybody dancing.
LW: Bzdelik was quoted as saying that shooting was about rhythm, and music might help the rhythm. Seeing that you're the Falcons' most accurate gunner right now, what would your your ultimate shooting-rhythm music be?
DN: I'm not sure. I usually shoot with no music at all. But [the ultimate] would just be something with a little beat to it -- hip-hop or rap, probably.
[Someone is yelling "country" next to Nwaelele on the bus at this point.]
LW: Who's saying country music?
DN: That would be [Falcons forward] Jake Burtschi [from Chickasha, Okla.]. He's after me about country music. He tries to get everybody on the team to listen the country songs he's playing. I don't even know any country artists. I try not to listen to them.
LW: You've kept country off your iPod, then.
DN: I'm probably like the only player on the team that doesn't have an iPod.
LW: You're shooting extremely high percentages this year for a perimeter player -- 58.1 from the field, 51.1 from three. How did you develop such an accurate shot?
DN: When I was young, I tried to watch a lot of NBA games. I tried to look at players that I liked, like Michael Jordan, Anfernee Hardaway and Grant Hill. And I tried to emulate how they shot and how they played. I haven't always been a great shooter and tried to work hard at it. I get up as many shots as I can, after practice and out of season.
LW: Your country teammate, Burtschi, recently said he had heard Air Force's offense called "Princeton on steroids." How would you describe it?
DN: I'd say it's like the Princeton offense with a little bit of leeway. We're not running it down to the end of the shot clock like we did with coach [Joe] Scott and coach [Chris] Mooney [who left to take the Princeton job in 2005]. If we have an open shot, coach has the confidence in us to take it. So that's the leeway.
LW: So it's safe to say you like it better than the orthodox Princeton offense you used before Bzdelik arrived ...
DN: I like it a lot better -- It's definitely a much more fun version.
LW: You're listed as part of an "inspections team" at the academy. What does that entail?
DN: I was on it last semester. I was a replacement for anyone who couldn't do the inspections -- so I didn't have to do anything. We have inspections of [cadets'] rooms and uniforms, and you go around and grade the room or the person with the uniform on. I was trained to do it, but I didn't end up having to.
LW: What's your real duty, then?
DN: I was like an athletic clerk, or an athletic non-com officer. Now I'm athletic officer of my squadron. There's a physical test you have to take, year-round, stuff like push-ups, sit-ups, standing long jump, and a 600-yard run. We're not exempt from it as athletes, either. I also have to coordinate with everyone and make sure they're doing things like playing intramurals.
LW: I've been asking a few players this question lately: If you had to pick a "dream" college team that included you and four other players -- but no one else from Air Force -- whom would you pick? Take positions, including yours, into consideration.
DN: Well, first, I like that Kevin Durant kid at small forward. He's got the whole package, and can score in so many different ways. Then Greg Oden -- he's a grown man already. He looks like he's 40 years old, but he's just 18, right? At power forward I like the big, strong dude from Florida, Al Horford. He's solid. I'll take the two spot, so I still need a point guard. I guess I'll go with another Florida guy -- Taurean Green.
LW: Would anyone at Air Force be allowed to grow a beard like Oden has?
DN: Not one that big. You can get a shaving waiver. If you have one you don't have to shave every day, but you have to get the waiver from a doctor, for something like ingrown hairs in your neck.
LW: I'm assuming, given the spelling of your name, that you get some rough pronunciations from public-address announcers. What's the worst one you've heard?
DN: I'm almost to the point where I don't even notice it, or hear what they say; when they announce my name I know it's my name and leave it at that. But the worst ... probably something like Nah-wheelie.
LW: Can you explain the heritage of your name?
DN: It's Nigerian. My parents -- who now live in Bothell, Wash. -- were born in Nigeria, and came to the U.S. when they were 18 or 19. I went to Nigeria once, when I was 5, but I can barely remember it.
DN: What I did remember, just now, is another shooter I liked. My favorite, actually.
LW: And who's that?
DN:Ray Allen. I just like the way he gets his shot off. It's such a nice, quick release. It's the purest form I've ever seen. I'd like my shot to be that smooth.
David Monds and the Cowboys avoided a potentially devastating loss to Texas.
I just finished reviewing Texas and Oklahoma State's three-overtime epic on my DVR and ... wow. Move over, Kansas-Florida. We have a new leader in the clubhouse for Game Of The Season, and this one is going to be difficult to top. ESPN2 was waiting, and waiting ... and waiting to jump to its previously scheduled Aussie Open coverage, but as blog favorite Rick Majerus appropriately said, "This game is so good, [Roger] Federer is probably watching it in Australia."
Mario Boggan scored 37 points and committed just one turnover in 54 minutes against Texas.
It took nearly three hours of real-time (and even two hours of DVR-time) to reach the final score of Cowboys 105, Longhorns 103, just a few ticks before 11 p.m. in iced-over Stillwater, Okla. And it managed not to get sloppy, even when most of the players on the floor had been out there for more than 50 minutes. Oklahoma State's Mario Boggan delivered a tour de force, logging 54 minutes as a center (only Texas two-guard A.J. Abrams, with 55 minutes, had more), scoring 37 points and grabbing 20 rebounds. The maneuvering Boggan did to get off his final bucket was stunning; the guy is still a load at 235 pounds and he's spinning, dribbling behind his back in the open floor, and ducking under defenders to swish the game-winning 3 with 3.2 seconds left. Bravo, Mario. Bravo.
Some quick thoughts in the aftermath of a thriller that ended too late to make most of your morning newspapers:
• Boggan's 3 -- and all of his clutch buckets before that one -- will overshadow yet another absurd performance from Texas' Kevin Durant. The super-frosh matched Boggan with 37 points and at times single-handedly kept the Longhorns in the game. In case anyone hasn't been catching the highlights, in his first four Big 12 games Durant has scored 37, 34, 28 and 37 points.
• How devastating would it have been for the Cowboys had Boggan's shot not gone in? They were coming off a horrid, 30-point loss to Kansas and were in danger of starting 1-2 in the Big 12. Dropping an exhausting marathon to Texas at Gallagher-Iba could have potentially sent their season into a tailspin, with a difficult date at Texas A&M looming on Saturday.
• How may times did ESPN2's cameras cut to Durant during breaks at crucial, high-stress junctures of the game, and catch him smiling like ... well, the 18-year-old that he is? Whereas Boggan looked like he was leaving every last ounce of energy on the floor, Durant was scoring at will without appearing tired -- and laughing along with the audience about just how wild the action was. Durant and fellow frosh D.J. Augustin, who had 19 points and nine assists, have come incredibly far since I saw them at Madison Square Garden against Michigan State in November. They're already a scary-good duo, and if they buckle down in the NCAA tournament, they could take the 'Horns to the Final Four as a four or five seed.
• Favorite field-goals of the game:
1. Byron Eaton's incredible, falling-out-of-bounds, end-of-shot-clock, no-look 3-pointer from 40 feet in the second half (my only complaint being that an Oklahoma State fan's head got in the way of the TV camera at the key moment, which limits the shot's YouTube-ability).
2. Cowboy walk-on Tyler Hatch's lone bucket, in the second overtime. The gelled-up Hatch -- who can be found under the heading "Using Product" in our Style Archive -- was forced into action after two Oklahoma State starters fouled out. Texas made the decision to not even guard Hatch, and he managed to score on a feed from Boggan, plus get fouled, to put the Cowboys up two with 41.0 seconds left. Hatch missed his free throw ... but that was probably asking too much.
• Top four finishes of the year so far (that I've seen): Texas-Oklahoma State, Kansas-Florida (Brandon Rush's layup), UCLA-USC (Arron Afflalo's hanging jumper) and Tennessee-Texas (Chris Lofton's bomb). One is inclined to feel for the Longhorns, who've come out on the heartbreaking end twice. You don't need sympathy, though, when you have Durant.
Chris Lofton and the Vols are set to face No. 5 Ohio State in Columbus on Saturday.
As part of an ongoing series of Blog Q&As, I chatted with Tennessee sharpshooter Chris Lofton earlier this week. The junior two-guard, who already has five 30-plus-point games, is averaging 22.2 points and should be considered one of the frontrunners for the Wooden Award. I spoke with Chris a few minutes after he finished an afternoon practice in Knoxville, while I was in a Glendale, Ariz., press box awaiting the start of the BCS National Championship Game.
Luke Winn: I'm sitting here waiting for Florida and Ohio State to take the field. I heard you were a pretty good high school wide receiver back in Maysville, Ky. How much do you still care about football, and will you be watching tonight?
Chris Lofton: I'll be watching. I love football. I was mostly a wide receiver, but I played a little corner, too. I was basically a possession receiver. I wasn't all that athletic, but I could catch the ball real well.
LW: A little more about Maysville: Can you describe the basketball court that you liked to shoot on as a kid?
CL: I learned on a few different courts, inside and out, but the main one was where my Mom grew up, in a small town called Flemingsburg [17 miles south of Maysville]. I used to go up there, hang out with the family, and shoot all the time. It was in a place called Hillside Park. A cement court outside.
LW: Do you remember what the rims were like?
CL: The rims were tight there. I think it made me a better shooter. When you play on rims that tight, it's harder -- and you get used to being more accurate.
LW: Are you bigger in Maysville than the town's other favorite son, George Clooney?
CL: No, I think he is. George Clooney's a millionaire and I'm still in college.
LW: Your orange Tennessee jersey does get sold back home in the middle of Kentucky Wildcat country, though, so there might be equal representation for you and George.
CL: I can't think of any others off the top of my head.
LW: I've heard you're a pretty avid "night shooter." What's your routine when you do that?
CL: I just try to shoot 25 shots, from seven different spots on the floor. All three-pointers. Then I do a little mid-range work after that.
LW: Are you doing this alone? How does it work?
CL: I'm usually shooting win a gun [a machine that fires basketballs out on a timer] or a rebounder.
LW: And how late are you going?
CL: Sometimes I do it right after practice, but if I have something else going on, I'll come back at night -- but not real late, not usually past 9.
LW: Night shooting isn't like night putting -- you can't get in trouble for it. Have you seen Caddyshack?
CL: I have not seen Caddyshack (laughing).
LW: There's a line in there about night putting -- a guy got kicked out of school for it. We'll move on. You're shooting 45.8 percent from beyond the arc this year, and are one of the country's most feared long-range gunners. Who taught you how to shoot threes, or rather, who, if anyone, helped you develop your stroke?
CL: No one, really. It just came from shooting all the time as a little kid. I continued to do that as I grew up, just kept putting up a lot of shots all the time.
LW: How early did that start?
CL: I can remember shooting back when I was 5 or 6 years old. I used a little ball back then, and then eventually moved on to the big one.
LW: Who are the best shooters -- of all-time -- that you admire?
CL: I think they would be Reggie Miller, Ray Allen and Michael Redd.
LW: Is Reggie your No. 1? Or ...
CL: Ray Allen is my No. 1. I like how he plays so smooth -- his shooting stroke is the smoothest in the league.
LW: He's a solid actor, too.
CL: Yeah, I sometimes call him Jesus Shuttlesworth -- from He Got Game -- instead of Ray.
LW: You almost always get the ball in crunch time for the Vols. What's said in the huddle, either by you or coach Pearl, before those big plays. Do you demand the ball?
CL: [Pearl] just calls the play -- and a lot of times it's for me. I usually try to take the shot. He says that when he calls the play for you, he wants you to be aggressive with it.
LW: What about the game-winner against Texas, where you hit that bomb over Kevin Durant?
CL: There was a play called. ... I was just trying to be aggressive. My mindset is that I want to take that shot.
LW: But did you realize how far out you were?
CL: At the time, not really. Not until I had seen it a couple of times on TV did I realize it.
LW: What's the biggest shot you've hit in your career? Describe how it happened.
CL: It was in the NCAA tournament last year, against Winthrop. It was a tie game, in the last few seconds, and coach Pearl called a special play for me, and all I had to do was shoot it.
LW: What was the special play?
CL: I'm pretty sure he just drew it up in the middle; he made it up on the spot. I set a screen and then came off a screen, and got free.
LW: You're an even-keel guy, but coach Pearl is known to be rather animated at times. What's your craziest Bruce Pearl story from the past two years?
CL: Probably when he ripped off his shirt after the Kentucky game last year. He came into the locker room and just tore off his dress shirt. It was pretty surprising -- and really funny. Hilarious.
LW: I've been asking a few of the other Blog Q&A subjects to pick their college dream team, but I wanted to change it up for you. In a hypothetical situation, if you couldn't take the last shot in a game, what current college player not at Tennessee would you pick to take a three-pointer?
CL: I'm thinking here. I would have said J.J. Redick or Adam Morrison last year. But right now, for a three, I'd take Lee Humphrey from Florida. He's the highest-percentage [long-range] shooter in the SEC, and he knocks down open shots.
LW: And what about if the clutch shot had to happen in the paint? Who would you take then?
CL: If I go inside, I'm going to either Joakim Noah, Tyler Hansbrough or Greg Oden. Noah plays so hard for 40 minutes; Hansbrough is a beast down low -- they beat us in November in New York -- and Oden is killing Division I basketball right now with one hand.
LW: Last question. You get hounded by opposing defenses. Who would you say is the best on-the-ball defender you've had to face in the past two seasons?
CL: Probably Corey Brewer [from Florida]. He's long and athletic. Either him or Garrett Temple from LSU. He's like Brewer -- long and athletic.
LW: But you still think you can drill shots over any of those guys ...
The Bob Knight Show Continues With More In A Moment
As a companion to the long Bob Knight-at-Army story that ran today, I dug up a few classic (and PG-rated) Knight YouTubes:
A clip from the Bob Knight Show in the 1970s, in which Knight brings on a donkey ("His first name is Jack, Chuck -- and I'll just let you figure out the last name") in a mesh Purdue hat. This was in response to Boilermakers athletic director George King turning down Knight's invitation to appear on his TV show. In King's place, Knight brought on someone (or some animal) who would "express the same kinds of views and so forth and be very symbolic of a lot of the thinking at Purdue."
One Shining Moment, 1987
The only Knight championship I was old enough to comprehend. The montage includes a stellar Superdome graphic ... and, of course, Knight punching a table.
"Somebody had their Minute Maid this morning"
Knight's orange juice commercial from the '80s. The only time you'll see him tie a grown man's shoe.
I can't responsibly embed the rest of these into SI.com, but here are links to R-Rated Knight videos (for profanity, not nudity):