Larry Scott, the Pac-12 commissioner, is reviewing the dustup near the end of the Arizona-Oregon State game. If I’m Scott, I’m at least suspending ‘Zona guard Kyle Fogg for a game, simply for igniting the incident. Fogg, fouled on a fast-break by OSU’s Jared Cunningham, began woofing while he stepped into Cunningham, appearing to “chest” him, and Cunningham shoved him back. Fogg’s action was completely uncalled for; I excuse Cunningham for doing what just about anybody would do if so confronted.
There were some other parties to the incident as well, and Scott and Co. will have to sort out their part in the melee. Arizona’s Kyryl Natyazhko and OSU’s Joe Burton were booted for leaving the bench and Fogg and Cunningham drew technical fouls.
I mentioned this weeks ago after the Xavier-Cincinnati fight: I think such incidents make for very tough counsel on the part of coaches. On one hand, they can preach that you can’t fight, that it will cost the team, that you can’t leave the bench, etc. But on the other, one of the most valued commodities on the floor is toughness, and coaches want it. They want teammates to stick up for each other. And remember, in many cases, they’re dealing with athletes from backgrounds where you simply can’t imagine backing down.
After the Xavier-Cincy brawl, Arizona coach Sean Miller (who used to work at Xavier) referred almost glowingly to the Musketeers’ toughness. There was a side of him that clearly prized the fact his old team didn’t back down to Cincinnati. A couple of days later, Arizona had to release a statement in which Miller clarified his comments. So it’s a fine line.
If there are suspensions, it could have a major impact on the two teams. Oregon State, reeling at 1-4 and loser of two games in which it played five overtimes, can’t afford to lose Saturday at Arizona State, a team that’s usually tough at home. And Oregon could come away from Arizona with a sweep if there’s significant punishment ahead for the Wildcats. I thought Arizona was ripe to be had Thursday night, and indeed was dead if Ahmad Starks’ three doesn’t rim in and out at the end of regulation.
Elsewhere, Colorado may be more than just a creation of mile-high altitude. The Buffs are smart, savvy and it was no fluke than they led Cal for much of their game before falling, 57-50. They share the ball, they’ve got at least adequate athleticism, and Andre Roberson not only rebounds, he contests everything defensively around the rim. Count me as a believer that the Buffs are a candidate (among many others) to finish in the Pac-12’s first division.
Gonzaga ran into a mostly veteran team — veteran where it really helps, with Matthew Dellavedova at point guard — and got throttled in Moraga behind Dellavedova’s 26 points and half a dozen assists. Gary Bell Jr.’s defense on him wasn’t great, but part of the problem was the completely lackluster play of Robert Sacre and Sam Dower.
The Gaels simply killed Gonzaga with their high ball screens, off which Dellavedova operates so brilliantly. I just watched the tape of the game, and it was hard to count the times when Gonzaga didn’t communicate well and either left the screener free to receive a pass from Dellavedova, or allowed Dellavedova enough space to shoot. He made five of 10 threes. At least a couple of times, the Gaels created severe mismatches — a big defended by a Zags guard — and Gonzaga paid the price there, too.
St. Mary’s ran its offense confidently and crisply and Gonzaga’s resistance was only tepid. You know it’s a bad night when you go back into a zone defense inside the four-minute mark, trailing by 14. The Zags flat couldn’t defend the Gaels.
I thought it was a miserable night for the Gonzaga big men, especially Sacre and Dower. Sacre didn’t do much to discourage shots defensively, and he was passive for most of the night on offense. Dower got schooled too many times by St. Mary’s big men, who aren’t to be confused with North Carolina’s.
St. Mary’s (16-2) may be really good. The Gaels haven’t played a very tough schedule, but they did hang with undefeated Baylor into the second half. They now have a leg up in the WCC race, having beaten both BYU and Gonzaga. But they have to prove they can do it on the road.