Friday, February 29, 2008

3-1: Sloths! Game 4 Recap

“Don’t call it if you don’t see it, ref!”

Those were the words that got me my first technical foul in my 4-year intramural history. They came after a heated disagreement over a supposed blocking foul called on yours truly under the paint.

At that crucial juncture, team Sloths! Could have gone one of two ways: We could have let the two free throws (in addition to the free throws given to the guy I fouled) pin us down and break our legs, or we could use that horrible call to light an emotional fire and smite our enemies.

We chose the latter path, and won 48-45.

It was a solid win. Not like last week, when we played a bunch of mouth breathers and pudgy kids.

No, the team we played today was probably the best team we faced all season. It included gym rats, varsity big men, skinny ballers and even one fellow Timpanogos High School Timberwolf who has a basketball gym IN HIS HOUSE (Micah Lisonbee, for all you THS alumni out there).

I quote Jeris Hobbs during the pre-game conference: “I think we’re going to lose.”

The cards were certainly stacked against us, but I guess we taught this world a little lesson: Never count out the Sloths!.

We fell behind 0-4 quickly, but then we turned it on, took the lead and never looked back.

The star of the game was definitely Blake Lloyd, whose back-to-back threes, along with a big shot from distance by Andrew Law, sparked us to a lead we never relinquished. Lloyd was a force from the arc, and deadly down low.

My player of the game, however, goes to Jeris Hobbs. While Jeris didn’t show up on the score sheet, he certainly did his part in this win. He pulled down boards from every corner of the court. Seriously, he was everywhere. Jeris even swatted the aforementioned Lisonbee right in front of his wife and rowdy friends. He was called for a foul, but Micah knew deep down it was clean. We all knew it too. Good work, Hobbs.

I’ll go ahead and give myself the “Russ Nelson” award for getting 4 fouls in the first half (including the tech), and then zero in the second.

Russ also had an excellent game, by the way. In fact, we all played really well. Especially defensively.

I’m proud of you guys tonight. You earned these orange slices.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Thoughts: I'm not all smiles and sunshine

I've recently been accused of being too optimistic. Too favorable to BYU. Donning the ol' blue goggles, if you will.

These accusations came in an email from my good friend Ross. He correctly pointed out that I always seem to give BYU the benefit of the doubt. I never question the coaches, I always love the players and I'm generally just a bit too happy.

Ross


Incidentally, if you agree with Ross please text the word "Yes" to 541-905-9232. Standard texting rates apply.

Anyway, I thought Ross' accusations would be just the spark I needed for a fresh new entry in my ever-growing sports blog.

(By the way, and this is totally off-topic, I have recently labeled all my posts for your convenience. Yes, I did it for you. To see my posts grouped by topic, please visit the list of labels further down on the right-hand side of my blog.)

So Ross, this post is dedicated to you. Here's everything I dislike about BYU sports.

1. It really irritates me how we can't make free throws. No one on our team is completely reliable. I don't care if your name is Lee Cummard or Vuk Ivanovic, I can't depend on anyone with 100% confidence to knock down a free throw when we need it. Not even 80% confidence. Every free throw - regardless of the player that shoots it - is a crap shoot.

Maybe I'm being too hard on these kids. I mean, forgive me for thinking that an 18-24 year-old D-1 scholarship player should be able to hit free throws. They've only spent their whole lives immersed in the sport of basketball, after all.

And Chris Collinsworth: I'm calling you out specifically. Make your dang free throws!

It's a joke. Put me behind the line. I'll at least give you six out of 10.

2. I love Coach Mendenhall, but I really disliked it when he got on the BYU fans' case for booing C.J. Santiago. Guess what, Coach? You may control the thing I love the most in this life (besides my wife, that is), but you can't control whom I will boo. And guess what, C.J. Santiago? Mediocrity won't cut it at BYU. If you can't punt the ball farther than I can throw it, I'm going to release the boo birds.

3. More on football. Bryce Mahuika just doesn't cut it anymore. I like the guy, and he's a good person, but the dude just can't play football. He's useless as a receiver, he can't return punts and he's always injured.

You may think I'm being hard on old #2, but be honest: When was the last time you saw him return a punt for more than 3 yards? The Eastern Washington game? I thought so.

I hear he plays some mean basketball, though.

4. Women's soccer sucks. I'm sorry, but somebody had to say it.

5. If anyone reading this out there is on the BYU women's basketball team, please contact my associate Jeris at jeris.hobbs@gmail.com to set up an exhibition game with my intramural squad. I'm pretty sure we could kick your butts. Disagree? Prove me wrong, ladies. Prove me wrong.

6. BYU sports as a whole is in a funk right now. And by BYU sports I mean, of course, football and men's basketball. As good as both teams are and were, we will continue to be irrelevant until we start beating the big boys.

Yes, I'm still irritated we lost to UCLA during the regular football season. Happy?

And yes, I just re-read what I wrote after our b-ball team lost to Wake Forest.

Beating up on MWC teams is simply not satisfying for a die-hard fan like myself. It's like eating Mac 'n Cheese at Chuck-a-Rama when what you really want is some of their succulent, slow-roasted, kettle-cooked turkey.

Do me a favor, Cougs: Quit being so dang intimidated by big schools and beat them like the government mules they are! UCLA had no business playing with us last year, and we should have taken them out to the woodshed. If you want to be a national powerhouse, you all need to start acting like it- you know, on the court or field or wherever you play.

7. I don't care how many national championships our rugby team has won, rugby sucks. RUGBY SUCKS. I would rather have a huge bulge on my lip for the rest of my life than go to a rugby game.

and finally, 8. JT, you know I love you, but it's getting pretty dang hard to defend you when you keep taking stupid, stupid shots during critical games. Do you know how hard I've tried to be your advocate? Well I've tried and I've tried, but you made a complete idiot out of me against New Mexico.

Tav, I really like what you bring to the team. I love the attitude, the cockiness, even the post-game outfits. Just do me a favor from now on and play within yourself. Get boards, pass the ball and play D. Shooting, for you, comes best when it's not your focus.

As much as you want to, you're not going to be the primary scorer on our team. I'm sorry, Tav, I really am, but you need to recognize you are the sizzle- not the steak. Leave the bulk of the scoring up to Cummard and Plaisted.

And that brings us right back to basketball, where we started.

Wow- that felt pretty cathartic. I hope that was good enough, Ross. Now I guess I'll just sit back and wait for you lame rugby fans to run me out on a rail.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Huge Win, and a Huge Post

I have a few thoughts about the game last night, and I’m going to use bullets to organize my thoughts. Those who are offended by bullets better just wait for another post in my traditional paragraph style.

*I can’t remember feeling so elated about a win that wasn’t against the Utes. When the final horn sounded and the score read “BYU 70, UNM 69” I was ecstatic. In fact I gave Justin the hardest high five I’ve given in a long, long time. Seriously. My hand was red for a good 20 minutes after the game. But was the pain worth it? You bet it was.

*Was the end of the game controversial? Sure it was. But I have news for every sports fan in the history of the world: The ending to EVERY close game is controversial. Especially if your team loses. My advice to Lobo fans? Stop dwelling on it. You’ll drive yourself crazy.

*Am I starting to pick up the habit of asking ask my own questions and answering them? Yeah. Does it bother me? A little bit.

*Speaking of the controversial ending, don’t be mad at the referees for not calling a foul at the end of the game. Be mad at your coach for his technical foul that gave us two free points. Get mad at J.R. Giddens for missing like 25 free throws (3 straight, at one point). Be mad at Ferris and the other kid that fouled out of the game, but don’t be mad at the referees.

*More on the no-call. I have news for the sports-illiterate: Fouls that aren’t called by referees don’t exist. They aren’t fouls. And believe it or not, there are dozens of these little no-calls throughout the game. Just because one happens at the end of the game doesn’t mean it should be overturned. In order for the referees to overturn the no-call, even if they see something in the replays, they would have to go through the entire tape of the whole game and call every foul they see that didn’t get called in the game. In other words, crap happens. Get used to it.

*New Mexico fans have absolutely no class. From their “Bull S***” chant to their pictures of Trent Plaisted’s mug shot, they truly sunk to a new low in the MWC. Of course, I have to admit they lived up to every stereotype I’ve ever had about the state of New Mexico and the people who live there. (Megan and Justin being the exceptions. Well… Megan, at least).

*Dave Rose OWNS The Pit. Dave Rose has never lost in that hell-hole, and that is a sweet sweet thing. By the way: I love Dave Rose.

*I also love Trent Plaisted. What a sweet way to win that game: One of the worst free throw shooters on the team, and in the conference, sinks two straight to give us the final lead. What a sweet “stick it” to not only the New Mexico fans, but the BYU fans who always seem to be so critical of our lovable big man. Newsflash: Trent Plaisted is a big time player, and he proved it with his clutch free throws last night.

That’s about it. I’m sorry it’s so long. I know a lot of you aren’t used to reading so many words at one time, but last night was really a hallmark win for our BYU Cougars. I couldn’t let it go without unpeeling my brain banana and putting it on the blog.

Next up: Three straight wins over Air Force, Wyoming and TCU, and on to the MWC championship!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Swept under the rug

Do you know what we've done? We've swept the Utes two years in a row. In football and basketball.

Man it feels sweet.

Last night's game was one for the books, and I have to hand it to our BYU Cougars. At a time when the Utes were playing some of their best basketball (post-Bogut), the Cougars showed they are the only kings of the mountain and cut down Utah at their prime.

Seriously, though. Utah has been playing very well lately, and their four-game win streak heading into last night is evidence.

But BYU is playing even better. And their 8 (now 9)-game winning streak is evidence of that.

What's more, our 45-game win streak at the Marriott Center means we are invincible in Provo. That's right, I said invincible. Magneto himself couldn't touch us on our home court.

You want to know the X-factor? Defense. This is probably the best defensive team I've ever seen at BYU. Ranking #7 nationally, BYU held Utah to 37% shooting from the field. Our tough defense is proving to be the winning component for us during some good games, including both of our wins against the Utes.

Know what else won that game for us? Jonathan freaking Tavernari. You have no idea how glad I am I never bad-mouthed JT. I knew he'd come up huge, and last night he did. He knocked down some huge threes, and scored 5 of our last 7 points of the game, and 20 total. Love the guy. Love him.

Oh, and by the way, Chris Miles was incredible too. He came off the bench, scored 5 quick points and put Neville in foul trouble. Merely looking at the stat sheet doesn't nearly give you the full impact Chris Miles had on the game last night. He shut Neville down, gave him some fouls, and put in some needed buckets.

And Jimmer Fredette. Good gosh. Straight from the Empire State, he has taken the Utes and made them his personal pin cushion. Watching him knife through that sea of red was a thing of beauty. Don't worry, lad, you'll get plenty of chances to make Utah players look like Teletubbies.

Great game last night, Cougs. And a heck of a crowd. Anyone who wasn't at that game last night deserves to be smacked. Next up: Two tough road games at San Diego State and New Mexico.

(Picture taken from ESPN.com)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Saturday (Part 2 of 2): Revenge is so, so sweet.

As I begin this post I want to remind both of you who read my blog that this is not meant to be an objective source of timely news reporting. I wish I could be a credible source of real news, have access to players and coaches and write truly meaningful stories, but a lowly blogger such as me can only do so much.

This blog is simply meant to give unique insight from a BYU student about sports issues, events and personal experiences.

With that in mind, if you're looking for a hard report of the BYU - UNLV game, I suggest visiting Cougarfan.com, which chronicles almost every story written about BYU sports, and read one of the many stories linked on that site.

What I would like to do is tell you about my experience at the game on Saturday.

We and some friends arrived at the Marriott Center at about 2 p.m. The game started at 7. Some of you right now are saying to yourselves, "what in the great good earth were you doing at a game 5 hours early?" Well, the reason was two-fold: 1. I wanted good seats, and 2. This also happened to be the day they were distributing tickets to the Utah game this Wednesday, and we wanted to make sure we got some.

Besides, if you think 5 hours is early, how about 5 days?

Anyway, I for one, am happy that there was a line so early. I love to see the dedicated Cougar fans. It enlivens my soul, and gives me hope for the future.

What did we do during that long wait you ask? Let's see... there was the killer sipa played with a football, the schooling of Russ with the best card trick in the universe, the devouring of two Little Caeser's Hot-N-Readys, the ginger ale chug and other such activities. It really went by in a snap.

When the doors opened at 5:30, I rushed down into the bowels of the Marriott Center and saved a section for the original Cougar Crazies. As early as we were, we were still about 10 rows up. Still a good seat, but nothing beats being close. It was nice to finally be inside (if for no other reason than to let our extremities thaw), but I'll admit, it was a little disheartening to know we still had a 90 minute wait until game time.

Surprisingly, though, the time went by quickly once again. Of course, time flies when you're yelling curses at the other team, heaping praises upon Jonathan Tavernari, and tossing Milk Duds to our fellow fans.

Incidentally, and I hate to toot my own horn here, but I really felt like I was on top of my game cheering-wise yesterday. If you don't believe me, ask the dozens of people I had in hysterics all around me.

Anyway, the game was incredible. As one who took our previous loss to the Rebels very personally, this game was as sweet as a red rose on a crisp winter's morn. Not only did we truly put the hurt on those red-clad monsters from the south, but the Marriott Center was packed to the gills and the crowd was deafening. If you haven't seen a game in that atmosphere, I highly recommend it. There's nothing better than being a part of a huge, loud, crazy Marriott Center crowd. One vision of that place and you'll know why we haven't lost there in 44 straight games.

Some of my favorite parts of the game: Jimmer Fredette's alley-oop to Trent Plaisted, Chris Miles' put-backs on two straight possessions, and UNLV's Joe Darger fouling out with about 7 minutes to play.

Left! Right! Left! Right! Left! Right! SIDDOWN!!!

Priceless.

And as if that weren't crazy enough... It's Utah week, baby!

Saturday (Part 1 of 2): Sloths! Game 3 recap

Those who don't like reading about the exploits of an amateur BYU intramural team should probably stop reading now.

For the rest of you: I am very, very happy to announce that the Sloths! are back to their winning ways. The Sloths! picked up a much-needed victory on Saturday morning to improve their record to 2-1.

Our opponents were no match for our physical play, fast breaks and witty banter. It also didn't help that one guy on the other team refused to look at the basket before putting up a shot. (Seriously, there were some ugly shots being hoisted up by the other team.) The other team was outplayed, it's true, but a win is a win and confidence is higher than ever in the Sloths! camp.

Blake and I led the scoring attack, Jeris pulled down all kinds of boards, Russ added his hustle and stayed in the game without fouling out, Ross was a defensive animal, as always, and Justin ran the floor better than anybody else. It was a team effort, and a team win.

Justin Lee is this author's choice for player of the game. Justin played a solid all-around game, but proved invaluable as he ran the court and got all kinds of points off fast breaks.

The "Give me the rock" award goes to Blake Lloyd for taking the team's first 5 shots without passing once.

The "Play of the game" award goes to Jeris for his floating one-hander that sailed easily through the net and left the rest of us speechless.

I can't remember the score, exactly, but team Sloths! came up big in a win on their home court (the Smith Fieldhouse). Next up for team Sloths!: An exhibition game against the BYU Women's basketball team.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cleaning up Baseball

Roger Clemens' appearance at a congressional hearing is still on my mind.


As we all know, this Roger Clemens thing is just the latest in a long series of stories related to steroids in baseball. I can't name all the players that have been under investigation, but I do know steroids has dominated the baseball conversation ever since Jose Conseco wrote his controversial book: Juiced.

I believe, however, the steroid era started much earlier than Conseco's book and the recent Mitchell report. I think we are just now seeing the results of a steroid culture that dominated baseball since the mid-1990s.


I believe it all started when baseball went on strike in 1994. As a result of this strike, the sport suffered a terrible loss in popularity, and even when the season resumed no one would even go to games. I still remember seeing fields virtually empty all the time in '94 and the following years.


So, to bolster popularity, the MLB did all kinds of things (Warning: This is just my opinion). They messed with the bats, they messed with the fields, and they did everything they could to make baseball a more exciting, high-scoring event. They even turned a blind eye to steroid use, in hopes that huge players and great accomplishments would swing public opinion back in their favor.


Well, I guess it worked. This was the era in which Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa had the famous "home run race," this was the era in which Rafael Palmeiro was hitting everything, Barry Bonds broke McGuire's record, then went on (as we all know) to get the all-time home run record. Each player was the center of a huge buzz, and the sport was incredibly popular again.


...but then it turned out each player was investigated for steroid use.


these have been a disappointing series of events, no doubt, but we should have seen it coming. Now the league is just paying for all the crap they let slide a decade ago.


So how do we clean up the sport?


Here's the thing: athletes are idiots. I hate to make such a blanket statement, but there it is. Even with all the stuff that's going on right now, there will still be athletes at every level of every game that use 'roids. Like... this guy, for instance:



UCLA's Bruce Davis

(Only partially kidding). Anyway, I have the perfect way to clean up baseball. It'll be tough, but it's the only thing that will work. The only way anyone is ever going to clean up baseball is by testing EVERY SINGLE PLAYER BEFORE EVERY SINGLE GAME. Random tests won't cut it, and don't think for a second that the sport will clean itself up on its own. No. The only way to restore order to the MLB is to essentially punish the players to a point that they're scared to break the rules. And if you're caught with 'roids? Immediate suspension without pay. No tolerance.


Would it suck? Yes. Is it unfortunate that everyone has to pay for the mistakes made by others? Sure it does, but I'm convinced that's the only way the MLB will become clean again.


The big question is, does MLB commissioner really want to clean up the league? If I were Selig, and I was just handed the Mitchell report, I would use it as a springboard to finally take a stand on steroids. But I'm not Bud Selig.


Does the real Bud Selig care about the current state of Major League Baseball?

Thursday Thoughts

1. BYU got another good road win last night. I know, I know, it was against the bottom-dwelling Colorado State Rams, but a win on the road is good news no matter who you play. Again, I had to listen to this game, because the mtn. doesn't want to give BYUTV or a local affiliate the rights to broadcast the game. Heaven forbid it compete with Wyoming vs. TCU or some other incredibly interesting game.

By the way: Plaisted was 9-9 from the field last night. Good gosh I love that guy.

2. The Jazz beat up on Seattle, and Carlos Boozer recorded his first career triple-double. Good one for the Jazz, who have now won 12 of their last 13, and own a 1 1/2 game lead over Denver in the division.

Shame on ESPN, by the way, for not even showing highlights of the game this morning. Remember all the crap we had to listen to when Dirk Nowitski got his triple double? And yet when Carlos Boozer does the same thing he gets bupkis.

3. I *heart* Kyle Korver. Kyle, I know we're both dudes, but I would be honored if you would be my valentine.

4. Ronny Price was a good find for the Jazz. The guy is instant energy off the bench. He hits big shots, he jumps out of the gym, and he plays some great defense. I love, LOVE, the players we have on our bench (except Jaron Collins. Stupid Collins.)

5. I'm officially taking Roger Clemens' side. After watching a part of the congressional hearing yesterday, featuring Roger Clemes and his trainer, I think I believe Clemens. His trainer just seems to weasly for me - too vindictive. And by gosh, if a man stands up and says "I never used steroids or HGH," I'm going to believe him. I've got to believe a man can still be trusted in this crazy world of ours.

Besides, it takes a real snake to look someone right in the eye and lie.



6. Anyone else thinks it's a little weird how many congressional hearings are going on in the sports world these days? You've got the whole Clemens fiasco, you've got the Senator from Pennsylvania meeting with the NFL to discuss the cheating Patriots, and... well, I'm sure there's other stuff going on too.

How about creating a special congressional commission to bust up the BCS? Any takers?

(Pictures taken from ESPN.com)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Kent Kontroversy

I know it's a little early to start talking about baseball, but I can't resist weighing in on the recent Kent Walton scandal.

For those of you who haven't been following the story, BYU outfielder Kent Walton was dismissed from BYU and the baseball team for Honor Code violations (he supposedly didn't meet the church attendance requirement), but then was reinstated to both BYU and the team after a closer examination of the case.

Some have said this story is a case of "rogue Bishops" who only want to make examples out of BYU athletes. Others claim there must be more to the story, and Walton's dismissal was based on more than just lack of church attendance.

All I know is BYU acted on its policy, re-examined the situation, found the truth, and reversed its decision. In other words, the right action prevailed. Kent Walton was restored to the team and the school without penalty.

That's good enough for me.

I know the team must be ecstatic to have Walton back. I personally witnessed him win more than a few games last year, and I even got the chance to interview him a few times when I wrote for the Daily U. He's a ballplayer, and I'm glad he'll be back for 2008.

A quick side note: This story is merely another example of the media frenzy that happens every time a BYU player is disciplined for any reason. Whether it's an Honor Code violation, or the unfortunate instances where a BYU athlete is arrested for more serious charges, the media love to villify BYU students. Nothing is better than a fall from grace, at least when a hot story is involved, and students at the LDS-owned school are easy prey.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Sloths! Can't Hold Onto Win... Or Ball

I admit, I take intramural sports seriously. My preparation starts hours and hours before game time. I wake up, eat a good breakfast, drink upwards of 100 oz. of water during the day and eat plenty of energy-rich foods (beef ramen, Taco Bell, etc.).

Before our last game on Wednesday night, I even had a pre-game shootaround with Jeris. I should have taken the fact that he beat me at horse to be an evil omen...

Anyway, it goes without saying that I look forward to intramrual games with giddyness and glee. I can hardly stand the anticipation, and games are the culmination of weeks of preparation.

So when we lose, like we lost on Wednesday night, I get a little upset.

My wife knows it. She tries to stay out of my wake after we lose, but admittedly, I'm not good company.

This last loss, however, was particularly difficult. I'm disappointed in myself, mostly, for not fighting like I should have for loose rebounds. But then again, I'm plenty disappointed in my team for dribbling with their eyes closed, throwing passes right into the hands of our enemies, and missing dozens and dozens of layups (You know who you are, guys...)

It's true, I didn't get my desired 40+ touches a game, and if I had maybe the outcome would have been different, but my teammates made certain decisions, and I stand by that.

I do know this, though, the Sloths! were humbled. It was not a pretty loss, and we all feel it deep down inside. If we can take one consolation, though, we learned a lot about ourselves. I think we'll bounce back with gusto, and frankly, I'd hate to be the rest of the teams on our schedule.

As for the cruddy, pimply-faced team we played on Wednesday night, we'll see you in the tournament you warthog-faced buffoons.

Player of the game: Russ Nelson. Russ made an early three pointer... and then fouled out with 11 minutes left in the game. He also was one profanity away from getting a red card. Russ, you earned it.

Most disappointing part of the loss: Our 50+ turnovers- especially against the full court press.

Best stat of the night: Blake Lloyd - Something like 18-20 from the FT line.

Play of the game: Jeff Hill grabs an offensive board late in the game and puts back a tough jumper to give us some breathing room. Unfortunately, the other team scored like 10 unanswered points at the end of the game, and we lost.

Next up: Saturday, Feb 16 in the Smith Fieldhouse (aka: the house that Sloths! built)