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John Wooden Tradition

December 3, 2002 Columns No Comments

The Wooden Tradition

by Michael Ermitage

You have to love early season college basketball. The fouls, the errors, the bad shooting and the sloppy play all highlighted The Wooden Tradition games at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Saturday.

In the first game, Duke absolutely dominated UCLA, 84-73. Never has the phrase “not as close as the final score” been more appropriate. Duke built a seven-point lead into double digits and maintained it throughout the second half. The Bruins’ only offense late in the game was Jason Kapono, who scored 19 points. UCLA’s half-court offense was a struggle, often laboring to make easy perimeter passes and then depending on Kapono to bail them out with a dribble drive. Duke, on the other hand, was smooth as a Lexus GS 430, getting open shots in their offense but struggling to consistently make them. Later in the season, the Blue Devils will make these shots and games like this will not be 11-point wins but 25-point laughers.

In the second game, Purdue and Louisville slapped, hacked and pushed their way to an 86-84 Purdue victory. The referees managed to call 59 fouls in the game, as four Boilermakers fouled out. The most egregious of the calls was a technical on Purdue with a minute left that allowed Louisville to cut a seven-point deficit to three. Unless a punch is thrown or some similar act, an official should NEVER call a technical that late in a close game. It was hard to get a grasp on these two teams since the officiating was so poor. Louisville’s press looked good, as Purdue’s quick guards struggled to get the ball in the frontcourt. The highlight of the game was when the Boilermakers were forced to call a timeout when no Purdue players came to help on an inbounds play, and the giant scoreboard showed Gene Keady scream only as Keady can: “Get the (expletive) ball!!!” So much for taking the kids for some wholesome basketball action. Purdue’s depth was the difference, and I wouldn’t be surprised if both teams made some unexpected conference noise.

It was a shame that the event was not a tournament. In fact, both Purdue and Duke were awarded “Championship” trophies, which I thought was lame. What is this – Little League? Why not just call all the games ties and give everyone a trophy and some ice cream? I suppose the NCAA’s limits on games force events like this to make it more of a two-game exhibition than a tournament.

All four teams showed some level of early-season rust. UCLA seems to have the most to work on, with offensive ball movement and defensive rotation. Louisville and Duke needs to work on its jump shooting, as both teams missed several shots you’d think they’d normally make. Purdue had almost-zero mid-range plays and any good team is able to score from anywhere on the floor.

It’ll be interesting to see which of these teams improves the most. Perhaps, I’ll see them all again come March.


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