It was a pitch-perfect day of basketball yesterday. There was a heaping helping of upsets, failure to live up to expectations, and Eric Bledsoe. Oh my. Names like Danero Thomas, Ishmael Smith, the Ohio Bobcats, Quincy Pondexter, and Jimmer Fredette became popular. Another such player — with perhaps one of the most awesome names in the tournament — also found a way into our hearts with a NBA-length 3-point bomb that allowed Northern Iowa to beat the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
I’m talking about Ali Farokhmanesh, of course, and his “ONIONS”-like game-winner from way downtown. While Farokhmanesh may be small in stature — he’s only 5-9 — I’m not sure there was a bigger shot during yesterday’s version of Madness. Oh look, video: After the jump >>
There are performances that transcend the very game they take place in. Just ask Anthony Johnson and the rest of his Montana Grizzlies team. Facing Weber State in the final game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Montana found themselves facing a 20-point deficit at halftime. Little did Wildcats of Weber State know, that, apparently, was right where Johnson wanted them. What else explains Johnson’s absolutely ridiculous second half?
After scoring a good-but-not-great eight points in the first, Johnson went absolutely ape-shit in the second, dropping 34 points — including the game-winner, on top of the final 21 points for his team — to lead Montana all the way back. What impressed me the most, well, besides the obvious, was the fact Johnson’s scoring assault came without an over-reliance on the three-point shot. Sure, he made a couple, but it wasn’t some ridiculous Stephen Curry-style barrage that gave Johnson his impressive second half.
Instead, he used a mix of mid-range jump shots and layups, as Weber State absolutely failed to keep Johnson out of the lane. Actually, I should probably amend that to read, “Weber State absolutely failed in doing remotely anything to slow, let alone stop, Anthony Johnson’s second half tirade.” You know, for accuracy’s sake.
We are now only nine days away from Selection Sunday, and two weeks away from the second day of the NCAA Tournament. During times like these, it’s good to get in the right mood/mindset, and thanks to Pittsburgh Panther Ashton Gibbs, and his game-winning exploits against a pesky Providence Friars ball club, we have just the thing to get in a March Madness kind-of mood.
Yes, Sid the Kid made the Canadian fans happy, but that’s not quite the effect he had on his southern neighbors. While deserving credit where credit is due for scoring the gold medal-winning goal, I’m not sure Crosby endeared himself to Team USA hockey fans, no matter how fair-weather* they were. A quick glance at Facebook, which has become one of the first places to go when looking for public reaction to popular culture events, finds this gem, called the Petition to Not Allow Sidney Crosby back into the United States.
After sitting out for a couple of weeks to rest various bumps, bruises and ailments, Kobe Bryant made a very triumphant return to the Lakers roster last night, scoring an extremely efficient 32 points, including the game-winning 3-point shot that put the Memphis Grizzlies away for evening. For the night, Bryant was 13-19 from the field for 32 points (3-4 from behind the arc) while grabbing seven rebound and handing out six assists.
He also added three steals to his statistic total.
I mentioned something about Bryant being efficient, and to illustrate the point, his PER (player efficiency rating) for last night’s workload was 42. For comparison’s sake, the PER league leader this season is LeBron James, who averages about a +32 PER.
Anyway, enough math. How about some highlights of Kobe’s game-winning shot?
The story of Sundiata Gaines is a good one. The ex-Georgia Bulldog came to light thanks to an improbable run to the SEC Tournament title back in 2008. After toiling in the NBA’s development league, Gaines received a call-up to the big stage, one that resulted in a much-blogged-about heartfelt moment with his mother. However, thanks to a nifty buzzer-beater against the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, one that negated a LeBron James-led comeback, has put Gaines directly in the spotlight, something the kid deserves after the work he’s put in and the road he’s traveled.
In fact, if you do a quick YouTube search of his name, you’ll see about three pages worth of video dedicated to this very play. Now that’s the way you take the stage: With a dramatic flair that’s impossible to ignore.
Not only was Gaines’ shot a nice way to continue his feel-good story, it, as mentioned, negated a furious comeback from the Cavaliers; one that had James scoring 20 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter alone. Unfortunately for LeBron, he needed to add at least one more point to his total in order to prevent any game-winning shenanigans from taking place.
As it turned out, Gaines and his 3-point daggers had different ideas about how the game should end.
When you hit a 70-something foot shot to give your team the overtime win over North Carolina State, you deserve whatever accolades you get. Just ask Chandler Parsons of the Florida Gators. In fact, some are saying Parsons is up for Stud of the Week in the Florida area, although, it doesn’t look like he’ll catch one Tim Tebow.
You might have heard of that guy, too.
If Sidney Lowe and his Wolfpack players had a vote, I think I know where it would go.