Game 088: (3) Western Michigan 66, (6) Akron 60 (OT)Mid-American Quarterfinals
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Gund Arena - Cleveland, OH
Perhaps the least descriptive and helpful words in the language of basketball is "brick."
In hoops, bricks hurt construction of point totals; but in architecture, bricks are good! When stacked on top of one another, they help form solid buildings that don't fall down. Bricks are also hard and hurt if one were to try to catch a falling one, and the implement used in this game is a leather bladder, soft to the touch.
Bricks are usually red, and a basketball is always orange. But the most important distinction between a failed shot attempt and a clay or shale building block is this: when the ball is propelled towards the goal and does not pass through it, it usually bounces back. It does not fall crashing to the floor, as an actual brick would.
Many observers might consider a game in which one team shoots 31% and the other 36% a "brickfest," but such talk is fool's chatter. Thursday's second MAC quarterfinal between defending league champions Western Michigan
and six-seed Akron
was the meatiest, beatiest, biggest and bounciest contest of the 100 Games Project so far.
If you use that tired old simile, a game that featured 84 missed shots would go far to erect a new indoor stadium to replace the sorta-newish Gund Arena. Perhaps the new structure would have more luxury boxes, so as to allow for more corporate viewing of the most famous Cleveland sports star - a certain flashy college-skipper named Lebron James. And with The Chosen One in attendance to cheer on two of his old high school teammates, the 18 combined unconverted FGA's by Zips Romeo Travis and Dru Joyce might have served as a good start for the club-level concourse.
But most of those failed shot attempts bounced, just like all the others. Basketballs deflected off the metal rims, smacked hard against backboards, traveled partway around the circumference of the hoop before falling outside. There was bouncing everywhere on this cold March afternoon in northern Ohio: Zippy, Akron's energetic yet adorably klutzy kangaroo mascot; the beat of the loud hip-hop music emanating from the overhead speakers; the cheerleaders and dance teams of each school. Boing, boing, boing.
The two teams' sole regular season meeting gave no indication of the inherent springiness of their quarterfinal contest - most of the shots went in during an 84-75 Bronco win back in early January. WMU was the highest-scoring team in the conference's West division, averaging about 73.5 points per contest.
But on this day, that 31% figure previously alluded to belonged to the proud defenders of the MAC flag. Despite facing opposition that was clearly inferior in talent, skill and bicep size, the Western Michigan Broncos were the gang who couldn't... well, you know. The only player on either side to shoot better than 50% was a bulky 6'8" Zip named Matt Futch, who made two of two. This particular game had no use for such percentage-based prowess - he was banished to the bench with excessive fouls.
Ben Reed, a thick and wide 6'3" Western guard who led the MAC in scoring with 17.7 per game, had 24 points to lead the building - and generally did so in spite of himself. Reed, who could serve as a fireplug outside Gund Arena II if he wanted to, was able to effectively repurpose himself during his cold streaks - he snagged a career-high 13 rebounds.
And they do call them re-bounds
, after all. Western had a whopping 55 of them, compared to Akron's 34. Twenty-four of those Bronco boards were offensive... actually, the shooting that led to them was, but we'll deal with that term after we fix this "brick" thing.
A team could have 100 rebounds, but if they don't make their shots, they won't get the job done. Regulation ended in a stalemate at 58 points, and extra time was required to settle which of the two teams was to go on to the semis. The difference in the added session was the Broncos' free-throw shooting - with nobody to guard them, they were able to score all eight of their overtime points from the line.
I submit that we should stop calling unforced errors on shot attempts "bricks," at least until actual construction materials appear on or near the court after a poor shooting performance. It will never happen, I can assure you. And if there was to be a building magically erected in such a fashion, it would be a rubber room. A game like this can drive a coach crazy.Photo Gallery (Games 087/088/089/090)