Saturday, January 17, 2009

To Live and Die with Zvonko Buljan...

Seriously, don't fuck with Z.

...Except in this case the Frogs narrowly escaped getting died despite a highly unnecessary technical on the part of Buljan. With less than five minutes remaining, Buljan (18 points 11 rebounds. Seriously, this guy is an absolute double double factory) apparently had a few words with one of the referees, who in turn handed him the technical, with the resulting made free throws tying the game for the first time since early in the first half. The Falcons quickly took the lead and looked poised to fend off the vastly more talented and deserving Frogs who had led the entire game... until Buljan, benched and cold shouldered by Christian after the technical, returned to the game after Langford fouled out and drew a three point play. This put the Frogs up 55-54 and the lead was never relinquished as they went on to win 57-54. The commentators made the, well, comment, that players who come from overseas to play in the US are typically more calm and collected but that Buljan is a notable exception, and this could not be a truer statement. That guy is FIERCE. Seriously, he's like having Ivan Drago on your team, except instead of losing to a 5'3'' Stallone he kicked his ass and murdered his family. He plays with that much confidence. You can just tell that guy wants the ball, and, in most cases, he's deserving and makes defenders look just downright silly. Jimmy C isn't a man who fucks around, and Buljan is surely to get an earful from his coach in practice this week, but given his performance up to this point, he won't be in that dog house for long.

As for the rest of the game, well, it was extremely up and down. The Frogs came out absolutely ON FIRE, hitting seven of their first nine 3 point attempts and maintaining their lead despite an onslaught of Air Force points in the paint. Unfortunately, I'm not sure they hit another three after this streak, but not for the lack of trying because they tried, and all that trying was almost a one way ticket to failing. What looked like might end up being a high scoring shootout quickly dissolved into a game of sloppy passing and missed shots, thanks in part to two pretty solid defenses. Langford had a dismal game, mostly thanks to Air Force's zone collapsing on him every single play, combined with TCU refusing to take the ball to the hole in hopes of riding the hot shooing start. However, as these things go, very few teams can keep up shooting 80% from three point range, and the Frogs were just the latest team to prove this point. Jason Ebie had a hot start but then went pretty cold and finished with 12 points, Ruzgas quietly put up 11, and Tuffy, despite his best efforts, put up 1.

Honestly, this was a pretty ugly game to take in and I'm not completely sure how we won. I mean this literally, as I had to leave during the last five minutes and catch the end on the radio, missing the last minute at that, and logically because, really, we were absolutely DOA in the second half. Given, I understand that this isn't the year we're supposed to challenge for the conference, but after watching the Tech game and attending the UNLV game back to back, excuse me for getting my hopes up. The best thing about this team is that they are resilient. There was a five minute span where we sat up by 8 and neither team could convert until Air Force began to slowly whittle the lead, eventually taking it after Buljan's gaffe. They began to look pretty in control, but TCU didn't get down about potentially blowing a game they had won and in the end did just that. Christian has built a focused ball club and they are going to do some unimaginable things as long as he stays (which, if he can turn this program around, a bigger program should take notice, and you can be assured that Morrison won't be as seemigly proactive with Christian as he has with GP). When we have guys with strong personalities like Buljan on our team, guys who aren't afraid to back down, there are very few close games the Frogs are going to lose. It also helps when you're playing a service academy, because their athletes suck.