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Thoughts from St. Louis

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Well, I got back from St. Louis late last night after a great weekend of basketball.  Here are some of my thoughts from the games.

UNLV
The game was held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, which is home to the St. Louis Rams.  The court was set up in one of the end zones, which in itself was a new experience for me.  Although it was a little funky, I thought the environment was fine.  The largest fan base at the game was from Butler -- which is in Indianapolis, by far the closest team.  Florida probably had the second largest crowd, and it seemed on Sunday that a lot of the Butler and UNLV fans that had sold their tickets after their teams lost, sold them to Florida fans.  

The first thing to mention about the game is Porter.  Wow. Porter had everyone in the dome behind him, save for the UNLV fans.  By the second half, every time he touched the ball past mid court, there would be shouts of, "Shoot it!" and "Go little man!".  Every time he did shoot, the crowd would stand up in anticipation.  And, after his few misses, the crowd would groan.  It was a lot of fun.

Hairston had a solid game.  Although, for someone who has the reputation of being able to create off the dribble and driving into the paint, he seemingly had a bunch of shots blocked this weekend.

Tough scoring night for Brooks.  I really enjoyed the maturity he showed in not trying to force things and to give Porter all the recognition in the post game interview.  But, I thought it was pretty clear that Brooks would not have been satisfied with his own results.  As my roommate is my witness, I predicted big things from Brooks on Sunday. More on that in a bit.

Leunen also recorded a double double in this game, providing his usual consistency.  I heard that he played the entire second half, and he did look a little worn down by the end of the game. One thing I have not been able to see a replay of is what looked to be a phantom foul on Leunen near the end of the game on a made shot.  The ensuing free throw was missed, and UNLV got the rebound and drained a 3.  That quick, 5-point series is what enabled UNLV to get back in the game.  

But, after missing several free throws, the Ducks finally managed to put UNLV away.  It was a great feeling leaving the dome that night.  

Florida
As I mentioned before, there seemed to be more Florida fans than Oregon fans for the Regional Final, thanks in part to a lot of Florida fans picking up the second session tickets from Butler and UNLV fans that decided not to stick around.  Going into the game, I thought the Ducks would have most of the crowd, as the UNLV and Butler fans would root for the underdog.  But, it seemed that Florida had a slight majority.  Though, it may just be a result of my seats being a lot closer to the Florida section.  And, I have to say, the Florida cheer where they get half the crowd to yell "Orange" and the other half to yell "Blue" is pretty funny.  With cheerleaders holding up the appropriate the signs, those Gator fans sure are good at color identification.  

As I mentioned before, I expected big things from Brooks in this game, and he didn't disappoint.  Hairston also had another solid performance, with a lot of successful drives to the hoop.  Though again, there were several that were harmlessly swatted away.  And, Porter was just ice cold.  

At half, with Ducks down 2, I felt good for two reasons.  First, the Ducks were in the game, with no help from Porter.  He had gotten some good looks, and they just weren't falling.   And second, the Ducks hadn't yet gone on a run where they scored a bunch of points in quick succession.  I was confident that the Ducks had one of these in them, and it would probably be fueled by a couple of Porter 3s.  Unfortunately, it just didn't happen.  Porter's shooting woes continued until the end of the game, and some of his misses were really off.  I would have liked to have seen him try to get more shots in the rhythm of the offense off of a pass, rather than just shooting over his defender off the dribble.  Also, another thing Porter needs to work on his drives.  I seem to always hold my breath when he went into the paint, expecting an off-balance shot to be swatted away.  If he even managed to get a shot off.

And, despite some shots finally falling at the end, it was too little too late.  The Ducks had a few turnovers at the end that sealed their fate, which was unfortunate.  

The biggest reason we lost on Florida's side of the ball was the play of Humphrey.  With our defense sloughing off and trying to deny the ball inside, he seemed to hit every three he took.  It got to the point where I was just following him around when Florida was on offense.  Very nice game, for him.

One of the major concerns that I had while watching the games which I didn't expect going in was foul trouble.  In both games, the Ducks had multiple starters with 4 fouls midway through the second half.  Has that been a problem all year that I hadn't really noticed because I don't get to watch the games live?  Against Florida, the problem was expected, considering all the size we were giving up inside.

And, the one Gator that most non-Florida fans seem to hate?  Noah.  There were some pretty creative signs and derisive cheers aimed his way.  

Anyway, the Ducks played well this weekend.  Just not quite well enough to earn a trip to Atlanta.  I have to believe the Ernie Kent has done enough to keep his job.  It will be interesting to see if he gets his contract extended soon, or at least an endorsement from the University.