Today's thoughts

Category: OLD SPORT SHORTS (Page 1 of 61)

An old guy’s perspective on all sports

Old Sport Shorts: Sell not Accumulate #2524

It’s the middle of May and the start of the WNBA regular season, while the NBA playoffs begin to wind down. The Indiana Fever and Caitlin Clark had a tough debut against the Connecticut Sun, while the Indiana Pacers failed to maintain their winning momentum and fell badly to the Knicks. Shohei Ohtani had another big night at the plate for the Dodgers, while the Cubs lost to the Braves and the Sox split with the Nats. The Phillies and Kyle Schwarber were the first team to 30-wins, while the White Sox joined the Marlins in the 30-loss club. I.U. baseball plays the final series of the regular season against Michigan. Alex Palou won the Indy Grand Prix, in preparation for the upcoming Indy 500. That’s about it for me in the world of sports. 

I just added my 250th item to the Sherm Lollar collection, a couple of more magazine clippings from 1947 and 1962. His #10 White Sox uniform hangs in my office, along with a photo/plague, catcher’s mitt, signed ball, and tribute cups. The rest of the items are organized from 1945-1970 in three big binders, the span of his career as a player, coach, and manager. It may very well be the largest collection of his memorabilia in the world – if anyone cares. I still contend that he should be in Cooperstown, but that includes a long list of worthy candidates. He’s been in my heart since childhood but died of cancer at age 53.

My other collection is baseball cards, also mainly in binders. I did get a bit carried away with my Topps Now purchases of Shohei Ohtani cards. I’ve captured his U.S. career starting with his rookie debut with the Angels and leading up to the more recent Dodgers. He’s wowed us with his pitching and hitting, often compared to Babe Ruth. This year he’s on a quest for .400 and the triple crown, taking a break from pitching after surgery. I’ve amassed about 125 of his cards, captured at various stages of his young career. They are for sale and on display at a local Venice card shop, Blue Breaks, and have even been to Japan in search for a buyer.

I maintain binders full of Cubs and White Sox cards, that follow the careers of Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez, Chris Sale, Joan Moncada, Luis Roberts, Elroy Jiminez, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and the 1959 American League Champion White Sox that began my interest in card collecting. I’m at the point in life now where I’m more in the mood to get rid of things rather than accumulate. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Transfer Portal #2515

A very interesting off-season for IU Basketball has led the Hoosiers to a top-20 pre-season ranking. Fans who called for the firing of Coach Mike Woodson, now have to admit the magic he’s performed in transforming a team of sure doom to one that is formidable. The final straws were the decision not to play in the NIT and the loss of the only standing recruit, five-star Liam McNally. It would have been interesting to have played Indiana State in the tourney, and to have been able to build on an incoming Hoosier star. Instead of bemoaning, “Woody” went hunting. 

I admittedly wrote that it was all falling apart. There were no incoming Freshmen, a center that was certainly headed to the NBA, and two or three top players bound for the portal. However, instead of Reneau and Mgbako, who both surprisingly decided to stay, it was Gunn, Sparks, and Bates who bailed. Galloway, Leal, and Cupps renewed their commitments, soon followed by the two big men. Rice, Tucker, and Newton were the next three to commit to the stripes for ’24-’25, while the #1 man in the portal, 7-foot Oumar Ballo transferred from Arizona and Kanaan Carlyle from Stanford to solidify the starting five. Then the Hoosiers began looking for a beyond-the-arc-smith, and landed Illini sharpshooter, Luke Goode, with two more scholarships left to fill, but little playing time yet to offer. 

Goode is a Ft. Wayne Homestead graduate and a basketball student of former IU star, Matt Roth. The last grad transfer to IU was Miller Kopp from Northwestern, who seemingly lost his shooting eye after donning the cream and crimson colors. Let’s hope to hear, “the three-point shot from Goode is Good!” Elsewhere during the off-season, Liam McNeeley chose Dan Hurley and UConn, Derik Queen will go to Maryland, and Boogie Fland has decided against Kentucky after the Coach Calipari move to rival Arkansas. 

Old Sport Shorts: Dan the Man #2508

As an Indiana University basketball loyalist, I rarely offer kudos to other college programs, let alone those in the East. I know that over the course of time, jealousy will prevail, and I will learn to hate the man. However, I wrote about their success with my “Rule of 60” last year, and this year is no different. Dan is the new Bobby, and I don’t mean his dad or brother. He’s the new Robert Montgomery Knight. Since the departure of Knight from the Hoosiers, no team has exemplified the power of 60 any better. Plus, he’s doing it while battling the never more popular three-point shot. 

Last year his Huskies beat San Diego State 76-59 to win it all. This year Purdue was the victim of his defense 75-60. From an offensive standpoint, the 1967-69 UCLA Bruins and their legendary Coach, John Wooden and Hurley’s 2022-24 UConn squads are the only other teams to win back-to-back titles by 15+ points. Knight was never able to join the back-to-back club, although he came close in 1974-1976, joining Wooden with an undefeated National champion. Neither of those coaches played 40-games in one season like UConn.

In that 40-game span this season the Huskie defense held opponents to 60-points or less 17 times, winning each time to finish 37-3, including Indiana 77-57. Of the six NCAA Tourney games that UConn played, 5 were won in this manner, plus two of three in the Big East Tournament. They capped of the season with “Magical” victories over three more BIG teams, 75-58 over Northwestern, Illinois 77-52, and Purdue75-60.

The three games the top-rated Huskies lost were at Kansas 69-65, at Seton Hall 75-60, and at Creighton 86-66. The Pirates, who went on to win the NIT, were the only team to reverse the 60 “magic” on UConn. The BIG East, lived up to being the BIGGEST Conference of all, winning both major post season titles, another fact I hate to admit.

When it comes to the three setbacks, well anyone can have a few bad nights, especially on the road. The first one this year was at Kansas when the Jayhawks got to 60 first at 61-54, just ahead of the final media timeout.  Hurley’s Huskies shot a season-low from the three-point line but made 11 of them to stay in the game. UConn pulled back within two late and had a look at a 3-pointer to take a lead in the final seconds, but it rimmed out and KU was able to ice the game. 

Conference foe, Seton Hall, got to them next in decisive fashion 75-60, performing a little reverse magic. The Huskies finished 22-of-58 (37.9 percent) from the floor and 4-of-21 (19.0 percent) from 3-point range. Conversely, Seton Hall shot 29-of-56 (51.8 percent) from the floor and was 3-of-8 from 3-point range. In the home rematch a few weeks later, “Dan the Man” Hurley got revenge, 91-61.

In the third and final loss, before their 13-game run to the Championship, UConn ran into a Creighton buzzsaw 85-66 in Omaha, their last loss of the season. The Huskies were-out shot 44.1 percent to 54.7 percent, but the game’s key difference came behind the 3-point line – UConn shot 3-of-16 (18.7%) from deep while Creighton finished 14-of-28 (50%).

Congratulations to the Huskies and while I’m being a good sport and handing out accolades to the enemy, I’m also envious of the rival Purdue Boilermakers. Coach Matt Painter rallied the team from last year’s disappointment. However, UConn was just too much, but that doesn’t take away from a great Purdue campaign, while reaching their first NCAA Championship game in 64-years and adding a sweep of the Hoosiers. Until the start of next season, “Boiler Up!”

 

 

 

 

  •  

 

Old Sport Shorts: Season Over #2502

The sporadic Hoosiers, after the surprising 5-game conference win streak, found themselves in the Quarterfinal finale of the Big Ten Tournament. The game against Nebraska was tight for the first half of the first half, but the Cornhuskers, led by Keisei Tominaga’s 18-point burst, including a last second swish to end the first half. He finished with four treys and 23-points. 

After this third attempt this campaign to salvage a victory over the talented Huskers, I.U. was done for the season. Nebraska then proceeded to cross over the magic mark 62-40 on a Jamarques Lawrence triple at 12:34, and went on to dominate 93-66. 

The embarrassing 27-point loss is Indiana’s largest margin of defeat to Nebraska in the 29 games the teams have played. Coach Woodson added to the humiliation with ejection, earning  his second technical foul with 5 minutes remaining. He then announced that the team will not accept an NIT invitation and will instead focus on recruiting. 

Indiana ends its tumultuous 2023-2024 season 19-14. Once again, I could not bear to watch the end of this late-night massacre from Minneapolis. CJ Gunn led the Hoosier attack with 17-points, perhaps a prophesy of a better next year with another club following his announcement to transfer, along with Banks. Ware announced he’s turning pro but Reneau,  Mgbako, Leal, Galloway, and Cupps will return. The Hoosiers also recently added both Myles Rice from Washington State, and Bryson Tucker from Bishop O’Connell high, while Jakai Newton returns from the injury that forced him to miss a year. Six scholarships remain. 

Old Sport Shorts Buzzer Beater #2501

The 3rd time was the charm, but it took some Magic. Never has the 60-point mark been more important. The score was tied 59-59 with 24.3 seconds remaining on the clock. Both I.U. and Penn State had opportunities to reach it during the minutes before. The Nittany Lions tied the game at 59 on an Ace Baldwin basket with 1:25 left. He had struggled all night after 23 and 22-point performances in the previous two games and ended up with only 9. After a pair of empty possessions for both teams and a timeout, Malik Reneau missed a runner in the lane with just over six seconds left, but Anthony Leal’s tip-in gave the Hoosiers a two-point lead. Penn State had a final look, but Puff Johnson’s 3-pointer missed to send the Hoosiers to the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals against Nebraska. 

The last game I.U. had lost was against Penn State. They are now on a five-game winning streak. The Hoosiers, without Trey Galloway, came out of the gate defending with tenacity. Free throw shooting kept Penn State in the game, followed by a flurry to start the second half. Mackenzie Mgbako, recently named the Big Ten’s co-freshman of the year, finished with 11, but all but one were in the first half. Kel’el Ware led all scorers with 18, while Reneau added 12. Leal totaled 8, with one three, but none more important than the buzzer beater. With 19 wins, one more may be enough to get them in the NCAA tourney, a lost cause just weeks before. 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Stretch Run #2499

Many of us gave up on the men’s season this year. Some of us sought sanity by focusing on the women’s success. Admittedly, there were a couple of games that I turned off the TV and few that I looked forward to even watching. Fortunately, I missed the final Purdue game – in fact, I missed that whole day due to surgery. In the end, I began to expect the worst, but instead got some of the best. WOW – a four-game winning streak down the stretch, crashing two Senior Day parties in the process. It’s more than I honestly expected, but probably not enough to make the Big Dance. To make matters worse we lost our lone incoming recruit in the class of 2024. No McNeeley. No Boogie. No Queen. Zero incoming recruits. But, we still have Coach Woodson. Somehow, almost miraculously, IU met lowly preseason Big Ten expectations by finishing sixth despite a 4-game winning streak.

Even the usually fundamentally sound women fell apart this week in the BIG Tournament, eliminated 69-56 by Michigan. They built what seemed to be an insurmountable 17-point lead in the first half, even without All-Big Ten star Mackenzie Holmes, who didn’t play until late in the fourth quarter due to an injury. The collapse sounded familiar, since we’ve seen it so often with the men this year.  Iowa and Caitlin Clark took the conference title with a comback, overtime win over Nebraska in Minneapolis. 

Meanwhile, in Bloomington there was pure magic when IU regained the lead on Michigan State 60-57 with 5:33 to go. However, Malik Reneau could not finish his plus one on that potential 3-point play, then proceeded to turn it over on the next possession. Xavier Johnson followed with another. It looked like they just couldn’t put the Spartans away, missing frees and threes down the stretch. This has been typical play all season long but Michigan State was equally inept in the miscue department. At the buzzer, the Hoosiers prevailed 65-64 on a Kel’el Ware free throw, despite missing his last five at the line.

At the 13:14 mark in the first half, the Hoosiers amassed a 20-5 lead after a Mackenzie Mgbako 3-pointer, his second of the contest. But Trey Galloway then headed to the bench, never to return to the contest after an apparent knee injury. Near the end of the half, Kel’el Ware, Malik Reneau and Mgbako combined for turnovers on three consecutive possessions, leading to a relatively precarious 34-29 edge at the break. The Spartan dominance contined after halftime, with Tyson Walker (game-high 30 points) leading the way. Kel’el Ware countered with 19 second half points. It was a happy Senior Day ending with Leal and Galloway both announcing another year with the program following the victory.

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Senior Day Spoilers #2496

Indiana has become the Senior Day Spoilers, after their second straight road victory, as the conference regular season comes to an end. I’d like to say that the Hoosiers played well but after eight first half and six more in the last half, I have to believe that the win was really more the result of the Minnesota Golden Gophers going 5-26 from behind the arc, even after rallying from that distance late in the game.  Before the game it was announced that Coach Wooden will return for another year. 

IU crossed the magic mark with a 61-48 lead at 4:36 remaining. Mackenzie Mgbako picked up his fourth foul just after hitting 3 straight 3’s and finished with 15, while Anthony Walker left the game with a knee injury. Kel’el Ware added 26 points — two off his career high — and 11 rebounds for the Hoosiers who moved to 17-13 overall and 9-10 in the Big Ten Conference. Trey Galloway also posted a double-double in the impressive 70-58 victory, their eighth straight over the not so Golden Gophers. Indiana closes out the regular season at home against Michigan State on Sunday with hopes that their Senior Day won’t be spoiled. 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Rally on the Road #2495

From the photo, you might be thinking that this post is about auto racing, Instead, it’s about basketball, but I was thinking that this Sunday when I might have attended my third straight Indycar St. Pete Grand Prix, I’ll be watching it on TV. My open-heart surgery and a neighbor’s hip surgery didn’t allow for either of us to make the trip. It will also be the I.U. men’s final regular season game. The women concluded their BIG season beating Maryland and play again in the conference tourney on Friday. 

The Indiana men defeated Maryland on Sunday afternoon at Xfinity Center by a final score of 83-78. It wasn’t easy! The Terrapins led 43-33 at the half as a 16-point Maryland lead swung to an 11-point Indiana advantage and dwindled to five on two consecutive Terrapin threes as time was running out. I.U. was led in the game by Mackenzie Mgbako with 24 points. 

Kel’el Ware had to get his team to the magic mark of 60 – twice. The first was a plus-one that was reversed in favor of a foul that should have probably been ruled fragrant. Maryland, however, had already gotten there first on a Jordan Geronimo layup with 11:20 remaining. The Hoosiers responded by going ahead for good 68-65 at the 6:33 mark. It was their third BIG road victory this season with Minnesota next on the schedule. A win there and against Michigan State on Senior Night in Bloomington could move them into the upper tier of the conference with a 10-10 record, 18-13 overall. However, who can be optimistic when the Hoosiers continue to suffer from major mood swings? 

We did get some measure of revenge on the Terrapins, beating them twice this season, including Senior Day, after bad memories of 2002. From a recruiting standpoint, it helps make up for setbacks with Geronimo and more recently Derik Queen, both choosing Maryland over Indiana. It took a 48-27 turn around in the second half to earn this victory, and in the process, they also had to overcome a bad reputation for shooting frees and threes by going 14-17 from the free throw line and 7-16 from behind the arc. The return of Xavier Johnson proved to stabilize the team, as he scored 13, while adding six assists and a steal. 

The #14 women had an easier time with the Terrapins, wrapping up their BIG Conference regular season with a 71-54 victory in Bloomington. It was 61-44 on a Lexus Bargesser layup with 5-minutes left to play. Sara Scali scored 19 points and Yarden Garzon added 17. They improved to 15-0 at home and tied Iowa for second place in the conference. They will be the #3 seed in tourney play.

Both Hoosier teams will need to rally in moving up the standings to impress the NCAA committee members, especially the men who are still in danger of not even making the field. 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Sport Shorts: Who cut the Cheese? #2492

Indiana does lead the all-time series against Wisconsin. 97-81. However, the Badgers, have  been victorious in 11 of the last 13 matchups. Indiana has not won a game in Madison since 1998 so it’s a good thing the game’s in B-Town. To be fair, IU has shown some series dominance, a 31-game win streak against Wisconsin from Feb. 28, 1980, all the way until March 2, 1997. The good old days! Who moved our cheese? Things were starting to stink for Coach Mike Woodson and Company.

Madison has been a nightmare story, with I.U. still stinging from earlier this season with that 19th straight loss against the “Cheeseheads.” They are stuck another year with the smell of the longest road losing streak against any opponent in program history — more than 100 years. The Hoosiers have also lost 17 straight away games against Michigan State from 1992- 2012, and dropped 12 straight road games against Purdue in West Lafayette from 1908 through 1922. This should be fuel for a good effort at home. We were in desperate need of a win and the odds were against us. 

Kel’el Ware finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds to carry to a shaky 74-70 victory over Wisconsin. The game was delayed for 25 minutes in the second half because a fire alarm in the balcony was apparently pulled by some drunks. The alarm started blaring 25 seconds after John Blackwell had back-to-back layups to pull the Badgers even at 54 with 10:31 remaining. It definitely destroyed the Badger’s momentum and divided the game into thirds as both teams left the floor and Assembly Hall was evacuated, following state law.

At 7:48, Wisconsin found the magic first and put themselves in position to win with a 61-58 lead. With 1:07 on the clock the game was once again tied at 70, but I.U. had possession. Malik Reneau hit the go-ahead two but then immediately fouled out. The Badgers missed on a volley of threes, while Mackenzie Mgbako hit two critical free throws to seal the victory at 74-70. Xavier Johnson saw limited action and proved effective. It was I.U.’s first Quad 1 win of the season, but not nearly enough to earn them NCAA tourney consideration. They “cut the cheese” on that season goal.

The women’s game against Northwestern was much easier to watch. The other Mackenzie had 28 points and nine rebounds, while Sydney Parrish added 11. points and 10 rebounds. No. 14 Indiana comfortably beat Northwestern 84-64, earning its fourth straight win in the series.

Mackenzie Holmes, a graduate student, surpassed Steve Alford (2,348) to become the second all-time leading scorer amongst Indiana’s men’s and women’s programs. She ranks first amongst the women’s record book with 2,375 career points. Her next goal is to surpass Calbert Cheaney who scored 2,613 points from 1989-93. 

Both the men and women “Mac’s” battle Maryland Sunday, but Mgbako and his teammates will have to do it on the road. Holmes gets to stay home.

Old Sports Shorts: Only Gets Worse #2488

It only gets worse, as each Penn State starter reached double-digit scoring. The Hoosiers have made many mediocre teams look great this season. The Nittany Lions are now 14-14 and have surpassed I.U. in the BIG rankings at 8-9 after the 83-74 College Station beating. The Hoosiers stand 14-13 and 6-10 with seemingly unbeatable Wisconsin next on the schedule. Even the NIT looks inviting. 

It was the same sad story: 2-15 from three, 14-25 from the line, and 12 turnovers. Malik Reneu had 27, Kel’el Ware 16, and Trey Galloway 11, but not much production from anyone else. Everything was coming up “Aces” for Penn State, as Ace Baldwin, Jr. contributed 23 to go with Oudus Wahab’s double-double. The only “Magic” came from Puff (The Magic) Johnson who hit a jumper with 9:04 remaining to push the Nittany Lions over the 60-mark first, 61-54. Just like in the Nebraska game, I.U. had rallied to pull within striking range at 56-54, but then ran out of gas. Indiana owns the all-time series record at 42-17 but Penn State has won the last four.

The Badgers will probably make things even worse when they come to Bloomington in three days. 

 

« Older posts

© 2024 johnstonwrites.com

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑