Finally, The Mavericks get their win …and it is all good again…
It took a return to the scene of the finest moment in Mavericks' history to snap them out of their early season misery.
Two slumps went bump in the night Thursday, a startling contrast from the last time the Mavericks and Phoenix Suns met at US Airways Center. That night back in early June ended with the Mavericks celebrating their Western Conference championship.
So when they showed up to play Phoenix on Thursday with the teams' combined record at 1-8, it was a somewhat different atmosphere. But not for long.
A hotly contested and entertaining game ended with the Mavericks finally finding somebody with more problems than they have as they claimed that elusive first victory of the season, a 119-112 defeat of the Suns.
The season-opening four-game losing streak - the worst start in the franchise's 27 years - was halted as the Mavs scored the final seven points of the game.
"Obviously, we're just happy to get a win," coach Avery Johnson said. "We weren't concerned whether it was by one point or two points, we just needed to know how it feels to get a win."
Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Jerry Stackhouse combined for 88 points, and the Mavericks got solid production from newcomers Devean George and Anthony Johnson as they put together the closest thing they've had to four complete quarters this season.
And Dirk gets it done …
Nowitzki picked up where he left off last season against Phoenix, punishing the Suns with his entire offensive arsenal. He nearly had his highest scoring game of the season with 25 points in the first half.
The jumper was falling against both tall and small defenders, in turn setting up drives to the basket. Nowitzki finished with 35 points, 12 coming on free throws.
"I wanted to be aggressive and establish myself, especially early, get to the basket some," said Nowitzki, who added seven rebounds and four assists. "Shawn [Marion] is a great defender. He’s long, he’s athletic, so what I wanted to do was give him a little bit of everything. Posting up some, taking him off the dribble some, show-and-go some."
Though the Nowitzki-Terry-Stackhouse trio combined for 88 points, they didn’t do it alone. Three of the key newcomers – Anthony Johnson, Devean George and Greg Buckner – contributed in places not found on the boxscore.
Their comfort level, and that of their teammates, led to the most complete overall effort of the season. And first win.
"We just wanted to get one win," Nowitzki said, "get on the board somehow."
Stars discourage the Coyotes, finish the roadtrip with a win …now they don’t play again until next Wednesday…
As a team, the Stars hadn't matched the work ethic of Vancouver or Calgary in their previous two losses. And the power play, mired in a 2-for-30 funk, wasn't delivering the timely goals that the Stars needed.
"For our group around here, it's unacceptable," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "[Morrow] is one of our leaders. When you're not having the success you want, you have to dig in more."
While the score wasn't impressive, the effort was.
If it's possible, the Stars posted a dominant one-goal victory, outshooting the Coyotes, 35-13.
"The score was flattering," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said.
Marty Turco posted his first shutout of the season and the 25th of his career. While Turco went long stretches without seeing shots, he and the Stars had to weather four consecutive Phoenix power plays in the second and third periods. On the fourth man advantage, Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski hit the post with a slap shot.
But the Coyotes seldom threatened at even strength.
The Stars' performance drew high praise from Gretzky.
"They are probably the best defensive team in hockey," Gretzky said, noting that the Stars had limited Calgary to 18 shots in the previous game.
"There are things that you had to do. One of the things you had to do was have a work ethic, and quite frankly, Dallas worked harder than we did."
The Stars (12-4-0) have won all eight games in which they have scored the first goal.
In other hockey news…
Look at what “washed up – we have to buy him out because he has nothing left player – scored his 8th goal of the season and has 12 points in 14 games! The birthday boy …Atta boy!
Cornhusker vs. Aggie …
Nebraska can wrap up its first Big 12 North title since 1999 with a victory over No. 24 Texas A&M. But the Cornhuskers' road record has been horrendous lately – a 9-15 mark since the end of the 2001 season with 12 of the losses by 17 points or more.
Coach Bill Callahan was counted on to jump-start the Cornhuskers into the millennium. He's had his moments, but also is only 11-11 in the Big 12 and 2-6 against South Division foes.
A&M also needs a victory after watching its chances against Oklahoma evaporate last week because of coach Dennis Franchione's lack of coaching moxie late in the game. Aggie fans still haven't forgotten – or forgiven – how Franchione elected to kick field goals rather than go for makeable fourth downs in the fourth quarter against the Sooners.
Franchione has his own demons against top teams. He's 2-9 in November with the Aggies and is a combined 1-11 against Big 12 powers Texas, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Oklahoma since arriving.
Nebraska offensive line coach Dennis Wagner retooled his offensive line last week, putting together a starting unit against Missouri consisting of a freshman, three sophomores and one senior. The group helped dominate Missouri, piling up 183 yards rushing and allowing no sacks. They will need another big performance against the Aggies.
One critical area to watch will be how the Aggies' pass rush fares. They must make Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor uncomfortable in the pocket, or he could pick apart their secondary. A&M ranks 10th in the Big 12 and 100th nationally with 14 sacks this season.
The Aggies need to follow the blueprint that has led them to other conference victories. If A&M's offensive front can enable massive tailback Jorvorskie Lane and Michael Goodson to dominate the game and time of possession, the Aggies can win.
Red Raider at Sooner …
Oklahoma's game plan of late has been a bit of a flashback for Allen Patrick. The tailback remembers his high school days when he'd pound the ball for about 200 rushing yards while his football team threw just a few passes.
Despite the loss of star tailback Adrian Peterson, that's the sort of physical approach the No. 17 Sooners (7-2, 4-1) have used with Patrick in the backfield.
Believe it or not, the Sooners have actually run the ball more frequently and picked up more yards on the ground in the three games since Peterson broke his collarbone.
"Our running game is really successful right now," said quarterback Paul Thompson, who completed only three passes for 39 yards in a 17-16 win at Texas A&M last week. "It's doing real well, so we're going to stick with what we're doing good."
Oklahoma has averaged 207 rushing yards on 48.7 carries in Peterson's absence, compared to an average of 171.7 yards on 36.8 carries with the 2004 Heisman runner-up in the lineup. Patrick has had the heaviest load, with 440 yards on 102 rushes the past three weeks.
He's extended the Sooners' streak to 15 straight games with a 100-yard rusher, and Oklahoma is the only team in the country with a 100-yard rusher in each of its games this season.
The Red Raiders (6-4, 3-3) continue to do the opposite, as they have since coach
Mike Leach installed his Air Raid offense after a year as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. While Oklahoma has averaged nearly 50 rushes over the past three weeks, Tech leads the nation in pass attempts with 508 - more than 50 per game.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, however, dismissed the thought that the Sooners' run emphasis was an attempt to shorten games or play keep-away - or that that would be his team's approach this week.
"If you're getting 10 (yards) and eight and 10 and 12, why do you stop? A lot of it's been just the success that we've had with it," Stoops said.
To a certain extent, the Sooners' running game is getting more favorable looks from defenses without Peterson present. Texas A&M kept its safeties back to prevent the deep pass and in the process held the Sooners to their lowest passing total since 1997.
Rutgers upsets Louisville …
Once a laughingstock, then an upstart, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are suddenly and unbelievably in the national championship conversation. They defeated No. 3 Louisville, 28-25, prompting an unforgettable campus bash.
Jeremy Ito kicked off the festivities. Ito’s 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left booted Louisville out of the national title race and put Rutgers atop the Big East Conference. Ito was the hero of the game when he could have easily been the goat.
At Rutgers, landmark victories can never come easily. Ito missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt with 17 seconds left, but because Louisville’s William Gay was offsides, Ito got another chance, 5 yards closer. He could not miss again.
After the ensuing kickoff, only 1 second remained on the clock, but the crowd could not wait any longer. Fans poured out of the bleachers as the Louisville offense lined up behind the ball. The public address announcer ordered the fans to take a U-turn.
Brian Brohm, the Louisville quarterback, could not even uncork a desperation pass. He was sacked and then he was swarmed. For nearly an hour, the field at Rutgers Stadium was awash in red-clad revelers.
“This is the way college football is supposed to be,” Greg Schiano, the Rutgers’s head coach, said. “The New York/New Jersey metropolitan area hasn’t had this. But I’ve got a feeling they’re really going to take to it.”
John McClain on Owens …
Sometimes, NFL players act so childish you swear they are playing on an elementary school playground.
Each week, there seem to be more examples of players losing control or acting so selfish they appear more interested in getting on ESPN than winning the game.
Do you think Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson would be happier catching 10 passes for 150 yards and three touchdowns in a defeat or having two receptions for 20 yards and no touchdowns in a victory?
Most of us would take the former over the latter.
The epitome of Owens' selfishness came after he scored a touchdown at Washington. We've seen his end-zone demonstration a hundred times by now. He pretended to sleep, using the football as a pillow, because of all the negative publicity he received last week for falling asleep in meetings.
Truthfully, Owens should have been embarrassed for falling asleep in team meetings, but he almost seemed proud of it because of all the attention he received.
Cardinals have been fading in the 4th Quarter …
The reasons the Cardinals have lost seven consecutive games are longer than a polygamist family's grocery list, but all of their problems - from offense to defense to special teams to coaching - have been on display in the fourth quarter this year.
They have scored just 20 points in the final quarter all season. And only a field goal by Neil Rackers against Oakland, has kept them from being shut out in the fourth quarters of the past five games.
That's deadly in the NFL, where most games are close. It's a stark contrast to the team's performance in the first quarter, in which they have scored 59 points.
"That's the frustrating thing about it: We're able to score early, but we're unable to carry that momentum into the fourth quarter," receiver Troy Walters said. "That's when you close out games."
The problem is especially acute at home, where the Cardinals have lost three close games. The Cardinals led the Kansas City Chiefs by 10 points entering the fourth quarter, then were outscored by 13. Then there was the infamous Monday Night Meltdown, where they blew a 20-point lead against the Chicago Bears in just a little more than 15 minutes.
In their three home losses, the Cardinals have scored just seven points in the fourth quarter and converted just 3 of 13 third-down situations. Of their 17 turnovers this year, eight have come in the fourth quarter.
This week’s picks:
Cowboys 24, Cardinals 16
Sooners 28, Red Raiders 17
Aggies 26, Cornhuskers 21
Longhorns 30, Wildcats 21
GOOOOO RAIDDDDDERRRRRSSSS (one of the greatest moments in sports history):
Rex Kwon Do