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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bayless’ off game has got to be the shoes

    BERKELEY, Calif. – You remember that old Spike Lee Nike commercial, where he says, “”It’s got to be the shoes””?

    Well, that saying could certainly explain one of the reasons the Wildcats lost to Stanford Thursday night, as UA guard Jerryd Bayless’ shoes broke, affecting him enough that both interim head coach Kevin O’Neill and Bayless were still talking about it after Saturday’s win at California.

    Against the Cardinal, Bayless’ shoes bothered his ankle to the extent that he could not get into a rhythm and eventually had to change footwear during his atrocious 3-for-12 shooting performance, when he missed a number of open shots he usually nails.

    He had to miss some time to get a new pair after Bayless told O’Neill the originals were “”broken like it’s a flat tire.””

    “”That changed the whole game,”” O’Neill said. “”That shoe thing will never happen again. He put on a brand new pair of shoes that had never been worn, and they hurt his feet, and it threw him off completely.””

    After the fact, the whole incident prompted O’Neill to say “”anybody that plays in a brand-new pair of shoes is out of their mind.””

    You could say that Stanford had a hand in helping the Wildcats beat the Cardinal’s rival Saturday, as Bayless played with a pair of shoes courtesy of Stanford, shoes in which he scored a team-high 24 points.

    Although Brook and Robin Lopez certainly had something to do with Arizona’s poor shooting night against Stanford, the “”Shoegate”” incident, as dubbed by O’Neill, likely had some impact on the Wildcats shooting 37.5 percent against the Cardinal in comparison to 51 percent against the Golden Bears.

    “”I take it on myself Thursday that we didn’t shoot that well,”” Bayless said, “”because I feel like I got our team out of the game by worrying about my shoes and stuff and my ankle instead of knowing a lot of people would rather concentrate on the game.””

    Added O’Neill: “”When guys get thrown off – it threw him off completely. He was 3-for-12, and he might have given (forward) Chase (Budinger) his shoes because he was 5-for-18.””

    To O’Neill, “”Shoegate”” represented “”more of the saga”” otherwise known as the 2007-08 basketball season, in which O’Neill has certainly gotten more than he bargained for when he signed up to be Lute Olson’s assistant coach. “”Shoegate”” is just one more bizarre situation in a season full of unexpected turns.

    O’Neill promised that his team will never encounter another shoe problem again because it will carry a shoe bag “”with pairs of shoes in there that you can’t even count.””

    The Stanford game also marked Bayless’ second since returning from a sprained right knee.

    O’Neill spoke with former Wildcat Steve Kerr earlier Saturday about how players compete with great adrenaline in their first game back from injury, which was the case for Bayless Jan. 12 at Houston when he scored a career-high 33 points, but then the second game back is the harder game

    “”It held true with Jerryd the other night (at Stanford),”” O’Neill said. “”He was all befuddled. He had me befuddled.””

    Or maybe it’s just got to be the shoes.

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