Gage is on fire from downtown
The stretch of truth continues for Stanford basketball in the Rocky Mountains. Read the full insider's progress report and listen to The Bootleg Radio's interview with the red-hot hero of the hour, John Gage.
The Finishing Touch
"So far, we're not there yet," Stanford forward John Gage told me.
"But we want to be known as great closers. We want to be known as
Thirteen games still remain in the Cardinal's 2013 Pac-12 slate, but
a finisher's sense of urgency already permeates a squad whose NCAA
Tournament aspirations are in a precarious position following a 2-3
conference start. Gage provided the sizzle in the Farm Boys' 69-59
win over California Saturday, and now his teammates will try to
throw down the hammer over a three game stretch that's ripe with
opportunity. A home date with league-leading Oregon (16-2, 5-0)
awaits after this upcoming Thursday-Sunday road trip to Colorado and
Stanford (11-7, 2-3 Pac-12) can firmly throw itself right back into
the Big Dance mix with three wins. That may be considered a
far-fetched task until one considers the fact that the Cardinal
manhandled Colorado 74-50 in Boulder late last season. The
Buffaloes, once red-hot, have lost four of their last five since
dropping a heartbreaker at then-undefeated Arizona.
"Our success in Boulder last year certainly gives us confidence
going in there this season," Gage said. "It's just a great
atmosphere to play in out there."
The Gage is Hot
Though Stanford's three point shooting percentage has floundered
at or below 30 percent for much of the season, Gage has separated
himself as a dependable sharpshooter from the outside. The junior
knocked down all four of his downtown attempts Saturday to
complement Dwight Powell and Chasson Randle with 14 points of his
"I think John has improved as much as anybody on our team this
year," coach Johnny Dawkins touted his 6-foot-10 forward. "Everyone
can feel what he's doing out there when he's hot. Everyone's on the
edge of their seat. Our own guys want to say 'shoot it!' whenever he
has a look."
Gage has knocked down 20 of his 46 three-point tries this season,
good for a 44 percent clip. That's not too shabby for a player who
was recruited as a center -- albeit one who knocked down seven of 11
three-point tries his senior year of high school.
"I always thought John had the capability of being a good
three-point shooter," Dawkins said. "Over the years, we've been
working on increasing his range. Now, it's about refining his inside
game. I still think he's capable of doing that on our level."
Gage's rebounding and interior presence has improved since he's
added about 10 pounds of muscle over the offseason, enough to earn
his lethal outside shot more minutes on the floor. More Gage time is
generally a good sign for Stanford: Whenever he's played at least 15
minutes, the junior is averaging 9.8 points per game while shooting
over 50 percent from the field and from long distance.
Of course, Gage -- ever humble -- shrugs off that statistic,
suggesting that he's gotten over 15 minutes of playing time in some
games only because he was playing well in the first place. But he
says he enjoys the process nonetheless.
"I love going out there and earning every minute that I'm on the
court," he said.
Freshman Rosco Allen contributed 15 valuable minutes against
Cal, scoring six points and grabbing seven critical rebounds. His
role has expanded as the season has progressed, while fellow
newcomers Christian Sanders and Grant Verhoeven have seen their
gameday playing time decrease. Dawkins asserts that the latter two
freshmen continue to improve, though.
"Christian is practicing hard and practicing well. He's growing as a
freshman," Dawkins said. "If the opportunity presents itself, he'll
play. The rotations Saturday were good, and we liked the kids we had
out there. It was working."
Verhoeven, meanwhile, is polishing his offensive game in practice to
complement the high motor and physicality that has earned him some
playing time this year.
"I see the improvements he's making," Dawkins said. "He's starting
to face up from 15-17 feet. He's starting to knock down that shot,
and he's developing a go-to move in the paint."
The Farm Boys' Horses Pull the Weight
Dawkins was particularly pleased with the aggressiveness Chasson
Randle and Dwight Powell displayed Saturday. Together with Gage, the
two combined to score 46 of Stanford's 69 points in the victory.
Offensive continuity has been an issue for the Cardinal throughout
large parts of this season, so the powerful production from the Farm
Boys' two lead horses was certainly welcome.
"They're starting to develop very good chemistry," Dawkins said.
"Chasson is getting back to the Chasson we remembered. Dwight is the
most unselfish really good player I've been around, but now he's
realizing that sometimes we need him to carry the scoring load."
Dawkins said that, despite last year's surprising result at
mile-high altitude, his team did nothing differently leading up to
its 74-50 shellacking of Colorado in Boulder. This year's key
remains the same: slow down the Buffaloes' frenzied transition
attack, which can produce its own shot after an opponents' score as
quickly as any team in the country.
"We're going to have to put a wall and defensive perimeter up in
transition," Dawkins said. "It'll be about getting back
Rebounding in thin air will also be imperative, and success there
will be be dependent on boxing out forward Andre Roberson, who
averages over 11 boards per game. Stanford's Josh Huestis has the
ability to provide a solid rebuttal: He's coming off a 14-board
effort that featured seven offensive rebounds.
Beyond that, it's easier said than done: the Cardinal will attempt
to replicate their hottest shooting performance of last year, one
that saw them knock down 58 percent from long range in the first
Thursday: Stanford at Colorado, 7 p.m. - ESPNU
Sunday: Stanford at Utah, 6 p.m. - PAC-12 Network
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Football Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him
out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMLombardi.
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