Cardinal Can't Close Out Cougars

Student writer Jack Blanchat provides the Bootleg faithful a look at the game flow, stats, quotes, and facts after Stanford lost a nine-point halftime lead and fell frustratingly short of a home sweep, losing to the Washington State Cougars by a final score of 61-58 at Maples Pavilion on Saturday night.

The Stanford men's basketball team dropped a nail biter to the Washington State Cougars on Saturday evening, falling 61-58 in a hard-fought, low-scoring game.

For the second time in three nights, the game came down to a last second shot, which was in the Cardinal's hands this time.  Leading by three with 5.9 seconds to play, the Cardinal brought the ball down the length of the floor, but junior Jeremy Green couldn't convert a three from the top of the key, giving Washington State a critical Pac-10 victory.

"I thought they outplayed us tonight," said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. "They gave a winning effort, Klay Thompson and Faisal Aden really stepped up, and they did a good job."

After cruising out to a nine point lead at halftime, the game changed for the Cardinal with ten minutes to play left in the game, when Sophomore Brock Motum knocked home a layup to give Washington State, playing without their suspended point guard Reggie Moore, a 42-41 lead, their first in over 20 minutes of game time.

Freshman Anthony Brown answered with back-to-back threes to stop a three-minute long scoring drought for Stanford, and Junior Andrew Zimmerman's first points of the night answered an Aden three-pointer for the Cougars. At the eight-minute media timeout, Stanford led 49-45.

Zimmerman and Thompson quickly traded buckets, then two Cougar free throws and a coast-to-coast Aden steal and bucket tied it at 51 with less than six minutes to play.  After a Mann free throw, Thompson cut baseline, drew a foul, dropped a lay-in, then capped it all off with a free throw of his own to give the Cougars the lead again, 54-52, with 3:53 left.

Wazzu Junior DeAngelo Casto then got another and-one for the Cougars to stretch the Wazzu lead to 57-52 with 3:00 to play, but Brown answered with a three.  Casto drew his way into the double bonus, and he dropped in two shaky free throws to keep the lead at four with just 1:46 to go.

Green juked and hit a long two on the ensuing possession, and after an Adel turnover, Josh Owens, who finished with 12 points, got the ball down low and barely missed a jumper from almost the same place he made the game winner against Washington.  Washington State got the rebound, but Thompson couldn't convert a jumper and the rebound was a jump ball that went Stanford's way.

With 16.3 seconds left, it was going to come down to one last possession for the second consecutive game.  Mann fed Owens off a down screen, and Owens went up and was fouled, giving him two shots to tie it.  Owens inhaled, exhaled, and coolly sank the first to cut it to 59-58.  After a Cougar timeout, Owens paused, hesitated, and left the second shot short, clanging off the front of the rim.  Redshirt Junior Abe Lodwick came down with the rebound and was fouled by Anthony Brown.

Lodwick, a 50% free throw shooter, knocked in both of his free throws, leaving Stanford had 5.9 seconds to go the length of the court down 61-58.   Mann inbounded to Green, who cruised to his right, ripped between two defenders and launched a leaning three from the top of the key.  The shot hit the back of the rim, bounced up, and fell off to the left.  This time, it wasn't to be.

Stanford had started out strong in the first half, especially with Jarrett Mann keeping a hand in Thompson's face the entire time.  Thompson, coming off a 36-point performance against Cal on Thursday, had only eight points in the first half.

Early on, some sloppy play on both sides was evident, but even though Stanford had four turnovers in the first seven minutes, they fought through it.  After Brown and fellow freshman Aaron Bright got into the action with two three-pointers, the Cardinal lead 16-10 halfway through the first half.

The Cardinal started out shooting just 7-for-21 from the floor, which was troublesome because Stanford took advantage of Wazzu's 2-3 zone over and over again, getting several open looks from right behind the free throw line, but an unfriendly rim kept kicking out shots that looked good.

The scoring got a bit more torrid over the last few minutes of the half, with Owens and Thompson trading buckets as Stanford held onto that six point lead until a slam off the break by the Cougars' Marcus Capers cut the Cardinal lead to four.

Powell responded with a lucky tip-in put it back at six, and a one-handed Josh Owens slam was greeted with a pretty cut to the basket by Thompson, who dropped in an easy layup.

Powell then was fouled as he flung up a writhing, twisting shot which bounced around and dropped. When his free throw dropped after that, the Cardinal carried a nine-point lead to half, 32-23.
 
Dawkins felt confident that his team would learn from the tough loss. "I think our kids will learn from the experience," Dawkins said. "You have to be prepared to adjust, ready to compete at the highest level."

The difference in the game was the guard play, as Thompson rallied from his slow start to score 17 of his 21 points in the last 23 minutes of the game.

Stanford tried to keep the ball in the hands of the Cougars' other guard, Aden, but that strategy didn't pay off as he added 20 points of his own to the Cougars' final tally.

At the end of the game, Aden and Thompson stood in stark contrast to Mann, Bright, and Green.  Green had 13 points, but was an icy 3-for-11 from three-point land, Bright struggled to a 1-8 shooting night, and Mann went 1-5 from the floor and put a game-high six turnovers on the deck.

Dawkins saw that Thompson was a cut above the rest as well. "He's a relentless scorer, he's a big time player," Dawkins said.  "I thought our guys did a great job, for the most part of defending him. But he's going to score some points."

Overall, the Cougars shot 41.1% - and 48% in the second half. Stanford finished shooting just 34.4%, and 8-11 from the free throw line, including the heartbreaking miss from Owens at the end.

Dawkins didn't blame Owens for the team's shortfall, though. "I had a lot of confidence he'd make the free throws," Dawkins said. "He took his shots with conviction, and the ballgame definitely wasn't lost there."

Indeed, Stanford had trouble stopping Thompson, but the big differences were evident in the secondary stats.  Wazzu had a 30-16 advantage in points in the paint, a 16-4 advantage in points off turnovers, and a 4-0 advantage in fast break points.  Dawkins said that he still felt confident in his team's chances in the Pac-10, but emphasized the need for improvement. "We feel we can compete, that's the thing our kids are learning," he said. "I thought we had some good looks in this game that didn't go, we may have settled too much on outside shots, especially in the second half. We have to be a little more patient…our second half defense wasn't as strong as I would have liked to see it."

After this weekend's split with the Washington schools, the Cardinal travel down to Southern California next weekend. The Card will tangle with USC on Thursday night, then finish off the road trip at UCLA on Saturday.


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