And 1: Stanford 75, Fresno State 59

Kevin "Kevo" Danna brings his insights and observations from Monday Night's 16-point victory by Stanford over Fresno State at Maples Pavilion!

This was a game.  For 36 minutes, Fresno State bulldogged their way into a fight. Each time the Card started to pull away, Kevin Olekaibe (I was introduced to O-LICK-uh-bay and O-LEE-kuh-bay today as well, but I'm still going with O-leh-KEY-bay) or Jonathan Wills would shoot Fresno State back into it and local product Tyler Johnson would come up with a big defensive stop. 

But in the final four, the Farm Boys would pull away thanks to better free throw shooting and stout defense, eventually covering the spread thanks to a last-second layup (not that I had money on the game- I didn't, so don't go thinking I bet on Stanford sports. Repeat: I DON'T BET ON STANFORD SPORTS. I'm just curious about lines).

This game didn't start pretty for Stanford. Right away Rodney Terry's boys let the Johnny Dawkins' bunch know that they would be in Maples all night, and not for comedic relief.  A three-pointer by the St. Francis alum Tyler Johnson gave Fresno State a five point lead, and I had my first mini heart palpitation.

Luckily that would be the only time Stanford faced a two-possession deficit, and things would eventually get smoother.

However, it was a choppy night for Chasson Randle. He may be one of the best players on the team already, and he has a ton of promise, and I see him playing at the next level, and I love watching the kid play, and I've run out of conjunction phrases now, but he is still a freshman. These games are going to happen. Despite his turnovers, he was still very effective on both ends of the floor, getting into double digits again and getting into a little thievery on the other end of the court. He had one lefty layup in the second half where I still am amazed at how he avoided a charge.  That's the second time I've seen him do that in the three games I have seen him in person.

His backcourt partner Aaron Bright stole the show. The career-high 21 points were certainly welcome, but it's pizzazz with which he played tonight. He used his three-ball to set up the drive, and when he got to the hoop, he finished in impressive fashion.  It's more than just how he scored though; it's how he fed as well.  Two alley-oops, a bounce pass behind his back on the run for an easy layup, the wrist-the-ball-back-to-yourself-pass-fake before giving it up a couple of dribbles later. 

And it's also not just his deliveries; it's the leadership qualities he displayed tonight.  He had one stretch near the end of the first half where he went into Greg-Jennings-put-the-team-on-my-back-though mode.  Rocked a defender to sleep with a behind-the-back dribble to a drained three-ball in one fell swoop.  Faked the three and got to the rim for the layup the next time down. Got back on D after the deuce and took a charge on the right block. Took an inbounds pass on the next trip down and alley-ooped it to Huestis for the slam. That was all in the span of 99 seconds.

I spoke with Aaron after the game today in a video on the Cardinal Channel you may or may not see and asked him about this new swagger that he is playing with. He told me that is something he really worked on during the offseason - bringing that Showtime-style of play to the Farm.

I love it. That type of ball is something we've been missing on The Farm. A little pick-up flavor, I think, is a good thing. It shows that these guys are more than just running selected plays out there, they are having fun. And if you can have fun, I mean legitimately enjoy yourself in the heat of battle, that can give your team a serious edge over the opponent.

Huge kudos go out to Josh Huestis. I love watching this kid more and more every day. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I am absolutely crestfallen with Huestis' emphasis of going up for the missed shot with two hands.  He's already probably got the best vertical on the court and one of the longest guys on the court; going up with both makes it even tougher to wrestle a rebound away from Joshy Montana. And once Huestis gets that board, you literally do have to rip it out of his hands. He chests that bad boy and keeps it high and tight like Frank Gore until he finds the nearest floor general.

One last point on this game: when Josh Owens wanted to get buckets, all he had to do was demand the ball on the block, and it was history from there. When facing teams like Fresno State that don't have the size to really match up with him, I want to see Josh do that every time down the court.

One last, last point: Mann pulled a Shaq from the charity stripe in more ways than one. Only 44% from the line tonight, but he was Jarrett "I make ‘em when they count" Mann against Fresno State, nailing two clutchies with 4:18 to play and Stanford nursing a six point lead. Those were huge free throws.

So now the Farm Boys take on Colorado State tonight at 8pm with a chance to go to New York City on the line. I watched a few minutes of the Rams-‘Stangs game that preceded Stanford's tilt against the Kings of Central Cali, and I was thoroughly impressed with Colorado State in person. They scare me. Wes Eikmeyer is the truth. Greg Smith is an ATHLETE.  And, most importantly, they are very well coached by one Tim Miles. They move the ball as a team and get consistently quality looks as a result.

Tonight won't be a walk in the park. This is the biggest non-conference game Stanford has had in YEARS besides maybe the Kentucky game. The last time they had a chance to advance to a destination location in a pre-season tournament, Stanford had to go through an up-and-coming team out of the Mountain West (back in 2006-07 as part of the CBE Classic. A win and the Card would have faced Duke). And, while it turned out to be a successful  year for Trent Johnson and gang, Stanford got ROCKED by Air Force by 34.  I'm not saying Colorado State will beat Stanford 79-45, but if the Card don't take this team very seriously, the Rams will do more than just give Stanford a competitive game for more than a half.

Let's put ourselves to take a chunk out of the Big Apple. Getting there is half the battle, and half the battle is halfway complete. Now it's time to take the other half.
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