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
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.
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.
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
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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And 1: Stanford 75, Fresno State 59
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