And 1: Stanford 84, Colorado 64

Kevin Danna brings his insights and observations from Stanford's impressive victory over the Colorado Buffaloes, 84-64, at Maples Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.

While the vast majority of the Bay Area was transfixed with the Niners, those who set their watches to Dawkins Standard Time (DST) were in for a treat on Saturday at Maples Pavilion. Forty-two hours after escaping the friendly confines with a dirty three-point win over the worst team by overall record in the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal played their most complete game of the conference season; efficient and effective on the offensive end, hounding and harassing on the defensive side to propel themselves to a 20-point victory over a current top-half team in the conference.

Winning's winning, but maybe it does matter if you win by an inch or a mile, Vinnie.

For lack of a better word, Stanford just looked crisp on Saturday afternoon. Seventeen assists on 27 made field goals and only 11 turnovers. Fifty-three percent shooting from the floor; 44 percent from deep.

What a difference a game makes, because on Saturday afternoon, Stanford came to play.

Maybe it was just me who was more excited and amped for this First Down High-Mile High clash, but the game had a big-time college basketball feel to it. With their athleticism at all spots on the floor and multiple dangerous scorers, the Buffaloes came in looking the part of a threatening team eager to prove themselves to the old
standards of the Pac that new money can buy respect.

And, for more than half of the game, the Buffs did just that. Tad's team answered every little Cardinal spurt with a counter-attack of its own. Despite reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Carlon Brown being saddled with early foul trouble (he picked up his second at the 15:10 mark of the first half), Colorado withstood some decent-sized first-half jabs thrown their way by the Card. A Josh Owens steal at the top of the key (boy, how well does he read those passes on the perimeter and get out into passing lanes?) that led to a monstrous dunk for the first points of the game. A barrage of three-pointers from Chasson and Company.

But despite all that, Colorado was able to hang around and even tie it up early in the second half. André Roberson showed why he is so difficult to guard, blowing past Dwight Powell a couple of times for basket finishes ("That's twice!" Dawkins yelled to Dwight after Roberson dunked one down) and even drilling a step-back three over the Toronto native (that step-back was nasty; nothing Dwight could have done better there. Outside of that sequence, Dwight was very solid for the Cardinal. A nice finish at the hoop, a pretty eight-footer and tough-minded and athletic rebounding). Austin Dufault was becoming a serious problem down low, nimbly picking his way past low-post defenders for clever lay-ins.  This had the makings of a classic.

And then it didn't.

Once Colorado tied it up, the Cardinal decided it was time to put Ralphie back in her cage. A 32-5 run over the next 9:15 did the trick, and by the time the final fifth of the game arrived, the victor had already been determined. A frustrated and defeated Buffalo squad wanted no more of the home team.

That nine-minute stretch put on display everything that was right about that game for Stanford. It started with Josh Huestis, who immediately responded to the tie by drilling a pull-up J over Carlon Brown at the left elbow to give the Card the lead right back. 

I tell ya, I didn't expect Huestis' offense to come along this quickly. He has been most valuable for his defense and rebounding, which also showed through in spades against the Buffs, but got the vast majority of his scoring average off put-backs. This weekend was another story. Taking defenders to the post and using the turnaround bank shot. Starting at the wing and pulling up. Hitting threes. I always expected to Huestis to be most effective as a post player in college, but now I'm not so sure. S'pose all that summer work on his perimeter game is paying off. Dare I say that perhaps the Cardinal now have potentially four go-to scorers (Randle, Bright, Owens, Huestis), with a couple of more potentials (Powell and Brown)?

Also, with his averages of 13 points, seven rebounds and two and a half blocks over the weekend, Huestis has to get a serious look for Pac-12 Player of the Week. I'd say it's between him and Harper Kamp (14 points, seven rebounds per Mountain contest), unless someone goes absolutely bonkers in the rivalry games on Sunday. The argument for Huestis? Mr. Montana did his damage in 21.5 minutes per game; Kamp did his in 30.5.

Back to the run. Shortly after the Huestis pull-up, Chasson Randle blew past fellow super-frosh Spencer Dinwiddie to get to the stripe. The Rock Island Rookie wrote another chapter in an already impressive first year on The Farm - 18 points, 4-8 on threes. Does anybody remember his 2-14 start to the season from beyond the arc now? Also, zero turnovers, a great sign for any newbie.  Even when Chasson does turn it over, it's usually not because the defense harassed him into it; it's more often than not because his mind is moving too fast for his body in trying to make a flashy pass. The same thing goes for Tony Wroten of U-U-U—U-Dub; those two are going to have long and successful professional careers, barring injury.

Shortly after that, it was Stefan Nastic, agitating the hell out of Shane Harris-Tunks down low on defense. Staying strong with the ball on offense. Getting to the free throw line. Laying one up and in through traffic. This was probably Stefan's best game of the year. Not only did he get those three points, but he more importantly drew two quick fouls on Harris-Tunks (one on offense, one on defense) in the first half when Colorado was already creeping into team foul trouble. He just gets under your skin, and he seems to get off the most by drawing offensive fouls. That's the kind of player you want on your team.

Soon enough, the finishing blow would come. Actually, it had already started. Coming out of the under-12 timeout down 54-45, Tad Boyle threw out a lineup of Damiene Cain, Shane Harris-Tunks, André Roberson, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie on to the floor. A decent scoring five, but a five lacking in experience- three freshmen and two sophomores. I am not questioning Boyle's lineup choice at all - I would never question a coach I truly think is one of the best in the two most western mainland time zones (huge fan of his from his days in Greeley with the real UNC - Northern Colorado) - it's just that there were a lot of young guys out there, in a tight spot on the road with the game starting to slip away.

Stanford took advantage. A 7-0 run in the span of 81 seconds, and Boyle had to blow another TO and get his seniors Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson back out there.

But by then it was too late. Stanford continued to impose its will on the beaten Buffs. André Roberson was all hands on his hips after a teammate was called for an offensive foul. Tad Boyle got T'ed up for screaming "That's f****** bull****!" after a foul was called on Tomlinson. The final dagger came when Jarrett Mann finished off a pretty pass from Aaron Bright and got fouled in the process to take the game into the next mandatory timeout. In that four-minute stretch, Stanford outscored Colorado 20-2, and there was not much more the Boulder Buffs could do.

The final score read "Stanford 84, Colorado 64" and for a few short hours, Stanford could enjoy the thrill of having first place all to itself (and then Cal rocked Utah by 36, and the Bay schools were all tied up again).

Now it's on to the road, where a win in the Palouse is a must-have. But one-third of the way through the conference season, the Farm Boys can look up and see nobody above them.
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