And 1: Washington 76, Stanford 63

Kevin Danna brings his insights and observations from Stanford's defeat versus the Washington Huskies, 76-63, on Saturday afternoon in Seattle.

For the first time all season, Stanford has some catching up to do.

With a 76-63 loss to the Washington Huskies, the Farm Boys have fallen to fifth place in the conference standings and fall behind a pace that would keep the Cardinal on track for a potential at-large berth.

The reasons for Stanford's third Pac-12 defeat weren't hard to point out on this late Saturday afternoon: rebounding and Tony Wroten.

While Stanford did a very good job defensively against the Huskies in the first half, they were unable to finish off defensive stops with a snag off the glass. Aziz N'Diaye was one giant pest who forced the Farm Boys to defend longer than they had hoped, but Darnell Gant was another dude who was equally hard to keep away from the basket when the ball rimmed out. Four offensive rebounds for the senior from Crenshaw High (and 17 points, too. He really got it going in the second half).

Nothing kills the spirit of a defense like a good ole' fashioned offensive rebound. It completely wore out the Cougars against Washington the Sunday before - Washington State's zone absolutely flustered Washington in the first half, but they gave up more than 20 offensive rebounds and allowed the Huskies to hang around. Eventually, UW overtook the Cougars and pummeled them in to submission.

A similar thing happened to the Cardinal. Good first half defense, but Husky boards off missed shots (11 of ‘em in all in the first half) would tire the defense out. In all, the Cardinal were outrebounded by 15, the worst rebounding margin for Stanford all year. In that way, it was sort of reminiscent of the Stanford-Washington game in Seattle in 2009, where offensive rebounds were a killer and a Jon Brockman offensive rebound and put back did Stanford in (one of the toughest losses I went through as a manager). On Saturday, the Huskies' oh-rebbin' led to a hyper-productive second period for the home team (more on that later).

It also helps to wear a team out when you got the athletes to run the floor like the Huskies do, especially when you have a 6'5", 205-pound guard running the show like Tony Wroten.  The kid was straight-up unstoppable. He was by far the fastest one on the floor and had his way all game long. There isn't a guy in the conference who is better at getting to the hoop than Nate Robinson's little cuzzo right now. The major way to stop him from getting to the rack is to get him going right, but that rarely happened on Saturday. Wroten was able to go to his strong hand (southpaw) at will, and the result was 21 points for the one who looks to be the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and potentially the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

When Wroten was forced to go right, as Aaron Bright made sure he did on one late second half possession, he couldn't get to the hoop and had to dish it off the Terrence Ross in the corner, who missed a three. That last possession is probably something Coach Dawkins has shown or will show his team as a reminder on how to stop the guy, but it won't come in handy unless these two teams meet again at the Staples Center.

And that stop was just one possession in a second half that was filled with pure Husky domination on the offensive end.  Sixty-nine percent shooting, 18-26, for U-Dub in the final frame. Terrence Ross, after being held in check by the Card in the first 20, exploded for 16 in the second half. As noted before, Tony Wroten did his thing. Darnell Gant went absolutely crazy.  Second game in a row now where an opposing team went wild on the Farm Boys in the second half.

And, for the second straight game, it was a prolonged second half run that did the Cardinal in. This was a game. Stanford came out of the halftime locker and jumped on the Huskies for a 6-2 run to cut the lead to three. Stanford was getting stops and the offense was running efficiently.  With just under 15 minutes to play, the lead was only at five for Washington.

Bobby Knight always says that the first five minutes of the second half are the most important minutes of the game. Well on Saturday, Coach Knight's philosophy had a footnote added to it that read "an exception to this rule would be the Stanford-Washington game on January 21, 2012".

An 18-3 run ensued for the guys in white and purple. Down 22 with nine minutes left, Stanford was all but six underground with the Sneaker Pimps.

To the Cardinal's credit, the team could have caved in there, thrown their hands up and said "F it, we'll just wait for the Cal game" and get completely run out of the gym. But no, Stanford continued to fight and eventually cut the lead down to 11, with a shot late in the game to get it to single digits. And, while Stanford was never really the better team on the court, the Dawkins Squad more or less hung with the Huskies outside of that one five-and-a-half minute stretch in the second half in which Washington built up a three touchdown lead (and Austin Seferian-Jenkins didn't even have to touch paydirt; he just needed to rebound, foul hard, and get himself DQ'ed as quickly as possible). At the very least, this wasn't a redux of the January 2010 game in Seattle in which the Huskies won by 33.

Josh Owens continued to impress; 14 points scored for the most part against a seven-footer who isn't a total stiff was a pretty good showing.  Dwight Powell earned a starting spot and played like he belonged in the lineup. He really is starting to put together a nice string of games, even if the stats aren't where they were expected to be at this juncture. I continue to enjoy watching Stefan Nastic getting in there and mixing it up with the opposing bigs. He really did frustrate N'Diaye on a couple of occasions.

15-5, 5-3. A tough weekend to swallow; another tough one lies ahead with the daunting trip to Haas on the horizon.

But face it, 0-2 weekends on the road happen in the Pac-12, even to the cream of the crop. Last year's regular season champion, Arizona, took a couple of L's in LA for the Bruin-Trojan swing.  One 0-fer is no reason to give up on the season; even two, provided Stanford continues to win at home and can get one road sweep. And if the Card can pull off the W in Berkeley, they are right back near the top and halfway to a dozen conference wins.

Six in one, half a dozen in the other, right?
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