This might sound extremely weird, but this was a day I had been looking forward to for three years. At last, a meaningful postseason game had arrived! It was the NIT, which, unlike the CBI, actually meant something. Play well enough, and you have a shot to play in the Garden. A shot to improve team cohesiveness. A chance to send the seniors off in style.
Yeah, this was postseason basketball, fool!
tried-and-true five of Brown, Randle, Zimmermann, Owens, and Mann held their
players-only huddle right before tip. Whatever was said in that huddle worked;
Stanford started the game shot out of a cannon.
Right off the bat, Stanford
ran one of its smoothest plays all season on the first possession of the game
with Jarrett Mann hitting an on-the-move-to-the-left-block Josh Owens for the
easy slam. Oh the ball movement! Then it was Andrew Zimmermann, going Left Side
City for a big time, BCS-type move to get the finish from mid-range. They don't
see that in the Horizon League (ok, they probably do, whatever).
But Cleveland State was known for one thing, and that's pressuring the hell out
of you. After Jeremy Montgomery finished off a three-point play, the Vikes set
up their trap off the ensuing inbounds…which never found its way in bounds. Was it
the first sign of a long night against an aggressive-ass Horizon
Somewhere in the 216, a certain Cavalier owner was hoping so. If all
played out to his liking, Cleveland State could wind up in the finals opposite
either Akron or Miami (FL). Oh, how Dan Gilbert would love to have the chance to
say "not in our garage!" one more time.
But on this night, it was in the best
interest of the Farm Boys to keep The King away from another confrontation with
his irrational ex-boss, and Josh Owens was all about defending LeBron's honor
with one of his patented steals at the top of the key. With no one in front of
him, you know what happened next.
Owens was showing all 1,339 who attended
what he was working with, demanding the ball on the low block and finishing.
Jarrett Mann was aggressive too, taking it to the rack hard, drawing contact,
getting to the line.
The fast break was working. After Aaron Bright found
Dwight Powell, who while in transition collected himself to get the defense out
of his way and laid it in, Stanford was up ten and looking like they were going
to run the Vikings out of Maples.
"Nah, it ain't like that, cuz," replied a
senior-laden Cleveland State squad once they fell behind 17-7. Midwest
toughness, or the façade of it, can do a team a lot of good. That toughness
translated itself into a ton of offensive rebounds in the first half. You can
thank 6'9'', 270-pound senior Aaron Pogue for that. While he only had two
offensive rebounds himself, he constantly threw lightweights-by-comparison John Gage and others aside with every Viking miscue from the field, allowing another
big like All-Frosh Anton Grady to come in and clean up the mess. Then Tim Kamczyc converted layups on back-to-back possessions, and just like that, it was
a tie ballgame.
We had a game on our hands. Stanford needed someone to give
them a boost on the defensive end, or at least keep the Vikes off the glass.
Wasn't it the Card who were supposed to be getting 12 offensive rebounds in a
game and not giving up 12 offensive rebounds in a half (if you subscribed to
Kevo logic, which was getting blown completely out of the water)?
aggressive team that is going to the hoop on offense whenever they aren't
attempting threes, charges will be had. And that's where Marques Johnson's
Grizzly Zimm always helps out, drawing a couple of ‘em on CSU's Marlin Mason.
Just like that, the Viking frosh who had come in and given his side five points
off the bench was now sent back to it for his two personals.
were starting to pick back up again for Stanford, and it came in the form of
one of two of Stanford's Mr. Potentials - Anthony Brown, who hit two
League-esque jumpers over Midwest Monty. The first one being a step back over
Montgomery just beyond the left elbow, another being a contested right baseline
jumper to give Stanford the lead back.
With Mason's scoring punch removed from
the lineup, another Viking reserve had to step in - Ike Nwamu, and his three
gave the Vikings their first lead of the game at 25-24. But Pogue was out of the
game for Cleveland State and Josh Owens was in. That had to mean one thing for
Stanford, pound that sumbitch inside to the Kennesaw Kid. As effective as Anton
Grady is for Cleveland State, he is just a freshman who can't handle Owens' man
strength. I got my wish, as Owens could be found on twitter
These Vikes weren't going anywhere this first half though,
as they held a 30-28 lead over Stanford going into the final possession of the
first half. We hadn't heard too much from the Rock Island Rookie on the night as
compared to the Pac-12 Tournament, but it was 5-SURE time again, and Chasson
delivered a rim-rattling three to put the Cardinal back on top going into the
halftime locker room.
A mixed bag of a first half. Stanford could have been
up a lot more than one had it just held the Vikings to fewer than 12 offensive
rebounds; that was a little crazy. It also would have been nice to see Stanford
do a little bit of work on the offensive glass as well, but only two o-rebbies
for the home team proved otherwise. On the other hand, the Card were shooting 46
percent from the floor and had committed just five turnovers against a
pressure-happy Cleveland State team.
The Farm Boys came out of the locker
room with a renewed dedication to aggressive play, starting the second half
trapping on the first possession once the ball handler moved past the timeline!
"Man, we practice against this ish e'ry day. Ain't no thang."
wasn't. A couple of quick passes found Cleveland State's 46 percent three-bee
Tim Kamczyc wide open in the right corner and the Vikings were back on top just
like that to start the final regulation period.
to pound it down low; they did. JO got fouled by Aaron Pogue (though from where
I was sitting, that foul could have easily gone on D'Aundray Brown). Hit the
first. Missed the second - Ant Brown to the rescue! Ain't nothin' like a good ole'
offensive rebound off a missed free throw, especially when it leads to Pogue's
second personal foul in three seconds, and especially when it was his third foul
of the game. The man who had made the game so tough on Stanford inside in the
first half was going to be sitting next to Gary Waters.
The impact of Pogue being
in foul trouble would show in Cleveland State's inability to crash the glass
as well as they did in the first half. But there was more Brown to be had for
the Vikings first, hitting a three over Cleveland State's Brown (an all-league
defender in his own right). Next time down, Anthony worked over to the
right wing - defender slips!- and drilled the long range two.
Brown was in the building and feeling himself. By game's end, the SoCal
sophomore thizzle danced his way to a double-double of 15 points and 12 boards,
the second of his career.
In the meantime, Cleveland State was trying to stay
in the business of keeping this at two possessions, which they were able to do
by stopping a 9-0 run with the help of a layup by Marlin Mason.
Luda!" Coach Waters said as he took a break from coaching to correct the
scorer's table. My bad, Coach Dub, I meant Luda Ndaye. Chris Bridges' stage name
would do even more work, scoring off an offensive rebound, and the lead was down
to just three thanks to a mini 6-2 burst of the Vikings' own.
State would start to lose contact. With Pogue still out of the lineup, the paint
was unclogged, and nine straight Stanford points were a direct result of being
able to get in the key, whether it was Josh Owens posting up, or Aaron Bright in
transition, or Chasson Randle getting fed the alley-oop off the end-line
out-of-bounds play (turned out to be free throws on a foul call) that the Card
love to run at every opportunity.
Speaking of that penultimate man, Bright really started
to get his game going in this here second half. After that one layup, he
demanded the ball on the right wing - give that defender a little shot fake,
kid! - one dribble pull-up near the right baseline. Next time down, he
penetrated and drew two defenders, one of whom left Jack Trotter wide open on
the left baseline, and Bright found Mr. President for the easy dunk.
"Their half-court D is falling apart like a pair of cheap shoes!" David
Lombardi remarked after the Trotter dunk. Good one, Lombo, lemme jot that down
in my notes. Their half-court D…
The lead was now at 12 by the time of the
under-12, and Cleveland State was clearly losing its form. Pogue got back in
there after the timeout, but went Hack City to prevent the Joshes from going
Rack City quickly twice (the first time, he had Huestis stuffed in the lane. Had
he just not brought his arms down, he would have avoided his fourth). After
Pogue fouled Owens with Hawai'i's area code glaring from the scoreboard in time
remaining, he was getting the hell out of Dodge. He didn't want to hear the
"left, right…sit down!" chant that I'm sure is not novel to Maples. Rough way to
end your collegiate career.
From there, that was about it. Owens made the freebies and
Stanford was up 17. The Vikings pressed after each made basket of their own,
but the Card were handling it with much more ease - Bright was getting into
a flow, dribbling past the pressure and getting the Card into their offense.
Not only that, but his offense was really starting to click - first a
three popped in after bouncing high off the front rim. Then he took it right
down Broadway (no Pogue, remember) and finished with a nifty lefty.
me after the game he was not too happy with the way he played in the first half
(I'm paraphrasing) and decided to grab life by the horns like a Dodge Ram commercial
in the second (again, I'm paraphrasing). Now Stanford was up 19 with just
the final four-minute stanza to play, and the Vikings were worn out. The score
looked more respectable than it really was by the time 40 minutes were up -
Stanford 76, Cleveland State 65.
Sorry, Mr. Gilbert. Not only will the Heat
win an NBA championship before your Cavaliers, but the Hurricanes and Zips are
in a better position to win an NIT title before your hometown Vikings. Such is
Now the path to New York goes through Maples as both #1 Arizona and #2 Ole Miss
fell at home on Wednesday night. The Illinois State Redbirds, along with
their en fuego shooting from deep, took down the Rebels in overtime in Oxford.
Stanford will face the Missouri Valley representative on Monday night at
8:30pm PDT. Be there!
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And 1: Stanford 76, Cleveland State 65
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