John Hefti/USA Today

Stanford Basketball Sweeps the L.A. schools at Maples and heads to the Desert to close out the Pac-12 Regular Season.

Stanford's offense came alive at Maples this weekend, as the Cardinal dispatched both the Bruins and Trojans with aplomb.

The Week: Beat USC 84-64, Beat UCLA 79-70

Record:  15-12 (8-8 Pac-12) 6th Place (Tied with 2 others)

Pac-12 ORtg: 101.5 (11th)

Pac-12 DRtg: 104.8 (7th)

School

Pace

eFG%

TOV%

ORB%

FT/FGA

ORtg

Southern California

68.7

.472

14.8

20.0

.241

92.8

Stanford

68.7

.561

9.3

25.8

.351

121.7

 

School

Pace

eFG%

TOV%

ORB%

FT/FGA

ORtg

UCLA

63.7

.527

14.6

33.3

.218

109.4

Stanford

63.7

.684

13.1

32.0

.245

123.4

 

                Stanford put together a sweep for the first time this season in conference play, and they looked very good doing it.  The Cardinal beat the Trojans and Bruins in almost every phase of the game, nearly compiling a two-game Four Factors sweep on their way to resuscitating their season.  Both games featured transcendent games from one individual, consistently solid play from Rosco Allen, and offensive efficiency from a team that has struggled to score points all year.

                One of the biggest surprises of the game on Thursday night was the personnel combination Stanford used to create its margin.  With 11:02 left in the first half, Stanford had Josh Sharma, Dorian Pickens, Cameron Walker, Marcus Sheffield, and Malcolm Allen on the court.  By the time that group exited en masse 5:29 later, The Cardinal’s 18-16 lead had ballooned to 36-18, essentially creating the margin of victory.

                Anybody who says they knew that grouping was the Da Vinci Code to unlocking Stanford’s most dominant in-game stretch of the season needs to go straight to Vegas and run the Biff Tannen Gambling Offense.  Nevertheless, in case you thought you were hallucinating, that’s what happened.  How, you ask?  First, Sharma, Walker, and Sheffield make for some very long and athletic defenders, especially as the back level of a 2-3 zone.  USC had no answer for this tactic in the first half, and it was the difference in the game.

                Secondly, Dorian Pickens was hotter than Hansel on his way to an 8-10 night from the field.   Finally, Malcolm Allen looked better than he has all season long in coordinating Stanford’s offense. His conventional numbers don’t reveal how effective he was (two points, four assists, three turnovers), but he managed the Cardinal’s offense, attacked when necessary, and showcased a strong crossover move.  People have been quick to bury Malcolm, but considering this is a player who has broken both his wrists in his time at Stanford, maybe it’s time to give him a second look.  A guy crossing fools over and then hitting step back threes is a guy Stanford can certainly use moving forward.  Good on him for persevering and good on the coaches for hanging with him as well.

                Among the numerous highlight plays, there were signs that perhaps the outburst this weekend is repeatable.  First off, the Cardinal had repeated success running pick and roll in both games.  They were especially smart to involve and exploit UCLA’s Tony Parker.  Parker typically destroys Stanford, but his effect was mitigated by his struggles on defense on Saturday.

                Cameron Walker had a nice drive against USC where he took the Ginobili slide step to avoid the charge call and kicked it out to a wide open Marcus Sheffield for a corner three.   That matters for a couple of reasons.  First is that if Walker continues to function as a playmaker, it creates that many more options for Stanford defensively.  Secondly, Stanford is the worst three-point shooting team in the Pac-12 at 31.5%.  On the weekend the Cardinal shot 45%.

 That number is likely unsustainable, but if they can generate looks like the one Walker created for Sheffield, they should be closer to that 45% than they are to the 31.5%, which would open things up dramatically for its post players.  Humphrey’s 12-14 was aided by a minimum amount of double teams, a situation that can continue if Stanford remains a threat from beyond the arc. Finally, eight different players hit three-pointers this weekend for the Cardinal, and Humphrey was not one of them.  Add him to the mix and Stanford can almost always put  a lineup with at least three and often five threats from distance.

The weekend, glorious as it was, wasn’t perfect.  Stanford’s defense took siestas in the second half.  USC, after struggling in the first half, came back in the second half to score 39 points at an efficiency rate of 111.4.  The Bruins put up 37 points on an even better 119.4 rating in the second half on Saturday.  Stanford was playing so well on offense (71% shooting in the second half vs. UCLA) that it didn’t matter, but you can bet that playing only half a game on defense isn’t going to get the Cardinal a road sweep in the desert.

I was still floating even as my plane descended to the ground back in L.A. on Sunday.  The L.A. schools are always a big deal, and holding serve at Maples ensured that between football’s three wins and the two this weekend,  my Bruin and Trojan friends have five reasons to bite their tongues when I see them.   And while I may have had selfish reasons for reveling  this weekend, it’s clear that if Stanford can sustain its play in the Arizonas, this team’s best may be yet to come.

Better late than never, right?

 


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