[A report from a first-time Bootleg poster and Cardinal fan spending the holiday week in Houston.]
2. Scouting Report
4. Game Report
5. SWOT Analysis
6. Blow by Blow
"This is a big game for us. Stanford is one of the top teams in the country. We've been trying to get everyone to come home from holiday early to support the team [and fill up the gym]." This is how an enthusiastic Rice co-ed and member of the Owl dance team responded on Wednesday to my initial query about the upcoming game. Head Coach Willis Wilson, a former Stanford assistant, had a slightly different take on the expected effect of the holiday upon attendance. "It's kind of hard to get people up after eating all of that turkey," he told me with a chuckle, implying that attendance would probably be light. The dancer and the coach both missed their attendance forecast - the crowd was substantial but Owl fans did not pack the house. What they did get right, however, was the negative impact of Turkey Day - but not on Rice Owl fans. The impact of the holiday and its accompanying disruption to their routine schedule in terms of classes, practice and West Coast travel, would be felt most by the Stanford Cardinal.
After returning from the UC-Irvine game Wednesday morning, the Cardinal had a less than inspiring practice before taking Thanksgiving Day off. A day of air travel and a late evening practice on Friday took its toll as the team looked a bit sluggish - with the exception of their shooting. They shot the ball well. They had a good, strong, more intense practice on Saturday, again shooting the ball well. The Red (first) team substituted Chris Hernandez and Jason Haas at the point with Haas getting what seemed to be half of the time. Tim Morris ran the point exclusively for the White team. (Carlton Weatherby was sitting out with the flu. Josh Childress worked the bike, stretching and the weights with John Murray.) Both teams looked sharp. Hernandez looked quite healthy. I remember thinking that the team was working very hard for the day before a game. On the other hand, I agree with the position that I think most coaches take: you need a good practice after holidays and breaks, and at least one good practice before a key game.
Rice was ready and eager. "Stanford is certainly coming in as a big name, and it's an opportunity to play them in our gym," Coach Wilson told the Houston Chronicle. "It's a game we've been pointing to for quite a while." Rice guard Jason McKreith echoed his coach's sentiments, "It's going to be a big game. Hopefully we'll have a raucous crowd there. Last year we played them tough up there for practically the whole game before they went on a run."
2. Scouting Report
Rice had not only earned respect from the Cardinal by their performance in Maples last year, but also they were impressive this year in the Alaska Top of the World Classic held the previous weekend. Rice junior Michael Harris, who led the Owls with 14 points and 10 rebounds against Stanford last year, averaged 15.3 points and 11.3 rebounds, earning the tournament MVP award. He was clearly the man that concerned the Cardinal coaching staff the most. He is a strong, quick, and aggressive player. Other key team strengths were that they attacked the basket well and were strong rebounders, notwithstanding their relative lack of size. The Owls were expected to be (and were) well-coached, aggressive, with the freedom to run. The size differential would clearly be a weakness to be exploited by putting pressure on Rice post players hoping to get them in foul trouble.
The game would be played on an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon - about 70 degrees with clear skies - in the newly renovated, 5000 capacity Autry Court. The Cardinal would pass up a scheduled 10:00-11:00 a.m. shoot around, probably opting for a little pre-game R&R given the prior day's practice. Our first half shooting percentage five hours later would cause us to second guess that decision.
4. Game Report
For the first four minutes we were intent on getting the ball inside, passing up pretty good mid-range shots - Nick Robinson took the only jumper, a missed 3-point attempt. We were not successful. We either could not get it in or if we did, were in bad position. Our wings seemed to be forcing the inside pass or were unable to make the pass. Our big men seemed to rush their post-progression moves and shots. Up to 7:41 we were ice cold. We had no groove. Our big men were either tentative (Rob Little), or impatient (Justin Davis), or rushing their stuff (Little & Davis). Davis seemed to get frustrated early on at our wings' inability to get him the ball. This would affect his mood and temperament for the rest of the game. Our wings either would not shoot or shot tentatively. We rarely took it to the rack and if we did, it was a weak take. No chances were taken on the break. We could not put two consecutive scores together, let alone a run.
Defensively, we started in a man and would stay in it until a change to the zone at the 8:37 mark. The zone did not help our sluggish offense or our difficulty in getting in sync. We were penetrated with ease a couple of times.
Our poor first half FG shooting (38.5%, 10-26) and FT shooting (33.3%, 2-6) was matched by Rice (FG 40% 10-25; FT 33.3% 4-12). The big shooting difference was in three-pointers. The Cardinal was in a Siberian freeze beyond the stripe shooting 0-for-6 with Matt Lottich taking four, Hernandez one, and Robinson one. The Owls went 4-for-10 from beyond the arc. Note well that the Owls went to the charity line 12 times to the Cardinal's six, with Stanford fouling nine times compared to Rice's six - just the opposite of our strategic intent. That is to say, our strategy of getting their big men in foul trouble would work but only at the expense of our own bigs getting into trouble… Diene, Smith, and McKreith would all get four fouls but so did Davis and Little. We were also out rebounded 18 to 16. Turnovers were even at eight. Given these numbers, it was no surprise that we were trailing 28 to 22 at the half. With the exception of Jamaal Moore (nine minutes), no Rice reserve played more than five minutes. Cardinal first half minutes were: Robinson (14), Davis (10), Little (11), Hernandez (18), Little (17), Matt Haryasz (11), Joe Kirchofer (eight), Dan Grunfeld (five), Haas (two), and Fred Washington (four). Scoring: Robinson (four), Davis (one), Little (seven), Hernandez (two), Lottich (two), Haas (two), and Haryasz (four).
We came out in the second half ready to play - loose, warm, more confident, less self conscious, determined defensively and perhaps a bit peeved (not yet pissed-off, to be sure). Rob Little really got us going. He immediately showed his stuff: skill, determination, smoothness and confidence. He stopped thinking and started playing. If Little was the engine that brought us through, Robinson and Hernandez were the wheels. Smart, savvy, and tough-minded are the adjectives that describe his play. His maturity shows up in subtle, powerful ways. If the second half was divided in thirds, I would say that Little dominated the first third, Robinson smoothly dominated the second third, and Hernandez dominated the final third.
A noteworthy vignette on Hernandez was the commentary of the Rice radio announcers. (I listened to the 2nd half of the home radio broadcast.) With about 10:20 to play and Rice in a full court press (Rice 39, Stanford 40), the Rice radio announcer exclaims, "you can trap Hernandez, he's not the most athletic guy on the floor." With 0:06 seconds left in the game, Rice 56, Stanford 60, the very same announcer observed, as Hernandez sinks 2-for-2 FTs after being fouled on the inbound play, "Chris Hernandez is tough as nails."
A statistical summary of what would almost be the end of the third quarter, i.e., with 11:05 on the clock, would show that Stanford had just taken the lead for keeps, 38-40. At this point we were shooting 53.8% (7-13) from the field, 50% (1-2) from 3-pt range, and 75% from the FT line. On the other end of the court, we had turned up the defense, allowing Rice to shoot only 30% (3-10) from the field, 0.0% (0-3) from 3-pt range. But at this juncture they were shooting a healthy 80% (4-5) from the FT line. Cardinal minutes at this point were consistent with the first half: Robinson (21), Davis (15), Lottich (20), Hernandez (25), Lottich (24), Haryasz (15), Kirchofer (eight), Grunfeld (seven), Haas (four), and Washington (five). Robinson and Davis each have three fouls. Little has 13 points and Robinson has 11 points. At this point Hernandez only has 5 points. Cardinal scoring: Robinson (11), Davis (one), Little (13), Hernandez (five), Lottich (two), Haas (two), and Haryasz (six).
By the end of the game, Hernandez' sum of five would total out at 17, i.e., 12 points in nine minutes, seven coming from FTs with Rice pressing and having to foul down the stretch. The Cardinal would finish the second half shooting 57.1% (12-21) from the field, 66.7% (2-3) from the arc, and 92% (12-13) from the FT line. In the second half Rice would shoot 36% (9-25) from the field, 12.5% (1-8) from the arc, and 69.2% (9-13) from the FT line. The most significant statistic of the game, from Rice's perspective, is that they shot 52.0% (13-25) from the FT line. They believe this cost them the game.
- Justin Davis attempted dunk with about 16:00 to go in 2nd Half.
- Rob Little dunk with 10:13 to play in the 2nd Half.
- Matt Lottich diving hustle saves ball for Stanford with 13:35 in 2nd Half.
- Nick Robinson's fade away going out of bounds +1 with 13:31 left in the 2nd Half
5. SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)
1. Disciplined Offense. The theoretical advantages of a disciplined offense are that it gives you good shots and limits turnovers. Of course your shooters must shoot it well and you must take care of the ball relative to you opponents. Neither of these conditions held true in this game. We did not shoot it well (38%) and our turnovers (17) exceeded those of our opponents (14). Our disciplined offensive philosophy is a two-edged sword that cut the other way in this game (see Weakness No. 1 below.)
2. Team Poise, Talent, & Maturity of a Winner. One fan post-game said, "I like that in spite of poor play, Stanford showed poise." A coach post-game said, "They showed character and proved that they know how to win." I agree with both of these statements expressing key strengths of the team.
3. Second half man defense.
4. Height. Although we did not exploit it well, we had, and will often continue to have, a significant height advantage.
5. Seasoned winners especially in the persons of Chris Hernandez, Matt Lottich, and Nick Robinson.
6. Ability (though not manifested in this game) to D up for 40 minutes. I give the Cardinal credit for this strength because the lapses seemed mental and correctable (But see Weakness No. 2 below).
1. Disciplined Offense. The weaknesses of a highly disciplined offense such as ours are that it can: (1) underutilize talent that can win ball games for you with less structure & more freedom. Rice was a good example of this in Sunday's game. They had less horsepower than us but played with more freedom and natural basketball aggressiveness that would have won them the ballgame had they hit their free throws; (2) have negative mental/psychological effects on individual players and the team as a whole leading to underachievement. Players must believe in and rely upon their system but ultimately they must believe in and rely upon themselves and each other. A highly structured system has the potential to undermine this latter belief and trust; (3) miss opportunities that can win ball games. Like a highly structured company, highly structured basketball teams can lose to more nimble opportunistic opponents. Interestingly, this opportunistic advantage is almost exclusively a function of philosophy and talent; (4) contribute to other weaknesses like Nos. 2-9 below.
2. No "Nasty". As both adjective and noun, "Nasty", in the specialized context of basketball in which I use it, is an elusive term. It does not equal hustle or aggressiveness or intensity or high energy level. It denotes a certain meanness of demeanor, attitude, spirit, and play-with such meanness relegated strictly to the basketball court. It shows a kind of "I don't give a damn about you attitude" to the opponent - heavily disguised and covered under numerous layers of good sportsmanship to be sure, yet, its existence and its effectiveness is undeniably at the core of every great player and team. Pac-10 referees may have suppressed this "Nasty" quality in its ballers and contributed to the ignominious appellation of "West-coast Style Basketball." "Nasty" is the antithesis of such notions. If a fan is looking for an example, of "Nasty" he is more likely to find it in the SEC. This "Nasty" is personified in the great pugilists. Think Jack Johnson, Dempsey, Joe Louis, Frazier, Ali, Roy Jones at their best, or perhaps, their worst; at that moment of truth where they must decide to either take an ass-whipping or to give one, with no middle-ground, or other niceties or arguments or civilization, in between. This is "Nasty." The Cardinal is not "Nasty." The Cardinal does not have "Nasty." And, in case you're wondering, yes, I do believe it is possible for fine, upright young men, as all of our boys are, to be and have "Nasty."
3. Few fast breaks. I don't think we push it enough. We may be leaving some of the easiest points in basketball on the table because of our conservative bent and wraps on creativity. I do not agree with the lack of team speed argument. It seems to me, we have more speed than we use.
4. Infrequent attacks to the baskets. We must use this weapon more often. Too often we pass up attacks in pursuit of great looks for jump shooters curling off screens. Perhaps one can't argue with the success to date. I would simply argue for mixing it up.
6. Sporadic intensity. We need 40 minutes of hunger with Freud's id in full control, with testosterone valves wide open.
7. Lack of "No Conscious Shooting" We are a bit too careful in approaching the shot.
8. Vulnerable to penetration by quick, aggressive guards.
9. Vulnerable to a team with "Nasty"
10. Backup point
OPPORTUNITIES (for first six and team)
Rob Little: Take the advice of the Good Witch of North gave to Dorothy: Just believe in yourself! - from tip-off to buzzer. Take your man when YOU want to take him, no sooner, no later. KNOW that the ball is going in before you release it. See it. There is often too much doubt in your shot.
Matt Lottich: Don't hesitate when open - not even once, not for a split second. Never lose that great fire within - if you do, your team's fire will diminish.
Chris Hernandez: Conservatism will win you many games. I do not believe it will win you a championship. Push the envelope, especially on the break. Try something new, piece by piece, bit by bit, if you must but do get in touch with your creative side. Remember, the presence of defenders on the break does not equal an imminent stop.
Nick Robinson: A question for you: Can manifest passion and reason exist in the same soul? If your answer is no, fine, you will always be a strong contributor to your team because of your seasoned, balanced, and smart play. However, if your answer is yes, then know that if you realize and actuate the potential passion within, you will enter uncharted territories in basketball and personal accomplishment. P.S. Damn the lay-up. Dunk on somebody whenever you can!
Justin Davis: It may sound crazy but here are my crazy thoughts: Hold back a little; take time to watch a little closer. Transfer some of your great store of energy and passion in thinking about moving your feet sooner and when you want them to move. Don't worry about passion loss; balance your game with more control. It will make you better.
Matt Haryasz: You have a great stroke. Don't doubt it. Look for it. Find some old tapes and accounts of Bill Russell blocking shots. Study him hard.
Team: Most teams live and die by their strengths. They can't shake their MO. In terms of style of play and attitude, what's needed is willful, self-induced schizophrenia. You can be and do both: passionate & cool; deliberate & aggressive; a "Nasty" gentlemen; etc. Embrace paradox. Think yin and yang.
Threats are well-known and have been much discussed on the HoopsBoard Plus: (1) If Hernandez goes down, taking Morris out of his redshirt is the only winning option; (2) My guess is that Childress will likely return in early to mid-January. The positive side of this is the accelerated development of Haryasz. It will help us in the NCAA Tournament.
6. Blow by Blow
[Most times are accurate; a few may be off by 3-8 seconds. A few plays or possessions may have been missed. The symbol (?) indicates possible confusion & error in notes].
Rice LSJU Time Action
0 1 19:19 JD fouled. Hits 1 of 2 FTs. 0 3 18:57 NR inside for 2 2 3 18:45 After sloppy ball fumbling by both teams, Yamar Diene dunks - no big deal. 2 3 18:35 CH turnover. 5 3 McKrieth scores 3 on CH sagging D Turnover on Hi-Lo pass from JD to RL 17:26 NR miss 17:05 NR turnover 7 3 16:53 Rice 2 on lay-up; no transition D. 7 4 16:17 RL hits 1 of 2 FT 10 4 16:06 Smith hits 3 over CH 15:47 ML feed to RL; misses 1-on-1 move & shot. 15:19 RL makes a silly tap foul after Rice clears rebound. 15:08 RL beautiful blocked shot causing jump ball. 15:00 MH & DG in game MH missed fade jumper 12 4 McKrieth drives straight through the defense, i.e., No D. DG weak take to the hole misses. 12 6 CH drive, dish to MH who hits jumper. 12:30 FW, JK, JH, MH, DG in game (Stanford foul) 13 6 12:30 Rice hits 1 of 2 FT 12:10 JH & MH miss jumpers 11:45 Media Time-Out; JK in game MH pass to JK; turnover by JK 16 6 10:56 Rice 3 pointer. 16 8 10:30 JH short jumper Rice misses FT, Stanford pushes ball 16 10 CH hits layup 9:52 JD three seconds, turnover. FW misses on drive to the lane 18 10 8:50 Gillespie (PG) drives, hits jumper 8:37 JD charge, turnover Stanford goes with Zone D 18 12 ML on the break, pull up jumper - beautiful! Rice turnover; NR pass to JD, turnover; timeout. 7:16 JD fouls, checks out of game 18 14 ML to RL for 2 21 14 Gillespie hits 3 RL miss; Gillespie misses 3, Rice rebounds, NR fouls. 21 16 4:30 RL hits nice jumper off the backboard Rice misses; 3 seconds on RL, turnover 23 16 Gillespie jumper 23 18 MH hits nice jump hook 25 18 Diene dunks on the fast break ML misses 3 2:34 RL fouls, checks out, JK in 26 18 2:34 Rice hits FT 26 20 2:05 NR drive MH blocks two consecutive shots. Stanford 30 second time-out CH cross court diagonal pass out of trap stolen, turnover 28 20 Stanford fouls; Rice hits 2 FTs 28 22 JK misses jumper, RL put back
30 22 Gillespie jumper RL misses twice underneath; 30 23 18:25 NR fouled on break, hits 1 of 2 30 26 ML to CH for 3 (?) 30 28 17:35 RL inside 32 28 Rice easy cut & lay-up 32 30 16:34 ML entry pass to RL, nice post progression for 2 16:00 Big Time dunk attempt in half court set; momentum changes for us if he makes it. Misses. 15:24 Diene rejects JD stuff out of bounds. 15:18 JD 3rd foul NR steals. Misses shot. 33 30 ML misses 3-long rebound-Rice breaks-CH intentional foul 33 32 13:52 RL fade jumper 13:35 ML A+ diving hustle saves ball for Stanford; BIG play. 33 35 13:31 NR fading out of bound jumper +1!!! BIGGER play. 36 35 12:55 Rice works inside to Diene, RL foul; JH in game 36 38 NR drive +1 38 38 Moore vs. NR, foul, 2 of 2 FTs 12:33 FW in for NR (3 fouls) 38 40 MH for 2, RL block 11:50 FW bad pass, turnover 11:06 MH high post w/ball, FW halts backdoor cut, MH passes, turnover; if FW continues it is a momentum changing dunk cutting through traffic 39 40 McKreith backs down DG 1-on-1, foul, 1 of 2 39 42 10:13 Fast break: DG to ML (drive in the paint picked up), dishes to RL, fine dunk finish 41 42 Rice penetrates D, easy lay-up 41 44 9:15 MH shoots jumper with confidence NR steal, NR charges while passing to RL, turnover Rice misses, ML drive & pass, charge, turnover 7:55 Stanford outscoring Rice 22-13 in 2nd half Rice full court press, Diene rejects JD's shot 41 47 7:02 CH nails NBA 3 43 47 Rice on a textbook give & go through the D 43 49 CH 2 for 2 FT 45 49 Diene make a strong, power move to the basket ML misses 3 McKrieth offensive foul ML brings the ball up (PG?) CH passes to JD, offensive foul, Rice announcer: "no way that's a foul" 4:55 Rice gets several offensive rebounds but can't finish DG in for ML Rice announcer: "Poorest Rice FT shooting in two years" 45 51 4:23 RL fouled, hits both FTs 47 51 CH foul; Rice announcer: "This is a FT war" 47 53 Rice presses, DG hits lay-up off press break 50 53 McKreith hits 3 50 56 CH hits lay-up off press break +1; Stanford 10 for 15 FTs at this point; hit last 5 in a row. 52 56 Rice gets offensive rebound & score after desperate shot RL turnover on pass; Rice misses; 1:55 MH miss 54 56 1:29 Rice offensive rebound; RL fouls Harris :52 ML, JD in game; 35 sec. call, can't get free for a shot 1st unit in; (?) JD fouls Diene, miss FT; JH in :30 JH misses 3; ball goes out; SU ball; Rice in press set Can't pass in, CH calls time out; JD out, DG in. CH trapped, nearly looses ball; ball kicked out; 54 58 :18 CH foul, hits 2 of 2; Rice uses last time out; 1st unit in Smith long 3 misses; tussle for ball; possession arrow SU 54 60 :06 CH fouled on inbound play; 2 for 2; Rice announcer: "CH is tough as nails." 56 60 :02 McKrieth uncontested meaningless lay-up
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