The Cardinal got off to a slow start, but managed to build a small cushion as Rob Little and Matt Lottich combined to score the first 16 points for Stanford, which managed a 16-7 lead before Lottich picked up his second personal foul about 7:30 into the game and had to sit for the remainder of the first half. After a lay-up by Dan Grunfeld, Matt Haryasz took over for a stretch of about three minutes of game time which saw the super 6'10" sophomore score a quick eight points on route to a new career high of 16 in just 15 minutes of playing time. After the last of those eight points, Stanford allowed Harvard back in the game, as the Crimsons Kevin Rogus torched the Card for a pair of three-pointers and helped the visitors close the gap to an uncomfortable three points with 5:30 left in the half. A Stanford timeout and chewing out by Coach Mike Montgomery helped bring the Card back to life. Behind solid defense and some excellent interior play by Justin Davis, Stanford finished the half with a 14-4 run to go into the intermission up 44-31.
The Cardinal came out of the locker room far more inspired than when it started the game, and Justin Davis' monster dunk in the opening moments was a harbinger of things to come. Tenacious defense, both man-to-man and zone, limited Harvard to a pair of Rogus three-pointers during the first ten minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, Stanford had its way on the interior as the Cardinal scored lay-up after lay-up and the visitors racked up fouls. A tremendous size advantage, combined with good effort and a zone defense by Harvard added up to numerous offensive rebounds and put-backs by the Card. The lone sore spot (literally) during the Stanford run was the gash Haryasz sustained over his right eye, which required a half dozen stitches.
With the game well in hand, Montgomery emptied the bench and got footballers Mark Bradford and Evan Moore as well as walk-on Carlton Weatherby into the game. One of the highlights of the closing moments was a breakaway dunk by crowd favorite Fred Washington, who stuffed it despite being hacked by a Crimson defender (no foul was called).
It is not easy to draw many conclusions from a game such as this, in which the opponent is completely outmatched in terms of size, athleticism and skill. To be blunt, Harvard is an opponent that probably should not be on Stanfords schedule. Playing a handful of easy opponents is not without merit, as it allows Stanford to experiment with some things in a game setting that it might not otherwise try, but Harvard was so overmatched as to not provide a meaningful test. An obvious downside is that Stanfords strength of schedule is harmed, as evidenced by Stanfords plummeting in some of the RPI approximations, after playing an 0-11 team from a weak conference.
Positives takeaways from the game for Stanford included its complete and utter domination of the interior (which is fully expected against an Ivy League opponent) and its ability to shut Harvard down during a period of about 16 minutes during which Harvard managed a mere 10 points. It may only have been Harvard, but limiting any Division I team to 10 points in 16 minutes is impressive in a well-paced game. As for individual performances, the outstanding play of Stanfords top four post players is certainly worthy of praise, and the scoring and fiery leadership of Matt Lottich, particularly at the start of the second half was encouraging, though not the least bit unexpected.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the game was what took place before the tipoff, as Josh Childress suited up and participated in warm-ups. As he has been throughout his layoff, Childress was as big a cheerleader for the Cardinal as there was in the building, but you could sense that he could barely contain his enthusiasm in the wake of receiving good news on his injured foot. Childress was cleared for practice starting Monday afternoon, and should be available to play against the Washington schools Friday and Sunday.
Several negatives from the game bear mention, as well. In the postgame press conference, Montgomery bemoaned Stanfords poor execution, a truth belied by the Cardinals reaching the century mark in points and its overall field goal percentage of 54%. Stanford was sloppy on both ends of the floor for the first 15 minutes of the game, and a cupcake opponent is no excuse for a lack of execution. Stanfords perimeter defense was unimpressive, as Harvard managed to hit 11 of 27 mostly uncontested shots from behind the arc. The Crimson came into the game shooting a mere 27 percent from deep, so the 41% hung on Stanford should raise some eyebrows. Make no mistake, Harvards shots were not the long, oft-contested prayers that Gonzaga chucked up in the waning moments of the Newell challenge; most were relatively open looks against Stanfords man to man defense. On the offensive end, Jason Haas passed up numerous opportunities at open threes; as a fellow Bootie opined during the game, it looked like the thought of shooting did not even occur to the backup point guard as his defender sagged off him. Going forward, Haas will need to be willing to take the open three at least occasionally, even if the rest of his game is very solid (which it currently is). Finally, Dan Grunfeld struggled on both ends. His effectiveness on offense has closely tracked whether the opponent plays man-to-man or zone defense. Grunfeld has displayed an excellent nose for seams in zone defenses that allow him to shoot the three or drive it inside, but when a defender stays with him in a man to man context, he has struggled. Dan brings much needed outside shooting and some versatility on offense, and he will need to get back on track for conference play.
Notes: Stanford fans should be commended for coming out in number to watch the least compelling game on the Cardinals schedule. With students on break, general admission tickets were made available and a very long line formed at the box office prior to tipoff. Postgame comments by the players indicated that they were pleasantly surprised by the crowd of just under 5,000. David Giovacchini, younger brother of Stanford alum Tony, played 22 minutes for the Crimson and finished with five assists and two points.
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