If you liked the athleticism and quickness that the new-look Washington Huskies threatened last year, then you had to be favorably impressed with what they brought to the table today at Maples Pavilion. Lorenzo Romar's squad is deeper and more mature, and that helped them today to several times make threatening runs at the #5 Stanford Cardinal. UW narrowed the gap three times late in the first half to a four-point game, which early in the second was as close as two points. Even when Stanford made their run to pull the lead out to 18, the pesky Huskies turned up their pressure and twice brought the deficit down to 10. It's hard to say that the game was really ever "in doubt," but this was a good opponent and test for Stanford today.
"My first impression is basically what I thought," Mike Montgomery comments on the visitors from Seattle. "People make all their judgments about teams in November and December, but all of a sudden these Pac-10 teams can look pretty good. They're quick and were going to give us problems. That was a good win for us."
For the second straight game, the Stanford offense executed at a pretty encouraging level. Despite the harassing pressure from the Huskies, Stanford kept the turnovers low throughout the game, and actually managed to improve their offensive efficiency shooting from the field. The Card shot nearly 73% on field goals in the second half, and just under 60% for the game. Three point attempts were sparse, but Stanford did hit 5-of-9 and made each trey hurt for the Huskies.
The game started with senior forward Justin Davis dominating on both ends of the floor. He spurred a 10-0 offensive start for the home Cardinal with a pair of baskets in the opening minute, both coming off steals. He stole the ball and took it the distance for a lay-in to start the game, and then a Rob Little steal resulted in another transition bucket from Davis. The 6'8" senior would add another bucket midway through the half on a putback off his own miss, but in the interim Davis was rebounding as well as I have ever seen in his career. Though Washington was admittedly not a huge lineup, they did often have a pair of big bodies out there and have been a solid rebounding team. It was not a size advantage for Davis, but he consistently went up and over the Husky player with his arms outstretched. Even better, Davis was making athletic and aggressive plays for the ball without committing fouls.
Returning to the 10-0 start, Washington finally got on the board in the fourth minute of the game, but recently substituted Matt Haryasz nailed a 14-foot straightaway jumper to move the margin back to 10 points. If you thought a rout was on, Husky point guard Nate Robinson had something else in store. The electric 5'8" point guard nailed a pair of three-pointers to bring the game back in contention. It was a tug of war affair the remainder of the half, which was honestly fun to observe.
With the game "on" between the two conference foes, Josh Childress entered the fray at the 14:16 mark, which was interestingly earlier than he was inserted in either half of Friday's debut. Indeed he would see time twice in the first half for a total of eight minutes, and then another five minutes in the second half. And like Friday, he early made his presence felt on the offensive end, this time catching the ball on the wing and driving baseline for a fantastic bucket off the glass. Childress used his body to shield the low post defense as he put up the short driving shot - an NBA move for sure.
It was unfortunately one of only two field goals for the junior forward, who was plagued by foul trouble and fatigue. Childress committed three fouls in the first half, and all came on the offensive end. The first two were needless over-the-back calls, which are hustle fouls but mental errors that come from over a month out of games, as well as some conditioning shortcomings. The third foul came in transition when he took a Dan Grunfeld pass on the break and charged straight into a Husky defender while attacking the basket. Childress finished the game with four points on 2-of-6 shooting and four fouls. He did however grab five rebounds in his 13 minutes.
The quick offensive pace from the start of the game stalled midway through the half as Stanford missed an uncanny number of short-range shots and lay-ups, while Washington repeatedly turned the ball over. Then with about eight minutes to go in the first half, Matt Lottich picked up the offense with catch-and-shoot three-pointer. On the other end Lottich went up and made a rare blocked shot, which Justin Davis corralled and gave back to Lottich on the break. The senior guard drove toward the basket and pulled up for a quick 12-foot jumper that went down.
Stanford was scoreless the next minute and a half, but then added more long-range shooting. Chris Hernandez had been distributing the ball to assist several of these scores, but he got in the scoring column when he came around a screen for an open three-pointer at the top of the key. The next possession saw Nick Robinson hit an open three-pointer of his own. To cap off the scoring run, Chris Hernandez found Rob Little in transition; the newly svelte center made a surprising one-handed dunk taking off from a good seven or eight feet from the rim.
Despite the Stanford offensive surge, Washington managed to keep pace. The game hung around a four- to six-point margin until Hernandez hit his second trey of the game, this one in the closing minute of the half. The Card went into the locker room leading 41-34, but the game was closer than it should have been because of free throws. Washington was getting to the line frequently, and hit 11-of-12. Stanford only made one free throw all half in four attempts.
The second half started with a quick 5-0 run from the Huskies as they turned up their defensive pressure and saw Stanford turn the ball over in its first two possessions. An unlikely hero bailed out the Cardinal, though, as Nick Robinson showed off his outside jump shot. He stroked two shots from the baseline to push the lead to six points, and a couple minutes later he nailed a fantastic 19-foot catch-and-shoot jumper.
"Some guys are pure shooters, and he's not one of them," Montgomery says of Robinson. "He made good decisions on the shots he took, and he was in a nice rhythm. Nick really does allow us to do a lot of things. He's such a smart player - can play all five positions if you need him to. He's just a really valuable player."
"I expect to hit those," Robinson said of his second half jumpers. "Especially when they are wide open, with screens Justin was setting - take my time and knock them down."
What Robinson got started with his first pair of shots, Justin Davis finished. The quick-footed fifth-year senior got out in transition on back-to-back possessions; the first he finished with an easy lay-in while the second ended with a hard foul and two free throws. That pushed the Stanford lead to 10 points, and it never again went below double digits.
Other offensive highlights included a third three-pointer for Hernandez, which gave him a perfect trio of treys on the day; Joe Kirchofer in semi-transition pulled up for an 18-footer at the top of the key; and Jason Haas hit a slashing Childress who finished with a thundering dunk.
"25 assists means we were sharing the ball and reacting to their overplay," Montgomery comments on the offense. "I thought Chris did a great job handling the pressure."
Hernandez turned the ball over three times, while creating nine assists and shooting 5-of-8 on his own offense.
"They overplayed a lot," the redshirt sophomore point guard notes on his high assist number. "And we have a lot of counters. But guys also finished a lot of shots. Some games they go down; some games they don't."
Maybe more germane was how well he directed the offense, despite the stereotypical quickness that historically has given Stanford guards trouble running the offense. "I think I've handled it a lot better than my freshman year," Hernandez opines. "Teams don't pick me up fullcourt as much as freshman year, which is good."
- With 80 minutes of conference action under their belt, the Stanford Cardinal have yet to trail for even a second in a ball game.
- With this three treys in this game, Hernandez is now shooting 57.7% from deep. It's still very, very early in the season, but that isn't bad...
- Justin Davis had 13 boards in this game (six on offense), which ties for third best in his career. That was his fourth game this year in double-digit rebounding, raising his average to 7.5 per game. He put down 17 points, to boot.
- Josh Childress played 13 minutes, which was a solid jump from his seven minutes on Friday. The pace today was faster and both his conditioning and mental sharpness were weak. If he can rebound the next couple weeks like he did today, though, then he will hardly hurt Stanford as he works to regain his form.
- Dan Grunfeld had a pretty tough game today, going scoreless in 13 minutes of play. He missed his two field goal attempts badly, including an airball three-point attempt. Other times he was hesitant to take shots on offense. He's at the least in a mini-slump, but I wouldn't yet jump on his case. He's a pretty crafty offensive player who can find ways to score.
- Don't expect much in the way of junior (2005 class) recruits to make it to ballgames during the season - many are in other parts of the country and would only visit after their high school season has concluded. But I was surprised to see a rather elite pair of sophomores (2006 class) at Maples tonight. Brook Lopez and Robin Lopez, a pair of 6'10" twins from San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, CA) made the trip up to The Farm for an unofficial visit, and they are an exciting pair to watch in the Class of 2006. Brook is averaging 20 points, 15 boards and four blocks for the 9-5 Panthers, while Robin is averaging 10 points and eight blocks. This is not the first time the heralded Lopez twins have been at Stanford; they were also on campus this past summer at Stanford's High Potential Camp.
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