Childress Carries Cardinal

Quite a few Stanford fans were worried about what USC head coach Henry "Dr. Evil" Bibby had cooked up for the visiting Cardinal's visit to the Sports Arena. Even Mike Montgomery wasn't sure what crazy defensive looks the "mad scientist" might throw at us. But Stanford, led by a spectacular effort from Josh Childress, handled another fierce challenge to its undefeated status, downing the Trojans 76-67.

Let me first take a deep breath. Whew! Those Cardinalmaniacs that braved South Central know just how intense this contest was. This game was very similar to the previous battle in Palo Alto, with USC dominating the first half and Stanford finding its offensive rhythm in the second. Desmon Farmer was hot early, leading the Trojans with 11 points at the half. The halftime score was nearly identical, 36-28 in favor of the bad guys. But that's where the similarities ended and Josh Childress took over.

36 points (on 12-15 shooting) and 11 rebounds! The Stanford junior put the pedal to the metal and never let up, abusing any and all defenders Bibby sent his way. Childress put together a season's worth of whirling, swirling highlight-reel drives as he refused to let anyone stop him on his way to the rim. But the small forward's impressive performance was not enough by itself to fend off the fired-up Trojans.

Stanford started quickly with a Childress trey, but subsequently struggled to find any open looks and couldn't get the ball to Rob Little down low. USC went on an 18-4 run, gobbling up offensive boards and hitting some 3's in transition. With the score 18-7, Childress and Nick Robinson led a 12-2 Stanford run that culminated in Matt Lottich's two free throws after (surprise, surprise) Henry Bibby picked up a technical. Bibby wandered halfway to the other side of the court and continued to berate the officials until his assistants wisely pulled him back to the sideline. But "Dr. Evil's" antics seemed to motivate the Trojans and they took control of the game by force feeding the ball to Jeff McMillan (21 points, 13 rebounds) and frustrating Stanford's backcourt. Chris Hernandez, who finished with just four points but seven assists, and Lottich combined for two points and no field goals in the first half. But Lottich wouldn't stay cold...

After the break, USC pushed the lead to 10 before Stanford decided enough was enough. Except for Childress, the Cardinal looked very tentative throughout the first half; while turnovers were not a big problem (only 11 for the game), they just looked flat. The Trojans had also been crashing the boards with all five players during the first half, but Lottich made them pay dearly in the second. The senior shooting guard did his best John Taylor impression, running streak after streak for easy layups behind the Trojan guards. He also started hitting from outside, racking up 18 points in the second period.

The key to Stanford's success in the second half was the Card's relentless effort to get to the rim. Stanford's first three baskets after halftime were layups by Hernandez, Lottich and a sweet ally-oop pass to Rob Little off an inbounds play. The Cardinal were able to get some putbacks off missed shots and open up things outside for Lottich and Childress.

It took Stanford just five minutes to erase a 10-point deficit and tie the game at 40 on an emphatic one-handed dunk by Little. Lottich put the Cardinal ahead with a three-pointer on their next possession, Stanford's first lead since 3-0. However, the Trojans were not about to go quietly. An Errick "Pele" Craven trey evened the score just a few seconds later. Stanford again pulled away, but USC came roaring back to tie the score at 60 with about 3 minutes left. Showing the guts and determination that have kept the Cardinal undefeated to date, Stanford went on a 10-5 run to go up 70-65 and after a missed Trojan tree-point attempt, two Childress free throws started the home crowd for the exits.

- For anyone doing a doubletake at Childress' line in the boxscore, yes he did play all 40 minutes. I guess his wind is back.
- To help put those amazing 36 points in perspective, Childress had a previous career high of 22 points. He hit 18 in each half of this contest.
- Hopefully this won't become a trend, but Little fouled out, making him the second big man in as many games to foul out.
- Stanford played zone almost the entire second half and shut out Farmer.
- Robinson had a tough assignment when Bibby had both Rory O'Neil and McMillan in the game. In addition to shooting over the Stanford forward from outside, O'Neil was able to post up the smaller man, which led to some easy buckets.
- Stanford clinched at least a tie for the Pac-10 title tonight

Complete game box score

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