Big Bounce Back

With a disappointing preseason record in the rearview mirror, and one final game out of the conference remaining, Stanford was a team at a crossroads. But the performance delivered against the top-ranked OOC foe this season Saturday night in the form of Michigan State was remarkable. It wasn't all perfect, but it was darned encouraging. Read on for the full skinny on the huge 75-64 Newell Challenge win.

Just when everyone on the HoopsBoard was ready to mail the season in, Montgomery and his boys pull of a minor upset and win another thrilling Pete Newell Challenge game, 75-64. It was a milestone game for many reasons, as Julius and C-Bo each had career highs in points. It was also a coming out party for Stanford after their embarrassing defeat to the BYU Cougars the prior weekend.

This game looked like it might be a blowout early as the Spartans jumped out to a 30-18 lead after the first 10 minutes of play. They were scoring at will, and Stanford couldn’t establish anything on the offensive end. After the first 10 minutes of the game, though, the game was basically all Cardinal. Borchardt started dominating the post en route to 27 points and 10 rebounds. He also had six very timely blocks and almost had about 5 more. He fouled out almost every Michigan State post player, which forced Izzo to play a walk-on midway through the second half. The stats can’t even tell half the story - he was the reason why they won and played brilliantly. Barnes also went off for 19 points and at times reminded people of Brevin Knight the way he drove to the hoop... his moves off the dribble. Barnes seems to love playing in the Newell Challenge, and this can hopefully lead to more big games in the future. Casey was shut down for most of the game, statistically, but drove to the hoop often and drew many fouls on the Spartan players. Justin Davis also had an electrifying 12 points on four dunks and brought the crowd to life often in the second half. Overall it was a great offensive performance.

Marcus Taylor led Michigan State with 21 points of his own and definitely established himself as one of the top point guards in the country. He also had eight assists to go with his points, and drove the lane at will. He had a slow second half, which limited Michigan State’s options on offense. Chris Hill and Adam Wolfe were the only other Spartans in double-figures, which shows how much the Stanford defense clamped down. Kelvin Torbert, Michigan State’s heralded freshmen was held to only eight points and did not play much of a role in the outcome of the game.

Many positives come out the game tonight. First of all, everyone has to be thrilled the way Borchardt played. I am coming off a little on my predication that Childress would be the second best freshmen, but it looks like Borchardt might be the BEST center in college basketball. The combination of his scoring, rebounding and defense put him on a level occupied by very few players right now. Secondly, Barnes came alive tonight. He scored 19 points on 7-9 shooting. But it wasn’t how much he was scoring - it was how he was scoring. He constantly pushed the ball upcourt and had two great assists to Davis on fastbreaks. He has definitely earned himself a longtime starter’s spots and is proving to be a big game player. It will be interesting to see how Barnes fares in the Pac-10 season after his up and down life as a starter. Lastly, Davis brought lots of energy to the team. His dunks in the second were great to see, and he showed a lot more aggressiveness on the rebounds. The defense also played a great game for the final 30 minutes, holding Michigan State to only 34 points. The help defense that Montgomery preaches was in full effect in the second half as the Spartans' shot attempts were of a low percentage.

Some things in last night’s game didn’t go very well. Michigan State shot 48%, which is a bad sign because these high percentages are becoming the norm for Stanford opponents. It is something that will have to change because it is tough to win games when your opponents are constantly shooting 50%. On the other hand, Stanford shot 56% against a defense that embarrassed Arizona and has held opponents constantly under 35%.

Another negative is the regression of Josh Childress. He came on strong in the early going but has seemingly hit the rookie wall very early. He doesn’t seem like he is in sync with the game often and looks lost. We all know what he is capable of, and it is important in the upcoming Pac-10 season for him to have a strong role off the bench. Barnes is going to be off some nights, and so will Davis. It is important that Childress can provide some scoring off the bench when the starters struggle.

Overall there are not many negatives that can come from a game like this. This was a truly well played game and a joy to watch for any basketball fan. Only 18 total turnovers all game and great ball movement by both teams. The Oakland Arena always provides a great atmosphere, which was very pro-Michigan State, with the Spartan football team ready to play Fresno State in the Silicon Valley Bowl. Even with the semi-hostile crowd, Stanford played very mature and never wilted in Michigan State runs. This has to make every Bootie ready for the Friday night matchup against the hated Weenies.

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