Though this UCLA game marked the second win of the year over a ranked opponent, there is much more significance drawn out of this 10-point W in Westwood. Leaving no stone unturned, here are my exhaustive observations of the game, statistical and subjective.
This was a generally well played game, which made for an
excellent basketball contest, regardless of the outcome.
The ugly parts came primarily on Stanford's turnovers,
which have continually been a problem for the Cardinal
this year. Stanford had a strong momentum surge in the
first half, and to close out the second half, during
which the sloppy ballhandling and decisions were
minimized. UCLA started the game strong, and took the
lead in the second half, on Stanford turnovers. Most
often, these manifest in UCLA transition buckets. For the
game, 15 Stanford turnovers to just 11 assists. Are you
kidding me? And this isn't a case of post players
fumbling the ball away, as the trio of Card point guards
logged just 7 assists versus 7 turnovers. Here were the
core problems last night: Chris Hernandez just seizing up
and losing the ball, usually after a good play; Teyo
Johnson making bad inlet passes; and Josh Childress
losing the ball after a rebound or a block. Josh needs
lessons from Teyo on "owning" the ball after a
board; Teyo needs to put more air under his lobs into
Curtis; and Chris just needs to get seasoned.
Speaking of which, offensive charge fouls in transition
are even worse than a turnover, as they take points of
the board. Tony Giovacchini has got to learn to glide
away from the defender after he dishes. He did it last
night, and too many times this season he's bulldozed over
a defender for a charge. You can't just hold your body
rigid and think that is keeping your body under control.
Lead with the foot opposite the side of your teammate,
and spin away after the dish.
I posted this last night, but I'll repeat it: for all the
greatness that came with Julius Barnes at the point guard
last night, the real issue is our depth at the 2 and 3.
Julius was able to play extended minutes at the point
specifically because Josh played assertive basketball
non-stop. Monty loves to have Josh in there when he is
making plays, but his inconsistency in that has kept down
his minutes. But where do you go if foul trouble befalls
one or two of this trio: Julius, Casey and Josh? How do
you give them breathers? This lineup pushes your two true
point guards to the bench, and puts all your scoring
guards and wings on the floor together. That can do great
things, but is it sustainable? Can you start that lineup?
I have my doubts. You need a high quality option off the
bench to sub at the 2 or 3, and Stanford doesn't have
that right now. Matt Lottich has shown flashes of good
production, but has grave defensive lapses and makes
headstrong offensive decisions. Nick Robinson has faded
into the woodwork since Teyo arrived, moving Nick to his
more natural small forward position. Teyo truly is the
best answer, if Monty could afford to play him at the
three, but Justin Davis' fouls:minutes ratio makes that
impossible right now. If Jason Collins were still around,
Curtis would start at the 4 alongside him, leaving Rob
and Joe as pretty viable subs for a good frontcourt
rotation. But that's a fantasy world, and Teyo is
essential to the post rotation. So when you look up and
down the bench, it's difficult to find the depth to start
Julius with Casey and Josh. It's a great lineup, but the
rotation can't be found behind it. This is the
problem to solve this season. Let's keep chewing on it,
or hope Lotty can accelerate his development.
Back to the game, now. While Chris had some struggles,
and took a couple steps back last night, the overall play
of Stanford's freshmen absolutely dominated that of
UCLA's much heralded class. Considered to be one of the
top three in the nation, and the #1 class in the Pac-10,
UCLA's foibled four frosh scored a total of 3 points last
night, on 0/8 shooting from the field, and 3/9 from the
stripe. In sharp contrast, Josh Childress was one of the
most impactful players in the entire game, leading his
talented trio class to a total of 20 points, on 8/12
shooting from the field, and 2/4 from the stripe.
Stanford's three frosh also outrebounded UCLA's gang of
four, 14 to 6. Rob Little played his best game of the
year, given his production, scarce mistakes and the
context of the game. With Justin and Teyo saddled quickly
with 4 fouls each, Rob logged a long stretch of the game
alongside Curtis, playing great interior defense. He took
and hit high percentage shots (2 of 3) and hit his free
throws (2 of 2). Easily the unsung hero of the game.
One big problem to watch for in the Maples rematch will
be Rob's matchups. He is in good shape if he has to
defend Gadzuric, or even Barnes or Cummings inside, but
his perimeter defense is a liability. The TJ on Rob
matchup could have gone south in the second half, but TJ
completely disappeared from the game. This guy is one of
the great enigmas of the Pac-10, starting off the season
like gangbusters. 20 points here, 17 points there. Boards
galore. Unconscious from deep... but then he went into an
effective coma, as if hibernating from basketball. The
bad news was that he awoke like a sleeping giant in the
first half last night, hitting from everywhere on the
court, with 11 first half points. But in a microcosm of
the season, he disappeared and didn't score in the final
21:24 of the game. Thank goodness.
The other great disappearing act of the game for UCLA was
Billy "Thief in the" Knight. He's been the #1
Card Killer the past couple years, primarily at Maples.
He has also been a serious threat at times this year for
the Bru-crew, hitting for high double digits, and
providing a very real third perimeter threat to go along
with Jason Kapono and Matt Barnes. But last night, Knight
hit just 2 field goals: 1 tip-in and 1 lay-up. But no
jump shots went down. 0-7 from the rest of the field.
This was a good example of some of the effective defense
Stanford played in this game.
Overall, UCLA shot just 40% from the field against
Stanford's defense. Most encouraging was the Card's
perimeter defense, which held UCLA to 5 of 15 shooting.
Matt Barnes had just 6 field goals and no treys, both his
lowest in weeks. If you take out UCLA's dunks (five, to
Stanford's zero), the Bruins shot just 35% from the
field, as compared to Stanford's 49%. The signs were
discouraging early in this Stanford season, but the D
just might be back. Note that UCLA had hit for 17 and 12
treys in the recent Arizona and $C games, both times for
better than 50%.
As for dunks, while both Gadzooks and Barnes got their
jams on Sportscenter, those who watched the game will
best remember the misses. Gadzuric had nobody between him
and the hoop, placing it off the iron. Barnes had an
alley-oop dunk and whiffed as well.
Stanford beat the Bruins in shooting, but gave up plenty
on turnovers. That leaves rebounding as probably the
decisive stat of the game. Stanford outboarded the Bruins
45-37 in the game. They also registered 8 blocks, as
compared to UCLA's 2. I'd expect similar stats when these
two face-off again in Maples, simply because the make-up
of the two teams is predisposed to this outcome. Despite
the early departure of Jason Collins, Stanford has more
talent and depth in the post. And the real problem in
Westwood that has led to this deficiency is Steve Lavin's
recruiting. He pulls in top classes year after year, but
he has inexplicably ducked big men. In this five-man
class, he brought in a bunch of wings and one
academically unqualified big man. The year before, he
brought in TJ Cummings, who could be a great player, but
who plays outside more like a small forward than a post.
Lavin's just damned lucky that Gadzooks stuck around for
this year, or he'd really be up the proverbial creek sans
paddle. But he's dug himelf this hole, which could rear
its head again in Eugene, by the way...
Speaking of Gadzooks, here is his final legacy for four
years of playing and losing to Stanford. He had bookends
of production, but very consistently kept himself out of
the game with foul trouble. Never logging more than 20
minutes, despite being the one true center on
Additionally, Lavin has clearly hurt himself with point
guard recruiting. Behind Earl Watson, he took Moose
"Dough Boy" Bailey as a transfer, but noone
else. So he lets four years slide by, and then decides to
bring in a 6'6" point as a freshman, who he has to
play 30+ minutes per game. That gives him too much
variability in his point guard production, and no
flexibility against different opposing point guards. For
all the wailing and moaning that has gone on by
Cardinalmaniacs on the HoopsBoard, Stanford does
have quite a bit of flexibility with its three options.
But when Julius was out there last night, he could do
pretty much whatever he wanted to against the bigger and
slower Bozeman. It's hard to believe that the program
known as the most athletic West of the Mississippi is in
this situation, but such it was last night against
Stanford. Ryan Walcott, of course, is not the answer, and
is admittedly not up to snuff for UCLA's putative
standards. Just makes you shake your head when a class
that contained Errick Craven, Aaron Miles and Chris
Hernandez just occurred. Bozeman will have his day, but a
better coach wouldn't have to play him 32 minutes as a
frosh in the conference game of the year... and might not
even play him at the point.
Bozeman's advantage is supposed to come when he can post
up smaller guards, rebound, or play inside. None of that
came to fruition in this game. Only once did he even try
to post up his defender, Tony. That resulted in a foul
before he even turned to the hoop, and he hit just one
free throw. If this is his guy, Lavin had better figure
out how to best use him.
Enough of Laugh-In; let's get back to the Card. Let's
look at Casey. Awards he might win this season sure won't
come from shooting percentage, which was his hallmark
last season, but he clearly is one of the most impactful
and dominant shooting guards in the country. I think some
Iverson comparisons are becoming relevant, as Jake is
forcing the issue by taking it to his defenders time and
time again. He gets his points, every night, though
sometimes on poor shooting. He got 20 last night, which
was repeated in all the write-ups, on Sportscenter and on
the news. But he shot 6 of 19, including 3 of 12 inside
the arc. I don't quite know why, but Casey got to hoop an
awful lot in the game, but just couldn't buy a basket.
Still, he picked up free throws once again, where he
continues to lead the team. The saving grace for his
night, and for the Card, came in his second half
perimeter shooting. He hit three clutch
treys in the second stanza, which were his only made
three-pointers in the game. He came through bigtime,
though this team will really role when he can find the
basket at a better clip.
Another interesting second half stat: Curtis Borchardt
picked up all five of his fouls in the second half. It
was he, not Gadzooks, who fouled out of the game.
Although the final foul cam in the final minute of the
game, when the Cardinal victory was sealed and signed.
But despite coming under his average in points and
boards, Curtis had a very solid game. The threat he
provides from all spots on the court is unmatched, and
creates some real problems for opposing coaches. Just
look at two plays in this game: Curtis with the trail
post trey, and with the reverse lay-up. He can extend a
defense out to deep, but also has the athleticism and
nimbleness to move the ball to his left hand while he
hangs under the rim. Seriously, who in the conference is
even moderatly suited to defend that in a 7-footer? His
updated stats, by the way, are 8 for 13 from deep.
Through 16 games, that's respectable, but is more
important in that it signals the real threat of the three
this year. He flashed the trey early his first two
seasons and then abandoned it. But he has hit at least
one in four straight games now, versus just four total
treys in his first two years (32 games).
But this is all for naught if C-Bo can't stay healthy.
Saturday marks at least a psychological barrier for
Curtis, as he readies for U$C. In both his first two
seasons, Curtis was hurt and lost for the season in the
$C game. Both years, game #20. This year finds the
Trojenz in game #17, but tens of thousands of fingers
will be crossed between 3 and 5 pm Pacific Saturday.
Josh Childress also had some tough luck with fouls,
finishing the game with 4. To this eye, three were very,
very shaky. He did fall over a UCLA player when he lost
control of his body once, but the other three looked like
awful calls. He and Curtis skied for a rebound once,
neither of them even touching or approaching a UCLA
player. But Josh got an over-the-back call. Two other
times, J-Chill had blocks that looked very clean, but
were called. That's been a continuing problem, and one
that probably will only pass with time. Brevin Knight was
called mercilessly on steal attempts his first year or
two at Stanford, before Pac-10 refs adjusted to recognize
his quickness. In time, the zebras should recognize
Josh's jumping and long arms, that will produce a handful
of clean, legit blocks each game. He's had far more than
9 this year.
This is undoubtedly the craziest start to a Pac-10 season
in recent memory. The preseason favorite, and Final Four
contender, UCLA Bruins sit in 6th place. Arizona, who was
ranked the highest in the conference to start this week,
and who has the most excellent non-conference
performance, sits just a half-game ahead in 5th place.
Stanford, kal, Oregon and U$C are all tied for first. All
six teams are within a game of each other. Serious
parity. UCLA had a run of 11 of 12 games, but has dropped
2 straight. $C ran off 9 in a row, but has now lost 2 of
3. Oregon beat Stanford, kal and Arizona twice, but loses
to Arizona State and Washington???
The only guys left smelling like relative roses are the
NorCal kids. Both Stanford and kal started the conference
2 and 2, including losses to each other, but have the
longest winning streaks running of 3 and 4 games,
OK, one more Lavin note. He really comes across badly on
TV when he whines about calls. Monty has his arguments,
as well, and works the officials plenty. But there is a
demeanor and appearance that both Monty and Lute carry
that Stevie just doesn't get. I think it's ultimately in
his eyebrows. He raises them up in a fashion that makes
his pleas and cries look like the wailings of a 8-year
old who just got his bike taken from him. The answer: go
talk to Jon Gruden. Now there is a guy who uses
his eyebrows and facial expressions to carry himself well
on the sidelines. When you're in the limelight, image is
everything - especially in LA. These two are a study in