Tony Giovacchini scored just 6 points in 32 minutes, but had the most memorable game of his life. The beleaguered senior point guard hit the "money ball" shot with just 4 seconds left in regulation, a three-pointer from the Pac-10 logo to tie the game and send it to overtime. In that extra stanza, Tony was twice fouled down the stretch, and hit 3 of 4 free throws to put the game away. Tony and his Stanford teammates won one of the most memorable games in Maples history, 90-87, and closed a game in the standings against the top team in the conference standings.
It was not a game with much great swings of ebb and flow. The streaks were more like flashes, with no team ever leading by more than four points. The one significant streak came when the Cardinal trailed 41-45 and hammered out 6 straight points to take a 2-point lead. The mini-run came on a Curtis Borchardt turn-around hook off the glass over Chris Christoffersen, then a Casey Jacobsen leaning lay-in, and a driving Casey lay-in. Christoffersen tied the game with two free throws, fighting off the 6th Man chants of "fee fie fo fum." The battle that came next was legendary, and worthy of a play-by-play review.
Anthony Lever was fouled in transition and gave Oregon the lead again with one free throw, 48-47. Casey responded on the next possession with a mid-range jumper. Luke Jackson hit a tough jumper with Casey in his face, promptly followed by a long-distance bomb from CJ. Jackson responded with another incredible jumper to tie it up at 52. Joe Kirchofer got a loose-ball offensive rebound on the next possession, hitting one free throw after a foul. Oregon also hit one FT to follow, knotting the game at 53. Casey got two free throws of his own, but the red-hot Freddie Jones nailed a long fade-away jumper to tie it at 55. Kirchofer established position in the low post, and was fed the ball from the left side along the baseline. That gave him an easy lay-in, and gave Stanford a two-point lead. Jones responded after a good Stanford defensive stand with a 25-foot bomb to give the Ducks back the lead, 58-57. Tony and Casey regained the lead on a nice little two-man game, as the lead flip-flopped again. But Oregon would answer with a pair of free throws on an AWFUL foul called against Curtis Borchardt. Ducks 60, Cardinal 59. Curtis answered in the best way, though, with a leaning 8-foot jumper off the glass. Luke Ridnour looked to attack the hoop on the next possession, and shuffled his feet off the dribble. The refs had their white-tipped canes pointed elsewhere, though, and gave Casey a foul instead. Ridnour's free throws put the fowl up 62-61, part of his perfect 10 of 10 night at the stripe. Casey came off a screen to hit a long jumper with his foot on the 3-point line. Another lead change, as Stanford led 63-62. Oregon fumbled on offense, giving Stanford the ball and newfound momentum. Casey showed a little of his post game, putting away an easy bucket under the hoop for a 3-point lead. Curtis rejected Christoffersen to continue the surge, but Julius couldn't find the twine on his jumper. Stanford's defense was denying Oregon any good looks, and caused Ernie Kent to take a 30-second time-out. From about 12 feet Freddie Jones - aka Mr. Unconscious - elevated off a screen long enough to draw the contact and then steady his elbows to drain the jumper. He bricked his free throw, though, leaving the slimmest of margins for the Cardinal - 65-64. Again, Casey came from the baseline off a Curtis screen and nailed a long trey. The Card had a 68-64 lead, matching its largest of the game. Robert Johnson got the ball down low and shuffled his feet in some Jackson Five reunion homage, but the zebras choked on their whistles while he banged home the deuce off the glass.
Stanford would widen the margin to four again, as Julius drove the lane and drew the defense to pin him at the baseline; he dished the ball in a reach-around to Curtis on the other side of the hoop, where he slammed it home. 70-66 with just three and a half to go. The crowd was jumping... at least until Freddie Jones drilled another jaw-dropping three. Freddie fouled Casey on the next possession, though Jakes rimmed out the first free throw and only extended the lead back to two. The Ducks got a couple of loose ball rebounds on the other end before Luke Ridnour ran around Tony for a lay-in. The game was tied once again at 71. Joe got his defender (Jackson) on his inside hip and had easy position for a lay-in off the Giovacchini feed. Ridnour, in a disturbing trend, again traveled as he drove the lane, but the refs gave Giovacchini a foul, and two more FTs tied the game at 73. Tony looked to feed Curtis on the next possession, but Helquist tackled Curtis to the ground while the pass dribbled past him out of bounds. Oregon now had their chance, as Freddie stepped to the free throw line at the other end, but he could only sink the first. Curtis got the ball 10 feet out and hit a running hook shot to again give the Card the lead, 75-74, with just under a minute to go. A defensive lapse on the other end left Robert Johnson alone under the hoop, and he laid it in for another Oregon lead, 76-75. Stanford had the ball but would not be able to run down the shot clock to guarantee the final shot. With 23 left in regulation and 13 left on the shot clock, Stanford called a timeout. The ensuing play let Casey create his own shot, which bounced off the front iron to you-know-who, Freddie Jones. He sank both free throws, and the collective hearts of some 7000+ Cardinalmaniacs. The dirty birds had a three-point lead with just seconds left in the game. Casey was the obvious option, but it was clear his legs weren't there. Julius hadn't hit a trey all night, and Josh was on the bench. The forecast was dark and stormy as Casey looked for a shot, but couldn't even get straight to the basket, with Helquist and Jackson trapping him. Casey then delivered his least flashy but most important assist of the night as he handed the ball to Tony. His jumper was pure, and blazed the net with 4 seconds left. Maples took its stomach out of its throat and erupted in the most genuine of jubilation. The clock stopped while Oregon set the in-bounds. Luke Jackson attempted a three that clanked off the iron, but Dave Libbey had signaled that the shot didn't get off before the buzzer. Talk about nip and tuck - that stretch run saw ties at 52, 53, 55, 59, 71, 73 and then 78. You never even had a chance to catch your breath. It was the pinnacle of Pac-10 basketball. It was pure.
In overtime, Oregon took a one-point lead, followed by five straight lead changes. Curtis provided four of Stanford's six points in that stretch, including two of three free throws. As the Card took a 84-83 lead, they never looked back. Tenacious defense clamped down on the Ducks, and Joe Kirchofer twice grabbed key defensive boards. Casey would extend the lead with one of two free throws, but it was his next possession that would be most remembered in this tight contest. With 1 second or less left on the shot clock, and his back to the basket, the Stanford All-American left his feet in an ugly attempt to get off a shot. Freddie Jones made the costly decision to swing down his left arm and hack Jacobsen. Jakes hit his two free throws to give the Card a four point lead in overtime, 87-83. Oregon would answer, but never really closed. Tony hit his aforementioned free throws to ice the game and his shining moment in Cardinal lore.
Some additional notes on the game:
- Joe made contributions that can not be overstated, including 7 clutch points after halftime and a slew of boards. Though his 9 points and 9 rebounds fell short of the magical double-double, he did outpace his ubercenter teammate on the offensive boards. "Mighty" Joe Kirchofer cleaned up 4 offensive rebounds in his 22 minutes. I walked out of Maples feeling that he earned a lot more minutes, if not the Saturday start. The problem for Joe in other Pac-10 games will be that he can't guard some of the power forwards left on the schedule. Oregon went with two true bigs through much of the game, which suits Joe well. But his confidence, and the confidence of his teammates, benefited greatly. One thing is for sure: he is the only guy who really hustled after loose balls on the offensive end. Maybe it's the hunger of not playing much through the season, but without that from Joe tonight, Stanford loses this game easily.
- On that note, Monty went with a lot of different looks in this game. In addition to playing Joe at the 4, we saw Teyo and Josh on the floor together, with Teyo at the 3. Julius played mostly at the 2, but all three point guards got time at the helm. On the defensive end, Monty gave the longest look at his zone I can remember seeing in Pac-10 play this year. At about the 10-minute mark, Stanford went to the defense, and stuck with it even as Freddie Jones bombed a three. The varied looks didn't dumbfound Ernie Kent, but it changed up the speed of the Oregon offense, which had been at a breakneck pace through much of the game. I thought the zone was well executed, certainly by recent Stanford standards, and deserves some credit for the dubya.
- Julius struggled with his offense, missing his final 9 field goal attempts after an early long deuce. This one can't be blamed on his playing the point, where he spent just 8 of his 40 minutes. This is a nut that needs to be cracked because we know Julius can be a game-changing offensive threat.
- Josh Childress played most of his 16 minutes in the first half, where he had some effective moments. He had a couple of big boards and two great baskets. His first was a look I had not yet seen from him before - a jump hook from about 10 feet. His second bucket was a long deuce just inside the arc. But the overall offensive assertiveness wasn't there. That may be why he didn't play significantly in the second stanza.
- Curtis was absolutely fantastic, once again. His 10 of 18 from the field (1 of 2 from deep) is even better than it sounds, as he had several early jumpers that rimmed out. His offensive effectiveness was very high, though he wasn't in position for the offensive rebounds he is capable of. Still, 15 boards and 24 points affirms his status as the #1 center in college basketball. Oh, and if you have any questions about his stamina or sturdiness, note the 43 minutes he logged.
- Justin and Teyo had tough nights, which helped pave the way for "Mighty" Joe to get his opportunity. Justin did some very good things in the first half, but too many traveling calls put him on the bench. One mechanical detail he needs to work on is his fakes in the low post. He lost a basket on such a travel call, where he needlessly moved his feet while he pumped to draw the defender off his own feet. That move should come all from the upper body, but Justin is such a natural leaper that his feet get in the action as well. That's easily correctible. The other mistakes are, as well. The good news is that Justin earned this start with a very good week of practice and gave great effort tonight. Teyo still hasn't made the switch away from football, and picked up 3 fouls in 11 minutes. I don't like to be critical, but this was the second straight game where Teyo's contributions (rebounding tonight) were overshadowed by the harm done elsewhere. You cannot fault his energy, which is matched only by Joe at times, but the direction needs to be focused.
- Casey was Casey once again. What more can you say that his 14 field goals (including 3 of 6 from deep), 10 free throws, 43 minutes and 41 points can't say? Well how about this: when the game was its tightest in the second half and overtime, Jakes hit 9 of 13 field goals and both of his treys. Woof. He's now racked up 73 points against Oregon this year, and has hit for 90 points in his last two Thursday outings - both at Maples. And yeah, since both went without coverage on a single television in America, the masses have been deprived of these spectacles. His All-American candidacy has now reached "lock" status, by the way.
- The officiating was maybe the worst of the year, expected for Dave Libbey and Bob Sitov. I detailed some of the buffoonery above, but there were many maulings that went unnoticed by the striped trio - on both ends. The jump ball calls were horribly inconsistent, as were the traveling calls. If Tony hadn't hit that shot at the end of regulation, I was fully prepared to write a report citing the officiating as a strong difference-maker in the game. As it stands, Stanford outlasted the ordered chaos of Pac-10 officiating. It still bears comment, though, win or lose.
- Thirteen Stanford turnovers in an overtime game aren't a killer, but they sure don't make you smile compared to just 18 Stanford assists, or Oregon's mere 8 turnovers. The frustrating part is watching some of the stupid turnovers that are still coming from lazy passes. I don't know why it's endemic to Stanford basketball, but I've seen this throughout my time watching Cardinal hoops. Stop the madness!
- Tony logged a career high (tie) with 32 minutes tonight. It's not necessarily an indicative statistic, but the only other team he logged more than 30 minutes for Stanford came against Michigan State. These 32-minute games are two of the three games this year where Stanford has bested a then-ranked team.
- Casey Jacobsen logged his second 40+ point game in 8 days, which again places him in elite company in Stanford history. The only other Stanford man to get past forty twice is Hank Luisetti, who recorded 50 and 46 point games in the 1937-38 season. Furthermore, the last time a Card/Indian cracked 40 came in 1980 (Kimberly Belton). If you're a Maples season ticket holder, cherish what you've seen these past two Thursdays.
- Casey Jakes has hit for 20 or more now in six straight games. He has also has elevated his season scoring average in each of those six games, from 19.6 ppg to his current 22.5 ppg. If he can keep up his current average, that would place him second is Stanford history, behind Adam Keefe's 25.3 average in 1991-92.
- The stat you might not think about is that Casey is on pace to finish in the top 3-5 in Stanford single-season history for... free throw attempts.
- Curtis Borchardt has blocked 9 shots in his last two games, and now has 52 on the season. He eclipsed Tim Young's single-season Stanford blocks record tonight, with seven games and the Pac-10 tournament still to come.
- Curtis also played in his 19th game of the season, with #20 to come Saturday against Oregon State. His career high for games played is 20, from his freshman year.
- Finally, C-Bo's 11.1 rebounding average is phenomenal, but if the season ended today, he would rank just 8th in Stanford season history.
- Faces in the crowd included the incomparable Mark "Mad Dog" Madsen, "The Playmaker" - Troy Walters and Riall "Real Deal" Johnson. The football coaching staff was well represented by Buddy Teevens, David Kelly and Dave Tipton. The NCAA champion water polo and women's volleyball teams were also in the house, and received a nice ovation on the court in recognition of their championship seasons.
- To add to the beauty of the night, it was Dollie Night! Six years of Dollies were represented, and represented well...
- Stanford beat a higher ranked team and the conference leader. But in a commentary on the relative positions of the two programs, not a soul rushed the court after the thrilling victory. Many will remember the deluge in Eugene when the Ducks upended the Card last month. Though it was a big win, with a lot riding on the line for this season, we've been here before. In fact, 16 straight years before.
- I enjoyed talking at length with Josh and Chris after the game. This win means a lot to them and this team. Coming back from a heartbreaking loss to Arizona was a test, and they showed they can close. They have some good rivalries with their fellow frosh on the Oregon State team that will come to Maples on Saturday, so look for fight from both of these guys.