After a very tumultuous week in which Pac-10 championship talk went to NIT talk, Stanford was faced with a game at probably the 2nd toughest venue in the conference. After UCLA and USC exposed Stanford at home, it seemed like Arizona at McKale would be an awfully tough task. All of the adversity seemed to help Stanford, as they had a very hard fought 76-71 victory over the Wildcats in Tucson. Stanford needed to turn up the defensive intensity after letting UCLA and USC score at will, and that certainly happened. Justin Davis added some much-needed energy on the glass, which gave Stanford extra possessions and ran more time off the clock. Some Booties weren't too worried about his injury and thought that it even helped the team. It was very evident though that Davis' presence helped, and he might have won his starting job back. This was a game that eases the pain from last weekend and hopefully is a springboard to bigger and better things. This is what I said about the Oregon win, though, and things didn't exactly go as planned. This win certainly ended all NIT talk as Stanford now has 18 wins and 11 conference wins. Their 38 ranking in the RPI should go up after beating number six Arizona, as well
Curtis Borchardt rebounded beautifully from his subpar Maples weekend and had a huge game. He finished with 28 points and nine rebounds. He was also an amazing 11-11 from the free throw line, which included many clutch shots at the end of the game. He was absolutely spectacular down the stretch and converted many of his close looks at the basket. Also was a defensive presence again, only blocking one shot but changing countless others. Channing Frye, Isiah Fox, and Rick Anderson went for a COMBINED 16 points, which is largely due to Borchardt. A far cry from Channing getting his 25 in the first meeting. Julius also stepped up on a sore ankle. He went for 13 points and five rebounds and had a jaw-dropping block on Anderson in the end of the game. It was truly amazing as the 6-10 Anderson was in shock after the 6-2 guard rejected his shot against the glass, on a sore ankle no less. Casey had a very slow game scoring-wise but once again showed his all-around game. He came out of the locker room with six stitches on his eye from an incident in the 1st half. This limited him in the second half but didn't stop him from getting seven assists and five rebounds to go with his six points. He didn't have his usual stamp on the game but he definitely made his presence felt. Justin Davis, I felt, made a big stamp on the game by grabbing five rebounds in fifteen minutes of play. Anyone who just sees the box score doesn't really make much of this, but I really felt that if Justin were inactive tonight, this game might have been lost. No other player really had a big impact, but all played roles in the toughest win of the season.
On the other side it was a one-man show. Jason Gardner was hitting from everywhere and there was little to do to stop him. Tony and Chris weren't quick enough to handle him and Julius on his injured ankle had trouble as well. Gardner was lights out from three-point range and wasn't much colder from inside the arc. He finished with 33 points when it was all told. He outscored all of his teammates combined in the first half, 20-17. He was extremely quick, as usual, but was out of control at times, which led to two offensive fouls. Luke Walton had one of his worst games of the season and looked very out of sync. He finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists but had nine turnovers. He could never get anything going and often forced shots when it was probably better to pass the ball. He often seemed very flustered when calls didn't go his way, often being visibly distressed and talking a lot to the officials. Channing Fyre couldn't duplicate his performance previously against Stanford as he was held to five points and fouled out in only fifteen minutes. Salim Stoudamire had a particularly bad night, going 1-11 from the field and 0-5 from the three-point line. A tough game but was still nails from the free throw line going six for six.
Overall I couldn't be more pleased. I was very worried about this game and I thought this team would really have trouble. Everyone knows Arizona isn't as good as they usually are, but the same is can be said for this year's Stanford squad. I do think that this game was won on defense, but feel somehow that Arizona didn't come out and play its best game. Maybe it was the long layoff, but they didn't remind me of the Arizona team I saw at Maples weeks ago. This was a very inspiring game for the Cardinal but I don't think they took Arizona's best shot. I don't want to take anything away from Stanford's performance as it was great to watch, and a much better product than the two games last weekend. Hopefully this will carry over into Tempe, and Stanford can make a run deep into the NCAAs. Stanford still could be ranked anywhere from 2-6, with the conference wide open. Hey, the season sure looks a lot better tonight than 24 hours ago right!!! Hope to see a lot of you in LA for the Pac-10 Tourney!!