The View from Section Q2: at ASU

The good news: Stanford opened up Pac-10 play with a big win on the road Thursday night in Tempe. The bad news: the game was untelevised, and you probably were not in Wells Fargo Arena to catch it. Fortunately Ray Salloom was in the desert and offers us the blow-by-blow account of how Stanford upended the Sun Devils with defense and transition.

Pregame:  I have arrived here about 15 minutes before lineups announced, and there looks to be a lot of empty seats, although it does fill up decently on a holiday weeknight shortly after tip.  Getting here was a bit interesting, as there was a lot of work going on around Wells Fargo Arena and Sun Devil Stadium due to a new light rail project.

Pregame:  I am seated in the third row of the second deck, in a corner, across from the Stanford bench.  My sister, a Sun Devil, hooked me up with the tickets.  Thanks, Sis!

Pregame:  Arizona State has instituted what they call the "Sun Devil Fan Laws" for folks to follow this season.  They include: (1) Wear gold, (2) Arrive early/stay late, (3) No ticket shall go unused, (4) Stand and make noise at the beginning of each half until the opponent scores, and (5) Every game is important.  Let's see how many of these are followed throughout the contest…

Pregame:  The students are not in full force tonight, as only about 30-40 are in the stands.

Pregame:  Peter Prowitt is the only one not participating in pregame drills today.  That may not matter as the Sun Devils go no taller than 6'9", but having everyone healthy is still a priority.

Starting Lineups:  The Cardinal start Mitch Johnson, Anthony Goods, Fred Washington, Lawrence Hill and Robin Lopez.  Arizona State, introduced via a pyrotechnic show and video, starts three guards and two forwards: Antwi Atuahene, Derek Glasser, Christian Polk, Jeff Pendergraph, and Serge Angounou.

19:46:  Pendergraph out-jumps Robin Lopez for the opening tip (have we still not gotten Rob Little out for some lessons?).  The Sun Devils work it inside to Pendergraph, who gets Robin to jump at his little up-and-under move.  He scores the bucket, gets fouled, and completes the three-point-play.

18:57:  After the first two possessions result in turnovers from bad passes, Washington decides to take matters into his own hands and drives through the paint for a lay-up to give the Cardinal its first two points.  The crowd quickly quiets and sits down.

18:29:  Angounou collects an offensive rebound, passes it off, and then waits in the right corner for the ball.  He'll get it and stroke a three-pointer that hits all net.  The senior is now 21-of-44, just under 50% on the season.

17:29:  Goods gets an offensive rebound and finds Robin Lopez for a baseline jumper which looks nice going in.  Looks like the Fresno freshman has been working on something other than the hook from that location on the floor.

16:31:  Brook Lopez comes into the game for Hill.  The Lopez twins are now in full effect.

15:21:  First time down the court on defense, Brook Lopez get into a little bit with Pendergraph away from the action, and the refs call the freshman for the foul.

15:00:  The Cardinal are getting in the face of shots, both inside and outside, but the Sun Devils keep making them.  Atuahene makes a tough one inside for a 12-7 ASU lead.

14:35:  Brook Lopez gets called for his second foul, again away from the ball.  The freshman gets a tough lesson quickly on Pac-10 refs and has to sit.

13:20:  Taj Finger makes his presence known early, as he gets two quick shots to go in after coming in for Brook - this time a lay-up after a missed Sun Devil three-pointer to cut the lead to 12-11.

11:56:  Despite the size disadvantage, Arizona State gets their fourth offensive rebound of the half.  They are aggressive to the glass, and their defense is fronting the Cardinal very well so far.

10:45:  Stanford decides to try a 2-3 zone for the first time tonight, and it results in a long missed three-pointer at the shot clock buzzer.  I wonder if we'll see some more of that; the Sun Devils looked puzzled when confronted with the defense.

9:47:  Goods comes back into the game for Johnson and brings the ball up the court.  Hmmm… maybe Goods is starting to see some minutes at the point guard position to spell his classmate on occasion.

9:02:  A nice screen sets up Landry Fields for his first shot of the game, a three-pointer from the left corner… and it rings true for the Cardinal freshman!  14-all!

8:48:  Unfortunately, the tie is short-lived as Polk hits an open three-pointer from the left corner.  He looks like he could be something special; his form looks very good.

7:42:  Fields goes inside to tip in a missed shot by Hill.  Nice to see the kid go inside and get a deuce for the good guys.

7:33:  In case commentary from the radio combo of Murph and Platz seems out of sorts, I've noticed Trent Johnson has been standing, even leaning up, against press row the entire evening right in their faces.  He'll do this for pretty much the rest of the night.

6:52:  Fields hits his third shot in a row, another corner three-point shot, giving the Cardinal their first lead of the game, 19-17.

5:06:  Sylvester Seay gets his second consecutive shot inside to give ASU back the lead at 21-19.  He looks to be quite athletic and could help this team a lot.  I look on the program/player card I bought and see he only gets 11 minutes a game.  Looks to me like he should be in there a bit more than that.

4:16:  After blocking a shot, Hill races down the court and waits for some good passing to conclude with the ball in his hands.  He launches his own three from the left wing that goes in, giving Stanford a 24-21 lead.

3:34:  The Cardinal continues to mix zone and man-to-man defenses, confusing the Sun Devils a bit more it seems each time down the court.  This possession, the zone forces a miss inside by Pendergraph.  Stanford races down the court, and Johnson finds Hill for the hoop and the harm, giving the Cardinal a 26-21 lead going into the final media timeout of the half.

2:12:  ASU seems to solve the zone for the first time tonight, getting Pendergraph open inside for a dunk.

0:51:  After a 30-second timeout by the Cardinal, Fields strikes again, this time from Casey Jacobsen range at the right wing to give Stanford its biggest lead, seven, at 31-24.

0:08:  ASU misses, leading to a pass from Johnson to Finger, who gets fouled.  Finger makes both free throws to give Stanford a 33-24 lead after a 14-2 run to end the half.

Halftime:  Duo Design, a Circus Circus act out of Las Vegas, astounds the crowd with Cirque de Soleil type strength and acrobat moves atop a black box at center court.  They perform a lot of slow motion type stuff that looks pretty unreal and is set to two pieces of music from Rocky IV, the training and fight montages.  This gets the crowd to give them a standing ovation when all is said and done!

19:39:  On the opening possession of the second half for the Cardinal, Johnson goes inside for a short jumper, but gets fouled.  He makes one of two, and the crowd again sits down quickly after the free throw is made.

19:01:  Robin Lopez blocks a shot after helping on the double-team of Pendergraph, but the Sun Devils retain possession and find Polk for a jumper.

17:48:  Washington is the man!  He jumps out to block a three-pointer on the right wing by Atuahene, grabs the ball and races down the court for a lay-up attempt.  He's fouled hard and comes up a little gingerly, but looks okay.  He'll make just one of the two free throws, but gives the Cardinal an emotional lift with his athletic playmaking ability.

17:36:  Glasser makes one of two free throws for the Sun Devils, who go back into a full-court press after the make.  No problem for the Cardinal, as they break it easily with Goods going all the way to the glass.  Pendergraph blocks the attempt, but Robin Lopez is right there for the put-back!  He gets fouled by Angounou on the shot, but he misses the free throw long, leaving the Cardinal with a 39-27 advantage.

15:53:  After ASU cuts the lead to eight after some sloppy ball-handling due to ASU's defense, Stanford calls a 30-second time-out.  On the next possession, the Cardinal work the clock down and get Hill a jumper that misses, but Robin Lopez gets two offensive rebounds, the second being a tip-in to push the lead back to double digits.

15:07:  Carlton Weatherby checks in for the first time today, spelling Johnson.  The Cardinal switch back to the zone for the first time in the half and force a carrying violation on Polk.

14:49:  Robin Lopez gets called for this third foul.  Brook Lopez comes in for his brother and tries to rebound from a tough first half.

14:23:  Washington again helps the Cardinal break the full-court pressure and goes coast-to-coast for the lay-up!  He gets fouled and misses the free throw, leaving Stanford with a 43-33 advantage.

13:58:  Unfortunately, Washington commits his third foul and heads to the bench.  Looks like this might be ASU's best chance to get back in the game.  They go inside right away for a Pendergraph lay-up, which is good and draws Brook Lopez's third foul of the contest.  Pendergraph makes the free throw to pull the Sun Devils within six.

13:42:  Goods, who isn't having much success shooting the ball, draws a foul on a drive and goes to the line where he makes both of the freebies.

12:32:  After a steal from Finger, Johnson goes inside for a nifty lay-in, giving the Cardinal back a double-digit lead at 47-37.

12:03:  Brook Lopez picks up his fourth foul and heads to the bench.  Robin Lopez comes in for his brother, but is pulled 18 seconds later for Will Paul.  Someone must have told Coach Johnson that Robin has three fouls and shouldn't be in quite that early.

11:50:  Goods finally gets off the schneid and hits a top-of-the-key three, giving Stanford a 7-0 run and a 50-37 advantage, and forcing coach Herb Sendek to call a time-out.

10:02:  The Cardinal are having great success by mixing up their zone and man-to-man looks, causing missed shots and turnovers from the Sun Devils almost at will.  This is a nice luxury for Stanford to have, if they can change up their defensive looks on almost every possession without losing a step.

8:25:  Johnson helps on a double-team of Pendergraph and makes the steal.  He then finds Robin Lopez running out for a slam dunk.

8:17:  Smartly, ASU goes inside again to Pendergraph who draws Robin's fourth foul.  Pendergraph makes both free throws to cut the Stanford lead to 13, 52-39.

7:52:  I know I haven't said much about the refereeing tonight, but it has been helter-skelter at best with touch fouls getting called a lot, but more contact being ignored.  Should I expect anything else?

7:26:  The 2-3 zone causes another ASU turnover, which Goods converts into two free throws on the other end.

5:58:  Jerren Shipp makes a long three-pointer from the left wing.  It's the first real zone-busting shot we've seen from the Sun Devils, but it may be too little, too late.

5:49:  In a battle of dunks, Hill beats Pendergraph two to one, with the last one coming off another full-court press break by the Cardinal, giving Stanford a 60-44 lead.  Even if they do have a turnover or two when breaking pressure, this team seems to handle it so much better than other Stanford squads have in the past.

4:54:  Arizona State pulls off some nice passing to get inside the zone, but Atuahene misses the easy lay-up.  This is the final straw for some Sun Devils fans, as they bolt for the exits.  So much for staying late…

2:16:  Goods misses a long three, but Finger is again there for the put-back, giving Stanford a 67-50 lead.  Although I haven't said much about him today, Finger has done a good job of getting shots and making his free throws.

0:47:  Seay was not cleared for takeoff or landing at nearby Phoenix International Airport, but he certainly took flight for a second or two as he soared above Hill for a thunderous one-hand jam!  Tell me again why he only plays 11 minutes a game?

0:00:  Despite some sloppy ball-handling by both the starters and reserves, at one point causing Coach Johnson to call a time-out, the Cardinal holds onto a double-digit lead and wins 71-60.

Postgame Thoughts:  In the end, the Sun Devils had no real answer for the Cardinal zone defense, as they had no one who could penetrate through the defense and take it inside.  They tried to pass around it, but they looked stagnant on most possessions.  When they tried to shoot from the outside, they only made 3-of-16 attempts.  When Stanford did play man-to-man defense without Brook and Robin Lopez, the Sun Devils didn't do enough to get the ball inside to Pendergraph on every possession, although some credit does go to Finger and his defense inside.  When all was said and done, Stanford was able to grind out this win by taking advantage of their defense and transition game, exploiting the Sun Devils' weaknesses, for this Pac-10 victory.  The Cardinal next take on the Arizona Wildcats in Tucson on Saturday at 11:00 am PST.

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