Daniel's Fast Breaks™ - Harvard

After witnessing the Card outrebound undermanned & overwhelmed Harvard 50-19, The Bootleg's Daniel Novinson, men's basketball color commentator for radio station KZSU 90.1, hit the post-game presser to see what insights might be gained from Coach Johnson, Taj Finger and and ailing Anthony Goods. Read on for the reaction to last night's summary dismissal of "The Stanford of the Least"....uh, "East"

We interrupt this broadcast...

Breaking news of the night: Junior guard Anthony Goods tossed his cookies (Boot-ed?) on the Stanford bench in the late first half, also "returned his evening repast" in the second half, and sat much of the second stanza with a bothersome bout of food poisoning. Goods looked and sounded awful in the postgame media session and left the press room seven minutes in with a hand holding a towel over his mouth and a sense of urgency. Certainly hope he feels better soon. Here's the brief dialogue after my Stanford Daily colleague Pat Fitzgerald asked him about his health: 

Goods: "I felt it as soon as the game started. Threw up in the first half, threw up in the second half." 

Finger to Goods: "Still hitting fadeaways." 

Goods: (Trying his best to smile) "I just ate some chicken. Some spicy chicken. Some spicy Cajun chicken."

The Bootleg: Do you think you'll be good for tomorrow? 

Goods: "Yes." 


What stood out to me most after an 111-point outburst? Without a doubt, the Cardinal defense. Call it a 2-3 zone much of the night because Harvard's outside shooting didn't scare Stanford too much, or just call it a thing of beauty. My goodness it worked well - especially with the starters in and the intensity cranked up in the first half. The team agreed. 

Coach Trent Johnson: "For the most part, I thought our defensive energy and the way we shared the ball in the first half was exceptional." 

Finger: "Defensive intensity was really good in the beginning. If we keep up playing hard like that and everyone does their job, we should be fine." 

Finger: (on Zone) "We normally mix it up in practice. Make-miss, make a basket, go back in zone. But it depends what kind of team it is. If it's a bigger team not as good at three-point shooting, we'll probably play zone, but mix it up, just to keep teams off-guard."

Someone's upped Trent Johnson's happy pill dosage...

Johnson: "In terms of these guys' approach to games, approach to practices, it's the best since I've been here."

The Bootleg: The best since you've been here? 

Johnson: "Their consistency in their approach to games and practices has been the best since I've been here. No question. No question. That's not to say that it hasn't been good in the past, but it's better. Is that largely because they're a veteran group? I would think so. Yeah, just the experience. Anthony, Taj, these guys have been around three, four years."

Harvard's new head coach Tommy Amaker - alive and well:

The guy ran my Michigan program into the ground for six years (more accurately, prevented it from achieving its previous glory), posting an 0-for-6 in NCAA Tournament berths. And since U-of-M fired him after last season, there's been a bevy of articles quoting players about how, now, they actually practice hard and are united as a team under their new coach (John Beilein, of West Virginia fame). Think you saw evidence of that at Maples. 

Monday's scrappy exhibition opponent Concordia is not much more physically talented than the Crimson and plenty of other undersized, slow teams have played solid team, fundamental basketball with great success against the Cardinal in recent seasons. (UC-Irvine, UC-Davis, Montana come immediately to mind). But wow, at least based on this night's performance - Harvard really stinks. 50-19 in rebounds? With Robin Lopez having most of the night off and Brook not even playing. Are you kidding me? 

More fun statistics: The last time Stanford won by this large a margin? The 1999-00 season, 119-60 over New Hampshire. The last time Stanford scored this many points? That same season, with 111 against USC. Even the team, which goes out of its way to not say anything inflammatory, couldn't help themselves: 

Johnson: "Northwestern State is different, quicker. We'll see multiple types of pressure on the halfcourt, on the fullcourt... When we're open, we can shoot the basketball. Drew, Landry, Lawrence, Ant, Kenny, again an experienced group, and they shoot the ball well. Especially when someone's not guarding them. That helps. 

Finger: "We always say the first five minutes are most important and you have to try to go at teams hard right away. Especially a team that you should beat and everyone thinks you should beat, you don't want to give them any hope, and we did a good job of that tonight."

The refs must be getting paid by the whistle:

28 fouls on Stanford? (And 46 total?) In a lopsided game, our Cardinal physically dominated and won by 55? Are you kidding me? I asked Taj about the foul calls on the posts, with Prowitt fouling out, Finger picking up four fouls, Owens three and Hill two in the game's first two minutes (which landed him on the bench for the majority of the contest. Ah, but the crafty Taj refused to take my bait: 

Finger: "It was just being stupid and being overaggressive when you shouldn't. And that's something… I've gotten a lot of fouls in the past and it's something I should improve and try to work on, but it's just when I get overaggressive or do a dumb play. No, the refs were fine. It's my being stupid." 

Finger's admirable tact notwithstanding, I think the Pac-10 officiating could really hurt this team in March, when 12 months of work will be evaluated. This team's main strength should be its physically assertive, overpowering post defense. But if players always get whistled for that aggressiveness, it could well have a Pavlovian effect. I'm just afraid we will have a 50-pound advantage in the middle over some Big 12 school come mid-March and have officials that would actually let us have our way down low, but our players will fail to capitalize after being subjected to 20 games of brainstorming by league officials, costing us our Round of 32/Sweet 16/Elite 8 game.

Taj Finger, Unsung Hero:

In my opinion the clear Game One "MVP", and one of the nicest, most humble guys on the team to boot. Let's give him his moment in the spotlight: 

Finger: "I just come out and try to play as hard as possible. You know, we are bigger and stronger, so I was able to get putbacks and offensive rebounds, so I was lucky in that way. Ball was coming to me, had a good day." 

Finger: "We came out ready to play. I think that we didn't play probably as well as we wanted to in the first game, and we wanted to show our fans how enthusiastic and how hard we were going to play all season and I think we did a great job with that."

Okay, I'm off to catch some Zs before catching a 9am Michigan/Wisconsin kickoff at Old Pro. Come by and say hi… I'll be the one in the tee shirt with a picture of a whale and the text "Charlie Weis should probably eat less."

Catch Daniel and Ben Spielberg calling men's basketball on campus radio station KZSU (kzsu.stanford.edu) or 90.1 FM.

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