The sun was shining in Palo Alto. Clear skies, warm temperatures, and what is a Stanford fan to do? Camp out in front of Maples, or in front of a TV? No time for the great outdoors, too much good hoops.
In honor of the weekend that was Stanford, and by extension, Pac-10 Basketball, here are my top five noteworthy moments of the last few days:
From my spot in the front row, I could hear Trent Johnson yell "Kenny!" when the ball was inbounded, and I knew exactly what was going to transpire. A huge basket to cap a 15-point run and finally generate some momentum in what was an otherwise atrociously flat game.
2. Brook Lopez yelling at Robin, the refs, and just about everyone.
Just a couple weeks ago, Johnson was lauding Brook for his maturity and growth in terms of keeping his temper down. Not the case Saturday. After being hacked multiple times down low (and few calls in his favor) Lopez finally lost it after the referees missed a blatant kick ball violation. His brother Robin tried to calm him down a bit, and Brook told him to…well, this is a family site to I won't say what I heard.
Johnson responded by yanking Brook for several spells to calm him down, and Lopez finished with seven turnovers—most due in no small part to his frustration.
"A little frustrated? He for the most part lost his composure," Johnson said afterward. "I tried to calm him down. I hope he doesn't do it for a long time again."
Back on the floor, Brook did keep it together for the most part. I have no problem with one of these little episodes as long as: a) he learns from them, and b) it doesn't cost us the game.
3. Sweet revenge
Thursday's win over Oregon was a moment in itself. A dazzling display of dominance and defense. Abomination on the boards. And sweet revenge for losing to the Ducks 71-66 a month before.
The numbers say it all: 40-28 rebounding advantage. Holding Oregon to nearly 40 points below its season average (80.3) and to its lowest point total since the Ducks were downed 78-39 to Montana on Nov. 22, 1991.
The Ducks had revenge of their own Saturday, trouncing Cal 92-70. They hadn't won a game on the Bay Area trip since beating Berkeley in the 1999-2000 season. Stanford's streak is still very much alive however. Next year, no Oregon player will likely have been born since Oregon last won at Stanford, in 1986…
And on to the rest of the Pac-10
4. Jerryd Bayless scores 39 points…
The game is already being billed as the "changing of the guard" in Arizona, but I'm not so sure. No one likes to make injury excuses, but the Wildcats were without Bayless in their loss in Tempe, and it was clear they missed point guard Nic Wise (out four to six weeks following knee surgery last week) on Sunday. Bayless is a heck of a scorer (12-of-18 from the floor, 6-of-10 from beyond the arc) but his playmaking leaves a little bit to be desired. If he's going to make it as a point guard at the next level (and at 6-3, he may have to) he'll need to improve on his passing (three assists to four turnovers Sunday). For the Wildcats to get by without Wise, they'll need Bayless to.
Especially liked this line from ASU coach Herb Sendek: "I want to take full credit for the defensive mastery that held [Bayless] below 40."
5. The Tim Morris throw-in
The minute you saw that I included moments from around the Pac-10, you had to know I was including this: Washington, previously up nine, has the ball with an increasingly tenuous 66-61 lead with 47 seconds to go. Alfred Aboya is pressuring Tim Morris, who is about to be whistled for a five-second violation when he hurls the ball right at Aboya's face. The ball ricochets out of bounds, the Huskies get another chance to inbound, and Jon Brockman scores.
Not sure if it was intentional or not, and Morris apparently apologized afterwards, but this one is throwing my moral compass through a loop. I feel like it should be some sort of technical foul, although Ben Howland said afterward the referees had told him the play was legal.
I'm not going to complain too much. Washington's 71-61 win helped put Stanford into a tie with the Bruins for first in the conference. And ask any Stanford player, and they'll tell you UCLA, unfortunately for Aboya, got what they deserved. Perhaps a little poetic justice for UCLA's notorious moving screens?
One thing's for sure: if Washington goes up against UCLA sometime next month in the Pac-10 tournament, Morris better look out.
Overheard in the 6th Man
(As in, silence)
I already talked about the abysmal performance so far this season by the 6th Man, but this weekend may take the cake. Oregon was at least somewhat understandable; the team got up big, and they got up big early. Some of us tired our best to maintain the energy, it isn't always easy to get too riled up when your team is up by 30.
Saturday, however, was a different beast. Despite the team being ninth in the country, closing in on first in the Pac-10, and the game being on a relatively quiet Saturday evening, the energy wasn't there. The 6th Man committee offered free Cinnabon to the first 150 students in line a half hour before the doors opened; there may have been 25 people there when the tasty treats arrived. The team was flat from the get go, and so was the crowd: No chants on offense, little noise on defense, when a chant did start it petered out within 10 seconds or so…it was all frustrating. If Stanford students can't get excited when their basketball team is ninth in the nation, when can they get excited? Here's hoping our rivalry game against Cal and the senior weekend against the Washington schools will bring out the best…
Ok, I will give us a little credit. The Pac-9 sign against Oregon State was awesome.
The Card head to the desert this week to take on Arizona State and Arizona, and I'm glad Stanford is facing the Sun Devils first. I wouldn't be surprised if Arizona comes out raging after Sunday's loss at home, so I'm happy they'll be facing Cal to take out their anger. For Stanford, after blowing out Oregon Thursday and coming out flat against Oregon State Saturday, I think Arizona State will be a tough, but helpful, test.
The Sun Devils were riding high when they rolled into town Jan. 20 but Stanford was able to come back from a 30-20 halftime deficit by regaining its aggressiveness. Being the aggressor is never easy on the road, but as a young team the Sun Devils may be prone to overconfidence after defeating their rivals last weekend. I've got to take the Cardinal here.
In most years, I'd say a split down at the desert would be just fine. This year, however, Arizona is looking mighty vulnerable. The Wildcats will surely have revenge on their minds, but Stanford will be fighting to stay atop the Pac-10 and maintain its lofty place in the polls. This is going to be dogfight, but if this Stanford team can continue to play defense they way they have of late, they can beat almost anyone, anywhere.
And speaking of polls…
Poll progress – Seventh Heaven
Unranked… 20… 14… 9… 7. The rise continues.
The question, of course, is now how high do you want the team to go? There's one argument floating around that the team is better off without all the national attention, that the rise in the polls only makes us more of a target.
I disagree. The exposure is good for the players and good for the program. As long as the guys don't become too complacent, the added benefits of getting on the radars of a few more recruits outweighs the potential losses.
Lawrence Hill's words last week were particularly reassuring: "This isn't where I want to be," he said. "I don't want to be ninth in the country, I want to be higher."
I assume the same holds true for lucky number seven.
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