Editor's Note: The following blog/commentary offers the writer's "real-time" views of the on-court performances and decisions of our men's basketball team. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for our team's obvious desire and commitment.
Pregame: Arizona's in top-10 in the RPI, so a win here and all's forgiven for the Thursday meltdown, at least in the eye of the computer. [Yup, our RPI dropped only three spots, from 17th to 20th on the weekend.]
12:52pm: Stanford takes a 7-6 lead after an uneventful first four minutes. Stanford came out with a big lineup – the Lopez twins, Mitch Johnson, Anthony Goods and Fred Washington. Maybe Trent Johnson learnt from Robin's dominance and Taj's struggles against Arizona State. Maybe Johnson learnt from not having Washington there to guard James Harden against ASU. Guess Washington wasn't that hurt against ASU, if he's able to start right now. You're looking live… at Brent Murburger, who's broadcasting the game on ABC, one of our few nationally televised games this season.
12:55pm: 11-9 Stanford after Robin Lopez puts back his own miss from three feet out. Then Lawrence Hill connects from three – Hill and Goods both need to step up after their ASU performances – and it's 14-9 seven minutes in.
12:59pm: I wouldn't start Anthony Goods right now – an average defender and a guy who hasn't hit from outside all season – given the plethora of other options we have in the lineup. I'd rather have Washington and Hill out there. Goods misfires from three, Arizona's Jordan Hill gets two in the paint in transition off the miss, and it's 14-13 Stanford at the under-12 break. The Cardinal are a hot 6-of-11, but their defense is again lagging early.
1:06pm: Brook hits the eight-foot right-handed hook, Bayless scoops up a Fred Washington block of his shot and hits a deep, contested three, and then Budinger comes open from six feet and Arizona takes the 18-16 lead 11 minutes in.
1:13pm: Law Hill gets fouled on his trademark left corner three, hits two from the line, and the game's reknotted at 18-all with seven minutes left in the half. Stanford's staying in a man D – and why not, both teams have gone cold.
1:15pm: Robin Lopez turns over his left shoulder for the hook, and Stanford jumps ahead 20-18. Landry Fields checks in and hits a pair from the line off Bayless' second foul, and it's 22-18 Stanford with 5:32 left in the half. Arizona's turned it over two straight times down low, so though Stanford only has a 14-12 rebounding edge, their size is having an effect. After a Robin Lopez tip-in, Stanford leads 24-18, with the Lopez twins accounting for half those points.
1:20pm: What a big weekend for Robin Lopez, who again throws in the left hook to keep Stanford up six, 26-20, with under four minutes left in the first half. If Robin keeps this up, the lanes are going to start opening up for his brother in a big way.
1:25pm: A Jerryd Bayless jumper and two free throws cut it to 26-24 with two minutes left in the first half. Fred Washington goes to the floor diving for an offensive rebound, dishes it to Robin on the left perimeter, who does a nice job of driving the lane (haven't seen that in his game), and Brook ends up hitting two more free throws off the o-board. 28-24 Stanford, now 28-26 Stanford, after Bayless hits another pair from the line. The Wildcats are not doing us any favors from the line, where they're 7-of-8. Bayless has two fouls, but see what letting your players stay out there does? He's scored six straight Arizona points.
1:29pm: After Bayless hits another two free throws (he has 13 points already), we're tied at 28 with 1:19 left in the half. Brook swirls in a hook – that thing must have made two full trips around the rim before dropping, and that's how the first half ends – Stanford 30, Arizona 28. Brook has 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds. Robin has eight. Bayless has 13 and Budinger a quiet eight for the Wildcats.
1:43pm: Anthony airballs an open three-foot hook, which didn't look deflected from the television angle. Brook wisely hacks Budinger at point-blank range, who misses both his free throws. Stanford continues to stymie Arizona by switching into a zone, and it's 30-all two minutes into the second.
1:52pm: Goods hits an open three after his defender falls down to retake the lead, 33-30. He's shooting just 28 percent over his last seven games, ABC says. Then it's Brook with a split from the line, and Stanford leads 34-30 with 17 minutes left. Stanford must score a higher proportion of its point off free throws than 80 percent of Division I-A teams. Brook remedies that with a layup going into the first media timeout, so Stanford leads 36-30.
If I'm scouting the Cardinal, I pack the paint defensively in the first five minutes of the second half. We always, always lean on the twins to start the second half, often because they're rested because of two first-half fouls.
1:59pm: Yup, the gameplan hasn't changed. Brook again goes to the eight-foot hook – a mighty lot of hooks from the twins today – and Stanford's on an 8-0 run to lead 38-30 with 15:41 to go. We also must be outscoring opponents by a near 2:1 margin in the first five minutes of the second half, again because of having two fresh twins out there and going to them. Georgetown's upset by Syracuse – maybe we stay in the top-10 with a nice win today.
2:02pm: A sloppy Mitch Johnson pass to no one is a turnover, though Stanford's been pretty good with the rock today. [The Cardinal finish with just 13 turnovers.] Then Fred Washington gets blocked on a reverse layup attempt he telegraphed, and Bayless goes the other way for an and-one, courtesy a weak Law Hill foul. Hill makes it up with a jumper on Stanford's next possession, and the lead's still safe, 40-35 six minutes in.
2:07pm: It's now just 40-37, though Stanford ball after a Budinger travel, but Arizona has drawn five fouls to Stanford's one on the half. That's a red flag given how well the Wildcats shot free throws in the first half. Bayless has 20 and the ‘Cats have just six turnovers to Stanford's nine.
2:09pm: Landry Fields and Taj Finger are in the game, as both teams trade misses. The score remains 40-37 at the 12-minute mark. This is a much more characteristic defensive effort and game tempo from Stanford after the Arizona State defensive collapse.
If I'm Trent Johnson, I keep Fred Washington on Bayless at all times, keep in Fields, the one guard who's shown the aggressiveness and the touch to score from outside, and pound away to the twins. Girlfriend: "Why don't we have any good looking cheerleaders?"
2:14pm: Jordan Hill has nothing against Brook Lopez, who deflects his shot down low after splitting from the line. Brook Lopez then packs Jamelle Horne (who?) into the next galaxy, and Taj Finger converts the and-one off a sick pass from Mitch and a nice offensive rebound tip-out from, who else, Landry Fields.
2:17pm: Trent Johnson and I are on the same wavelength this game. After Landry comes in and gets that key tip, Robin Lopez gets it down low, puts it in easily, and Stanford leads 46-39 with 9:14 left.
2:18pm: Only problem with Fields in the game is his defense. Bayless drives to his right on Fields, draws the slightest of bumps, and gets the free throw and the bucket on the continuation. Best bud: "Bayless kind of looks like the Elmer's glue bowl." Best bud: "Robin Lopez should shave his head and give it to Locks of Love." Robin Lopez hits two from the charity stripe (where he's much improved in recent games), and Stanford again leads by six, 48-42 with nine minutes left.
2:20pm: Bayless again gets to the line (the call's on Brook Lopez, his third), and hits a pair – he has 27, and a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line. Jordan Hill has four fouls, so Stanford goes down low to Brook, who gets hacked by Kirk Walters and converts his pair. Bayless then drives on Mitch and hits another two free throws. The teams are just trading free throws, and Stanford stays ahead 50-46 with eight minutes left.
I think the scouting report's out on the Cardinal though: just drive, drive, drive against the guard. I'm glad Fields is out there, but bring out Fred Washington to stop Bayless.
2:27pm: Instead, Law Hill checks in and rattles down a three from the left side, then Budinger retorts with a three off his own. Budinger hits two free throws off a Bayless swipe of Robin Lopez, Taj hits a critical 14-foot jumper, and I'm starting to shake a little bit, which makes this whole tying thing hard. It's crunch time folks. 55-51 Stanford, with 6:24 to go. Bayless has 29 and Brook Lopez has 18, we lead with eight blocks to two.
2:34pm: Law Hill drives against Budinger and hits both the bucket and the free throw. That's huge for Hill, who's been looking for some time to become as strong a driver as he is a shooter. It's even bigger for Stanford, who now leads 60-52 with 4:32 to go. After Thursday, I think we're going to play tough defense and be fine protecting this lead.
2:38pm: My youthful optimism costs me, as the Wildcats cut the lead to three with five straight Budinger points, including a wide-open three atop the arc. Stanford leads 62-59 with three minutes left.
For as much attention as will be rightfully placed upon our defense, I think a big key is continuing to be smart, but aggressive on offense, because we've become complacent and retreated into a shell with a lead in games past, and it's cost us. As I type that, Brook Lopez gets whistled for lowering the shoulder and charging on the low-right block, so Arizona has the ball with three minutes left and a chance to tie. 62-59 Stanford.
Brook Lopez has had a big day against Arizona, a team that lacks a true center, because he's been able to establish great position down low. I think the Wildcats are a better team than ASU, but I also think they're a better matchup for us. One of my favorite Pac-10 teams to play this year.
2:42pm: Oops. Jawann McClellan hits a right-corner three as we declined to close out on the shooter. Totally understandable, considering we're up by three with under three minutes left. Robin Lopez can't hit from point-blank, Taj misses the follow, and then Budinger draws a blocking call on Finger. He splits his free throws and Arizona leads 63-62 with 2:03 left. The Wildcats are on an 11-2 run. Brook Lopez is our clotting agent, if you will – the guy we rely upon to stop the bleeding. He gets hacked down low, leaves the first badly short, but swishes the second, and it's 63-all with 1:45 to go.
2:45pm: Stanford's great point-of-attack defense stymies Arizona and frustrates Bayless into launching an off-balance scoop, which Robin Lopez strongly corrals with two hands. Great rebound from a guy who's forgotten to go up with both arms in the past. Now Stanford looks to have two possessions to Arizona's one, with 1:12 left (barring intentional fouls or offensive rebounds). Stanford needs to make sure not to drain all 35 seconds on this possession, so that Arizona can't drain all the clock and keep Stanford from the last possession.
2:48pm: Brook Lopez banks one in, too easy, then Budinger hits another open three off a screen to push his total to 22. Second straight game we allowed open threes aplenty in late, crunch time situations. Maybe we tire and can't close out or fight through screens as quickly. Johnson calls a timeout with nine more seconds on the game clock (29) than shot clock (20), and Arizona leading 66-65. I'd go down low given that Arizona's in the double-bonus, and figure that if you want to go outside, you're going to get a better look at a three off a kickoff anyways.
2:50pm: Indeed, Stanford goes to Brook Lopez, who Budinger swipes, cleanly I thought, from behind. But there's a whistle – and a huge break for Stanford [Ed. Note: The foul goes against Walters, also guarding Brook at the time]– as Brook hits the two biggest free throws of his career. Stanford leads 67-66 with 15.2 to go.
Defensively, I would go with Robin Lopez, Finger, Washington, Johnson and Goods. Put Finger on Budinger and Washington on Bayless, with the other guys shading toward Bayless, because you have to figure that's where the ball's going.
2:52pm: Stanford goes bigger yet – the five I said with Brook for Washington, and it works. Finger does enough to stay on Budinger, and Robin blocks his drive to the hoop with two seconds to go. Stanford walks away with a 67-66 win, and a satisfying split on the Arizona road trip.
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