Editor's Note: The following column/commentary offers the writer's 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.
Now that was satisfying, wasn't it? Watching the weenies fight and scrap and all that and then, in the end, in crunch time, they rolled over like a damn wiener dog and said scratch my belly. I know this is a rivalry game, I know that beating cal matters a lot to us, but watching the game calmly from my seat the Pavilion, I never really felt like cal could get it done. And they didn't. And here is why?
Please pardon the digression from the "expert" analysis of our own guard play, which I dispatch as follows: Anthony Goods played really well, Mitch played very well, Drew Shiller played very well, Fred Washington played another 21 studdly minutes, and Landry found the backdoor to the bench. Now, let's get down to why cal is mediocre when they shouldn't be. I think it is all in their guard play.
First and foremost, they play mediocre perimeter defense. Jerome Randle, if you want to pressure the ball, pressure the ball. That was 28 minutes of really average pressure man to man defense that never actually led to a turnover and only forced a mediocre play out of Mitch or Drew once or twice. Once the entry pass was made, Randle was literally non-existent the rest of our possessions. Bad help-side defense, poor rotations, late on closing out and then no follow up pressure. I used to have a coach who wore really mediocre ties and tweedy jackets in his early days that would constantly harp on being in the right spot on defense, that way your teammates are assured that you are at least doing something right. Randle-almost never.
Patrick Christopher is a guy I can love to dislike for cal. This kid can play. He is long, he can shoot, he can handle. But he can't guard a chair. But, the kid is a player and it took a great defensive effort from Anthony and Fred to hold him down. And he took twenty shots–knew he had to and he did.
A couple of things happened late in this game that really highlighted the difference between the winning team and the losing team. These are the type of mental mistakes that cost team's games and killed the weenies in this one.
Example 1: Fred Washington leaves his feet on the west side of the key with 11:15 left in the game, about 14 feet out heading into the key. Fred is trying to make a play, but he is not a threat to shoot there and he was probably just trying to do a little draw and kick to generate some motion, but Eric Vernheisel hacks him and we go into the bonus–Fred is now shooting free throws with 11:12 on the clock in the second half. Did I mention that it is a two point game? Fred strokes them both and the weenies back to being down two possessions.
Example 2: Patrick Christopher misses a difficult layin and we get the rebound, Anthony is bringing it up court and Christopher is pressuring him. Just across the half court line Christopher gets a little overzealous and reaches in and bumps Anthony. Whistle blows at 8:17 left in the game, 40 feet from the basket, and Anthony goes to the line and sinks two. Our lead goes from 55-53 to 57-53. Again, bad perimeter foul that gets cal nothing. It wasn't even a bold, gutsy attempt at a steal. It was just sloppy. Oh, and this is sort of a golden rule–you don't foul Pac-10 shooting guards 40 feet from the basket, and the list of reasons why is too long to print.
Example 3: Brook Lopez tomahawks a dunk with 1:43 left and Randle comes down the court and forces up a layin that is blocked by Brook and Randle fouls him. The house is rocking and Brook is absolutely scary pumped up. He understands that Randle has just killed the weenies. Randle took the glory road to the paint instead of getting Christopher or Anderson, or even Vernheisel or Kamp, a shot at the basket. That was risk-reward failure. Randle is only going to get a two, at best. They were down eight and the gym is shaking-cal had to get a good shot. Instead Brook goes all Patrick Ewing and catches his shot and then makes the free throws.
Example 4: This is the part that really makes me smile. 1:24 left, down nine, and Hill rebounds a missed free throw and hits Mitch in the back court, who is double teamed and Mitch passes out to Anthony who gets the ball to half court and Christopher fouls him. What? Why didn't the double team foul Mitch who is shooting free throws at south of 20% worse than Anthony. And then why let Anthony dribble 30 feet before you go for the steal/foul on him. 13 seconds went off the clock after the rebound before fouled the shooting guard again. And then, after a weenie timeout with 1:03 left, we inbound the ball to Mitch who is doubled again and gets the ball to Law who is then fouled. Nine more seconds off the clock and you fouled another good foul shooter instead of Mitch. By my own count, the weenies wasted about 22 seconds of clock waiting to foul our good foul shooters, instead of clobbering Mitch. And even then, it wasn't because guys were blinded in their earnest hustle to make a steal, these were just mediocre plays being made by guys that just didn't seem to know better.
Randle may be quick and make some sexy plays, but Mitch's team did the better job down the stretch of taking care of the basketball and getting the ball in the right players' hands. Mitch's defense on Randle was much better this time around and Mitch really sat on Randle's right hand dribble, which forced some turnovers and terrible shots by Randle. By the way, how did Mitch not get credited with a steal in this game? Mitch had a couple of passes that boggled my mind, but he also blocked a shot. How does Mitch block your shot? Answer: You take a bad shot.
Seriously, Anthony's game speaks for itself. Nice game. Under control, getting fouled, timely threes, very good defense on a very good player.
Final Thoughts: 11-3 in conference right now. Smoke 'em if you
got 'em! And zona got the cougs, so now we have breathing room. The
goal is not second in the conference–we can win this league! Washington
is playing better ball right now, we gotta get our business done on Thursday and
pound them into Cardinal paint! They come in knowing they can't handle
Brook–and why do I think they are going to get hurt badly by Robin on
Thursday? Can we get the officials that reffed the Memphis-Tennessee game
to do our games this coming weekend? Final thought: 21-25 from the
line in the second half! Poor cal.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!