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.
Pregame: I get to Maples Pavilion really early today, about 5:15pm. Always good to see a tent set out by the 6th Man Club awaiting the action inside. It should be a good game, especially if Washington makes adjustments to what they saw up in Seattle four weeks ago when the Cardinal came in and beat the Huskies 65-51. In that game Brook Lopez scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds on 11-17 shooting. The rest of the Cardinal were just 11-35 (31.4%), so they'll need to contribute tonight as Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar will be looking to limit Brook's touches. The Huskies will also have to shoot better as they shot just 29% and had just four assists on 15 made shots.
Pregame: Coming early has its rewards as its Pizza Chicago for everyone in the media room before the game!
Pregame: I'm now settled in on press row, above the masses in Section 12. Well, masses may be an overstatement as 15 minutes before the game, massive wide open spaces are found throughout Maples. Hopefully, it'll pick up closer to tip-off. It doesn't appear too many folks made the trip from Seattle as Section 6 in the upper corner is not even halfway full.
Lineups: Stanford will go with its usual lineup of Mitch Johnson, Anthony Goods, Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez, and Fred Washington. Washington will start Venoy Overton, Tim Morris (who gets a few cheers from the faithful, but a lot of boos from the 6th Man Club), Ryan Appleby, Artem Wallace, and Jon Brockman.
19:20 left in the First Half: Johnson hit an open three-pointer from the left wing to open the scoring for the Cardinal. He really likes his new set shot and it does seem to be pretty effective.
18:20: Anthony Goods also looks like he's getting back on track as he nets a wide open two-pointer.
16:22: The Pac-10 may need to look out for another resurgent Cardinal player on The Farm as Goods nails a wide open top of the key three, giving Stanford an early 11-3 lead.
15:47: Washington reaches in for a silly foul, getting his 2nd very early, sending him to the pine. The whistle came a second or so after it happened, but that doesn't matter to Coach Johnson as he has to put one of his best defenders on the bench for the rest of the half.
15:18: Robin Lopez gets a nice one-hand jam over Wallace to end a sequence that started with an offensive rebound from brother Brook, who gives it to Hill who then zips a sweet pass inside for the aforementioned easy deuce. Stanford is up double-digits early, 13-3.
13:02: A very nice up-and-under by Brook Lopez past Brockman. The big men in this league are all showing off some nice moves underneath and these two are no exception.
12:04: Brook Lopez gets a pass inside, but he quickly finds Landry Fields with a pass that leads to a wide open three-pointer on the left wing. Fields drains it, sending Stanford back ahead by nine, 20-11.
9:22: That Robin Lopez spin move is going to do him a lot of good if he keeps practicing it at this level. This time he launches from just outside the left block to get in the lane, putting Stanford back up 25-17.
7:05: Men's volleyball (ranked #9 and had just defeated #1 BYU in Provo within the past week) would love to have Robin Lopez for tip drills as he continues to use that move effectively here in conference play. Sure would like to see him grab a rebound more often, but it's a good weapon for him to have.
6:13: Brockman makes another nice up-and-under move for two and the foul which also gets Robin his 2nd foul of the half. Off to the bench he goes. The free throw, however, is no good, keeping UW behind 32-21.
3:58: After committing an offensive foul, Taj Finger redeems himself by rejecting a Pondexter shot into the stands. The obligatory "You Got Fingered!" chant comes from the crowd after the massive block and with the Cardinal up 34-25.
2:13: Wallace uses a pump fake to get Hill out of position so he can then get the easy layup. This ended a sequence that had three offensive rebounds for the Huskies and a blocked shot for Brook Lopez.
1:58: Before he can do any more damage for Washington, Wallace picks up his 3rd foul as Brook Lopez gets (and converts) the three-point play, giving Stanford a 37-27 edge.
0:05: Stanford's defense breaks down just enough to allow Justin Dentmon a three-pointer as the clock winds down, bring the Huskies to within seven, 41-34, just before halftime. This could be a little surge of momentum that Washington needs here on the road.
Halftime: A very interesting half of basketball as Stanford led the whole way, but lost its sense of comfort when their early ten point lead remained steady, but they couldn't expand on it. The Huskies have kept themselves in it by shooting well after a slow start, finishing the half at 47% (15 for 32) and keeping active on the boards, leading the Cardinal 17-15, including nine offensive rebounds. It's not too much of a surprise as Washington is one of the most efficient offensive rebounding teams in the nation (according to kenpom.com, relayed to me after the game by one Mr. Dave Flemming), but Stanford routinely outrebounds its foes, so we'll keep an eye on this throughout the second half. The Huskies bench also is outscoring Stanford's 21-5. The turnover is about even as the Cardinal has committed one more than Washington, nine to eight, in the first 20 minutes.
18:54 left in the Second Half: After three offensive rebounds for the good guys, Goods decides to take it strong to the hoop and gets a nice lay-in to put Stanford on the board first in the second half.
16:14: Stanford's offensive has stagnated a bit as the Cardinal miss two layups and a jumper. Meanwhile, the Huskies are taking advantage of the scoring lull and get within four on a three-pointer from a somewhat unlikely source to some fans, seven-footer Joe Wolfinger who was all alone on the right wing. Wolfinger is near 40% from the arc, shooting more than 30 this season. It is now 45-41, Stanford. Coach Johnson is not happy and calls a timeout.
13:54: In what easily would have been a "pick six" in any football game, Morris steals a terrible and telegraphed pass from Hill towards someone on the left wing and goes in for an easy dunk. The younger folks in the crowd continue to rain down boos again!
13:22: A big sequence that goes in Stanford's favor. Dentmon steals one underneath from Hill, leading a break and a chance to cut the lead to two, but he makes a bad pass towards Brockman that is stolen by Finger. Johnson drives into the paint, but kicks out a fast pass to Goods who steps back to the right wing for an open three-pointer that goes to make it 52-45, concluding the five-point swing for the Cardinal.
11:24: A rough sequence inside concludes with a Dentmon jumper after grabbing his own rebound and Washington on the ground in a heap. Fortunately, he gets up pretty fast and moves towards the bench for a short rest.
6:46: The past four minutes have brought some intense basketball to the hardwood, specifically the Lopez twins versus Jon Brockman, as they battled each other inside the paint and did damage in different ways, Brook gets a layup and draws two fouls, netting him four free throws, while Robin got also got one short shot of his own. However, Brockman hits two short jumpers and two layups of his own, showing off a remarkable array of moves against Robin, making the stout defender look human during the stretch. At the end of it all, Stanford leads by just three, 62-59.
5:04: During a key moment in the game, Mitch draws a foul on a drive towards the hoop and swishes two free throws for the Cardinal, giving them a seven-point cushion, 66-59.
2:42: The Law may have just come down on the Huskies as the junior puts forth a nice move across the lane, drives towards the bucket, get the layup and the foul from Brockman. The free throw gives Stanford its biggest lead since early in the second half, 71-63.
1:55: Wolfinger won't let the Huskies die easily as he swishes another long ball, this time from the left wing, bringing Washington back to within five at 73-68. Stanford may need to put someone on him when Washington rushes up the court the next time they see him, which could be in the conference tournament.
1:06: After getting back an offensive rebound which appeared to graze Dentmon going out of bounds, Finger makes a tough inside shot to give the Cardinal back a seven-point lead.
0:38: Trading free throws for two-point shots is okay at this juncture at Johnson and Robin Lopez are nails at the line, getting four from the charity stripe, putting Stanford up again by seven, 79-72.
0:23: Like a linebacker looking for someone to hit on a punt return, Brockman saw Hill with the ball and made a beeline for him, committing a hard foul by lowering his shoulder into Lawrence. The crowd doesn't like it, but there doesn't seem to be any hard feelings from anyone on the court. Hill, though, misses both free throws with Stanford up five.
0:00: Missed free throws help give Washington one last ray of hope as Appleby, who has been very quiet for the Huskies (due to great defense by Goods) hits a running 25-footer from the left wing to get the Huskies to within two, 81-79, with 1.7 seconds to go. Pondexter nearly causes a tie-up along the baseline (which would have been Huskies ball), but is instead called for a foul on Finger. Taj makes the second out of two free throws and the Huskies can't get off a shot at the end, giving Stanford a hard-fought 82-79 win.
Postgame: The Cardinal once again took a team's best shot as the Huskies shot nearly 60% in the second half, outrebounded the Cardinal 37-28 (including 17 offensive rebounds), scored more points in the paint than Stanford (44-34), and still, Stanford found a way to win. This team is learning how to survive a team's best punches and still come out on top, a trait teams in the past couple of seasons couldn't quite grasp. The one worrying thing is that all teams here on out are going to do this to the Cardinal and if they don't watch out, another team, like Arizona State did earlier this month, are going to steal one from Stanford and in the tournament, that means game over. I suspect Coach Johnson is going to let his team know the effort on the boards has been lacking lately and we should all see a stronger effort moving forward. From here on out, Stanford is going to see the cream of the Pac-10 crop to round out conference play, starting with Washington State on Senior Day at Maples Pavilion at 1:00pm on Saturday.
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