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.
We had a streak going, the longest they ever lost to a Pac-10 opponent. So I still take pride in that and want to start another one.
On the stakes:
It's a pretty big deal. Usually just another game, but with two games left, I get to go home for them and to play the team one game ahead and then follow that up with another good team, it's a pretty big deal.
This is why the reporters love him. Other players will take the "just another game" route.
On whether it'll be the biggest game he's played in:
There's different ways to say ‘biggest game.' I think beating UW sophomore year here was pretty big. For Pac-10 title wise, yeah.
I ask about his struggles against Josh Shipp in their first matchup this year:
I think it was the game I was coming back off my scope, I don't remember. I know their favorite play was running a triple across the free throw line, so that's pretty much all I can remember.
On why Thursday will be different:
I can run faster. I mean, we played them good right there, they just made their run and we couldn't counter late. They just hit that run and we couldn't counter. I hope we can play better.
On who the Pac-10 Player of the Year will be:
The best player on the winning team. This year, there are so many good players, I feel like it's just going to go to the team that wins, its best player.
On UCLA's physical defense:
Yeah, I got tackled by Aboya for the third game in a row. He tackled me, and last year set a vicious pick on me, so he likes to hit you. Yeah, they match up well with us because we're really physical and like to do that to other people and have no shame doing that back. Their bigs are really active, Aboya knows what to do, if he has to truck someone to get to ball that's what he'll do. I don't blame him – I'd do the same thing.
I joke that Tim Morris got Aboya back for Fred. "If Tim did that for me I appreciate it," he said with a laugh.
On Mbah a Moute:
Luc Richard's a freak. He's strong as heck and rebounds the heck out of the ball. He'll just try to outmuscle anybody.
He's bigger than I thought. I'd heard he was undersized – that's not true. He's huge and he seals just really good.
I ask about key matchups:
I just think whoever just plays better honestly, whoever limits their mistakes and stays out of foul trouble. They like to go inside just as much as we do. I doubt they'll switch up their style of play just for us because we aren't for them.
I'm definitely excited. I feel like we've got good momentum and the most important game of the year coming up now. At the beginning of the year, you set goals. Trying to get a Pac-10 championship is on the list. We're in a great position in our final week. We want to finish out as strong as possible and getting this win definitely will help in terms of our goals.
On the keys to the game:
Limiting transition baskets, taking care of the ball and rebounding are going to be key. They're real good at rebounding offensively. If we do those things, we're going to be alright.
On whether he'll be thinking about the stakes:
You can't let emotions get involved or do anything different because of what's at stake or who you're playing or anything like that.
On the biggest game of his Stanford career:
On playing at UCLA:
They play well there. They have the longest win streak at home, play really well at home. Great crowd and momentum, probably the best 6th man you can have, they definitely get that from their fans. The building has lot of history.
I ask who he'll be guarding:
Westbrook. He's long, real intense defensively. Deny, deny, pressure, try to force you into turnovers. He never quits on any play. Defense is going to be – for myself as well as for the other guards – is going to be really key. His defense – and the rest of the perimeter, Josh Shipp and Darren Collison – are no slouches on defense either.
On the gameplan:
We've got to get it down to the big guys. Reset when the post gets doubled and do what we're supposed to do. It's going to take a team effort from us and the post players. There's no cupcakes on the floor man. It's going to be tough all around. There's nobody on UCLA's team who's soft on D or anything like that.
The Chronicle's Jake Curtis asks the players and Coach Johnson whether UCLA's physical defense has set the tone for the conference the last few years. Good question. Anthony Goods is certainly a believer:
They've been the best team in our league for the past couple of years and set a tone with their physical play, their defense. That's why you see so many physical teams in the Pac-10. You've seen them get to two Final Fours, mainly because of their D.
On whether they're the face of the Pac-10:
They've been getting the national attention, getting to Final Fours, representing the Pac-10. People kind of think the P-10 as they see UCLA because they're the last team playing.
On how Stanford's improved since the first UCLA game:
It's kind of like day and night from the beginning to the end of the Pac-10 season. Two completely different teams. We're a lot better defending help side on the ball and offensively, our execution has gotten better. Brook and Robin are doing a good job passing out of the post, and we're doing a good job getting it back in there. We're showing our team chemistry. It's a completely different team.
Fred's a lot more active. Every practice I see him with less paraphenalia on his leg. It seems like he's getting younger to tell you the truth. He looks as good as I've ever seen him. Brook's playing the best basketball he's ever played.
On UCLA's offensive threats:
Westbrook is playing with more confidence than anybody on the team. Kevin Love is doing what Kevin Love's been doing all year. Darren's shooting the ball at a good percentage right now and presents some problems.
On whether they'll treat Shipp differently because of his recent slump:
He's been a scorer since high school – he's always had that scorer's mentality. He's liable to come out of it Thursday. We've got to pay attention like the Josh Shipp we've seen all year.
On whether he saw Sunday's UCLA-Arizona game:
It would have been nice if Arizona got the win.
He dodged the question at first – not wanting to put up bulletin board material, before being pressed.
On Stanford's resiliency:
Definitely. I think we're strong mentally as a team. We've been down before and come back, and sometimes we haven't, but regardless, we're going to keep on fighting what the score is. It's all we know how to do.
Now, if only we could play like our backs were against the wall with a lead.
On the campus buzz for the UCLA game:
It's kind of funny, I have only one class on campus. I'm at home and just go to practice and go back home. I've had some people back home calling me and everyone's asking about the game.
On whether he rooted for UCLA as a kid:
On the stakes:
I haven't done anything different. Everything just feels like regular, another Pac-10 game, another war, another battle, another road game. I'm just trying to get that ring, man.
On UCLA's D:
Defensively, I think they're so, so poised. They just get down and guard and make every possession tough. It really kind of forces you to slow down. Probably the art of their defense is to speed you up, but you have to slow down and be sure of what you're doing. Once you go too fast, it's going the other way.
On UCLA calling timeouts after their made baskets:
It's weird, man. It's funny, you want to get the ball out but they call a
timeout. It disrupts your rhythm. It's unlike any other team I've played. I've
just got to hustle to the bench.
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