The Stanford Cardinal came into tonight's Pacific-10 Conference opener looking to prove that their 10-0 record was for real and that they were ready for the rigors of a league they've played well in for so long. Unfortunately, reality struck in the form of the Arizona State Sun Devils who came away from Maples Pavilion with their largest win over Stanford in their near 30-year history, beating the Cardinal by 30, 90-60.
It didn't take long for Arizona State to give Stanford something to think about, bolting out to a 9-2 lead just 3:22 into the game, punctuated by a Jeff Pendergraph dunk that was his second of the night at that point and foretold a much more thorough beating by the senior forward on the inside game of the Cardinal. Stanford fought valiantly, scoring eight of the next 12 points, getting to within three, 13-10. Unfortunately, Arizona State continued to pound the paint, making either layups or dunks, and increased their lead to as much as 19, 41-22, before Stanford had an 8-2 run to end the first half and get within 13 at the break. The crowd, which was virtually full for this game, applauded their troops, but knew things weren't looking great.
At the half, Stanford was shooting 38% from the field, but just 1-11 from beyond the arc. Arizona State shot 60%, off of a high earlier in the half of 65%, from the field, including 3-6 from the three-point line. ASU had 30 of its 43 points inside the paint, and turned five offensive rebounds into 11 second chance points. Even with Stanford being outrebounded by just two, Stanford didn't appear to be much of a match inside as Pendergraph had 21 points on 9-11 shooting at the break with his two misses being from point-blank range. James Harden was notably silent in the first half, going scoreless on just four shots, but he did have six assists in the first stanza.
Stanford's lone bright spots were Lawrence Hill, who routinely beat his counterpart Rihards Kuksiks inside, who had 10 and reserve Will Paul who had six on a variety of shots inside the paint. However, Anthony Goods had just four points on 1-9 shooting, missing both short and long from long-distance. With the Sun Devils' zone defense flummoxing Stanford, forcing them to either take hurried shots or bluffing them into taking easier looks that went askew, the Cardinal needed to heat up from long distance and the final run before the half gave the faithful some hope, but the second half would turn out to be a lot like the first.
In the second stanza, Stanford got within 10 three minutes in and had three short opportunities on one possession to get within single digits, but all of them were hard off the glass and rim. Pendergraph got another dunk after a run out and that was about the last Stanford saw of Arizona State for the rest of the contest. Within six minutes, the lead was up to 20 and Stanford's shooting remained stalled in the 35% range. Arizona State would go another long run, besting Stanford 16-7 over the next six minutes to run their lead to thirty with just over four minutes to go in the game. Fortunately for Stanford, it would get no worse than that margin, bur unfortunately, the optimism of the first ten games seemed to come crashing down worse than the economy had in 2008 as fans filed out of Maples Pavilion well before the final buzzer. In the end, this loss was Stanford's worst home conference defeat since a 1987 game (during Mike Montgomery's first season on the Farm) versus UCLA where they lost by 31.
At the end of the night, Stanford's leading scorer was Hill, who had 14 on 6-11 shooting. No one else was in double-figures for the Cardinal as the team shot just 37.5% from the field, including 2-18 from beyond the arc. Even their percentage inside the three-point line was under 50% for the game. Stanford's other bright spots were Paul's eight tough inside points, Drew Shiller seeing his first action since tearing ligaments in his thumb, and committing just 12 turnovers against a rather interesting Sun Devils zone defense.
For Arizona State, Pendergraph led the way with 31 points on 14-19 shooting, along with 11 rebounds for the winning side. Harden scored 17 points, all in the second 20 minutes, and also had 10 assists. Derek Glasser, who drew the ire of the crowd midway through the second half for refusing Shiller's hand of help after Drew fouled him hard, finished the game with 13 points and had six assists. Overall, ASU shot 59% from the field, 46% from beyond the arc, 63% inside the arc, and made 12 of 15 free throws. The Sun Devils finished the game with 54 points inside the paint, 19 second chance points, and just 11 turnovers on the night, well below the 19 a game Stanford was forcing coming into the contest.
In the end, Stanford was exposed by a top-tier team in the league and can hope that they learn a lot from the lesson Arizona State gave them tonight. The Cardinal not only need to shoot better from every position on the court, but they need to step it up on defense, an area they had seemingly improved upon in the past few games. They especially need to do a much better job inside the paint if they hope to make any noise in Pac-10 Conference play this season.
They next take the floor on Sunday night as they take on the Arizona Wildcats
at 7:00 pm here at Maples. The Bootleg faithful will get to see an Arizona
team which is coming off a 69-55 loss to Cal and no longer has its mainstay at the
head coach position, Lute Olsen, to help them steer the ship in the right
direction after a road loss. Will
Johnny Dawkins be able to get his team back on track after suffering his first
loss as the Cardinal's head coach? Only time will tell and luckily his
team gets to go right back out there and prove that the first 10 games were not
a mirage and were a sign of good times to come on the Farm. If the outcome
is much the same as it was tonight, fans may begin to wonder which team is the
real Stanford Cardinal.
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