Dribbles & Bits™ - Arizona
Now we are talking. Tell "Cardinal Little" the sky isn't falling quite yet. True, 2009 began with a clang...actually multiple clangs off the rim in a startling 90-60 loss to Arizona State on Friday night, the Cardinal's worst home conference loss since a 93-62, 31-point drubbing against UCLA in 1986-87 when Bruin All-American Reggie Miller was a senior. But two days later, things are coming up a little rosier!
Obviously Stanford Basketball took Friday's eye-opening experience as an opportunity for some serious soul-searching. Just two days after getting smoked, or scorched or whatever successful Solar Satans™ inflict on a burn victim, the good guys went out and pretty much owned Arizona, beating the visiting Wildcats 76-60, the widest margin of loss the proud University of Arizona program has suffered at Maples Pavilion since a 96-79 defeat during the 1982-83 season. Welcome to Palo Alto, Coach Pennell! Wish recently retired Lute Olson could have been there with you for this one.
While the game was close for much of the first half, there was a clear sense that the Cardinal was ready to play, showing energy and aggressiveness. The lead changed exactly once in this game, when the Cardinal went up 11-10 after freshman Jarrett Mann scored a nice lay-up off a fast break with 11:43 left in the opening half. From then on, Stanford played superior basketball.
It was a team effort, but let's face it, Landry Fields had his Stanford "career game" to date. A career-best 19 points (on 7-8 from the field) and a career-high 12 boards, plus three steals and a couple of assists. That stat-stuffing line included four offensive rebounds in the first half - a couple of which involved thunderous put-back slams that Landry's family will wear out their TiVo with in the next few days. It is guaranteed you will see a couple of those vicious vignettes on the team's 2008-09 highlight film. Fields more than contained the Wildcats' perennial All-American candidate, but inexplicably soft-playing Chase Budinger, holding the athletic but enigmatic Cat to just two points in the first half. Budinger averages 17 points per game and was held to 12, most of which came long after the game was in doubt. The Zona star was clearly frustrated that Landry was totally outplaying him, blatantly throwing an angry elbow at our rising '6'7" junior late in the second half. It was really the only dirty pool I recall seeing all night.
- Arizona failed to make a three-point basket for the first time since December 10, 2005 and it was only the third time since the advent of the three-point shot that Arizona has failed to hit from behind the arc. Wow! Some of that has to be our pressure on the perimeter.
- Arizona had five assists to our 17. That is unbelievable. It was the fewest the Wildcats had tallied in a game since they played Kansas in Maui in November of 2005.
- Sophomore center/forward Josh Owens has had a baptism under fire and accounted for himself pretty darn well as a first-time starter. He has drawn some very tough assignments in the past couple of weeks, having faced several of the most formidable big men in the west, including Santa Clara's John Bryant, ASU's Jeff Pendergraph, and Arizona's Jordan Hill.
- With his remarkable 12 rebounds, Landry Fields has assumed the team lead in total rebounds this season with 80, five more than Lawrence Hill, and raised his rebounding averaged to 6.7 per game, which compares favorably to 7'0" Robin Lopez's 5.7 rebounds per game last year (and his 5.2 average during conference play). Not ripping Robin, just stating some remarkable facts. So that his effort sinks in, get this: Fields had all of 20 total rebounds in his 16 regular Pac-10 appearances during the 2007-08 season. His conference game high was five rebounds at UW. Now this. Let that be a lesson to those who question the benefits of offseason strength and conditioning!
- What did Landry eat before this game? He had three steals in this game after tallying just 11 last year in 33 games.
- This was a fairly rare instance in which the Cardinal won big with Anthony Goods shooting poorly (3-13). It helped that all three makes were from long-range and he made all four of his free throws.
- Nice to see recently reactivated Drew Shiller bury a three and bring some tenacity to the court. One can really see the football player come out in Drew on occasion, which is great.
- Arizona's Jordan Hill is obviously a talented player who will earn some big money some day soon. He went for 17 points (although only 4 of those were in the second half), 16 rebounds, two blocked shots and four steals. Both he and ASU's Pendergraph must be quite pleased that Los Lopez are no longer at Stanford.
- Sorry to beat a dead wildcat, but Chase Budinger just doesn't do it for me as a player. Obviously lots of skills and hops and all that, but he just doesn't seem to want to get in there and battle. Would you really want him on your roster over say, a Landry Fields, if you were an NBA scout? At least not on this night, man!
- Zona senior Fendi Onobun picked the wrong sport. That 6'6" 250-pound physical specimen should have been a tight end or a defensive end, not a hoops player. Feel bad for him, because basketball just hasn't really worked out for him. Guy should attend an NFL combine. No, I am not kidding.
- The Sixth Man Club was far better represented now that the kids are back in school, but the turnout was still less than 225. Also, I am thinking they must not have a cheer archive. Admittedly I was a little disappointed when the "Down by 30" and "Down by 40" chants weren't raised against Texas Tech, but how could they miss an opportunity to chant "Down by 20" against the Arizona Wildcats. You don't get that opportunity very often. How about the fact that we did not have to hear the infamous "U-OF-A" chant even once in this game!
- Gotta love a game in which freshman walk-on Jack Trotter gets to dunk off a nice Kenny Brown assist!
- Jeremy Green and Jarrett Mann: couple of talented, athletic freshmen starting to look more and more comfortable.
- There was talk among AD staffers following the colorful River Dance-style halftime entertainment that after the economy recovers, we should consider adding Women's Lightweight Clogging in an effort to continue Stanford's pioneering Title IX leadership.
- Am I the only one who wouldn't mind a few highlight film clips from the Stanford Women's Basketball team and Stanford Football's 2008 season being shown on the video board during lulls in the Men's Hoops game? We really need to cross-market our sports more, don't we? Am I missing something?
- Can we please not play the "I don't want to work, I just want to bang on my drum all day" song on the Maples' sound system? The 49ers are our local NFL team and a lot of our fans enjoy supporting our program and the Niners. Correct me if I am wrong, but that song is essentially the St. Louis Rams' unofficial theme song and thus incredibly annoying.
- Anyone notice that Cal came into the ASU game shooting a ridiculous .503 from three-point range - as a team! Good Lord, that is better than nine of the conference teams shoot from the field!
Nobody was that surprised that we lost Friday, but one has to be surprised that Stanford could bounce back so remarkably well against the Cats. In the post-game media session, Coach Dawkins said he felt that resilience showed a lot of character and he is correct. It would have been easy for our guys to let that ASU game bother them, but thankfully, they gave every indication of possessing short-term memories.
As Coach Dawkins stressed to his team previously, we are not the 111-point team that crushed Texas Tech a week ago Sunday, but we are also not as bad as we looked Friday against the Devils. He has told his players that they are somewhere in between and "need to find the middle ground". Let's hope this performance against the U of A was a lot closer to the truth. Coach Dawkins knows what it is like to suffer a tough loss. He recalled a painful 43-point loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament when he was a freshman at Duke. These things can happen and one just has to learn from them and show one's character.
It was reassuring to see such a fine overall performance at home against a quality Pac-10 opponent. Arizona may be down a bit from their heyday under Lute, but they are still Arizona and had beaten both Gonzaga and Kansas in December! This was a very good win.
As fans, we have become in conditioned in the past decade to expect to win most if not all of our home games. Not anymore. The guys will have to play well and maintain high intensity to win games in the Pac-10 this year and they certainly did both against Arizona.. Go Cardinal! Beat the glass-cleaning Huskies!
P.S. By the way, just a personal observation - Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins is so soft-spoken, polite and composed that people may underestimate or fail to appreciate how impressive he is when discussing basketball. His post-game commentary, win or lose, is candid, thoughtful and thorough. And he did something the other night I really liked. Normally the press gets the players first and the head coach addresses the media after the players are finished and headed to the showers. After the loss against ASU, knowing that the lone post-game participant Lawrence Hill would be feeling down after the tough game, Dawkins showed up early and sat in obvious support for his disappointed player. Class.
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