And 1: Stanford 57, Virginia 52

Men's Basketball Writer Kevin "Kevo" Danna provides the Bootleg faithful a look at the game flow, stats, facts, and his keen observations after Stanford fought its way to a 57-52 win over the Virgina Cavaliers at the New Moon Maples on Wednesday evening.

Stanford came through in a big way just a few hours ago in defeating the Virginia Cavaliers by a score of 57-52 en route to the Cancun Challenge Championship game against the Kentucky Wildcats.  With the win, Stanford is now above .500 for the first time this season.  While Virginia is picked to finish 11th in the ACC, there was a lot of experience on the team and any group coached by Tony Bennett is going to be very tough to beat.

One of the major keys to the game was the good start that Stanford got off to.  In their two losses, they had trouble out of the gates, falling behind 7-2 to USD and 23-9 to ORU.  After falling behind 2-0, 4-3, and 7-6, the boys from The Farm stormed out to take a 16-9 lead.  While they let that initial lead slip away, it gave them the confidence to know that they were the better team on the floor.  You can thank Jeremy Green and Drew Shiller for the hot start, as Stanford started 6-6 from beyond the arc, mostly behind those two fellas.  When these guys have open looks from long distance, they are extremely lethal.  Knowing when to shoot and when not to shoot will continue to be paramount for this young Cardinal team.

Defensively, Stanford did a great job of rotation around the perimeter.  Sure, some Cavaliers got open looks, but defenders like Fields, Mann, and Shiller did very well to rush those open looks and force Virginia into 4 of 18 shooting from three-point land.  Defense really was the deciding factor for the Cardinal today, with the shooting touch off for the majority of the game and charity stripe struggles, the defensive effort was superb and got every stop when it was necessary.  Our guys were very aggressive and forced 13 turnovers, perhaps none bigger than the one they forced in the final minute to really thwart Virginia's best chance of getting back into the game.

Continuing with the defense, I was really impressed by the play of Jack Trotter.  The stat sheet on espn.com will tell you that he blocked one shot, but he had two by my count, one in each half.  More than that, he was very physical down low.  Off an inbounds play in the second half, Coach Bennett tried to pull a quick one down low and Mike Scott was freed up about three feet from the hoop.  Scott attempted to posterize Trotter, but Jack stood his ground and fouled him hard enough to send him to the free throw for two shots at the charity stripe instead of one.  He and the other bigs as well were also much improved in boxing out down low and if not grabbing rebounds, then allowing others to swoop in to corral the miss. 

Thus, rebounding in general was a positive for the Cardinal.  Every player who stepped on the floor for Stanford tonight got at least one rebound and eight of the nine who played had at least two rebounds.  More importantly for Stanford, they outrebounded the Cavaliers 35-34 and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds, while holding Virginia to seven boards on the offensive glass.

Individually, Landry Fields was by far the star of the game with his 25 points and 13 rebounds.  What impressed me most about his game tonight was his willingness to post up his man, usually Virginia's leading scorer Sylven Landesberg.  Every time Stanford went into the post for Fields, good things happened.  Either Landry was able to back his man down to about three feet to the hoop and swiftly get by him from there with an up-and-under or an easy lay-in or he would find a teammate when the defense would collapse for an open shot.  One thing he does very well for someone who doesn't post up all that much is dribbling out of the double team.  Instead of panicking when two defenders come his way, he calmly dribbles it back out and will either go from there or pass back out to the point to reset the offense.  Landry's defensive effort was very good as well- even though Landesberg dropped 16 for Virginia, it is right around his average and compared to Morrison's 31 from ORU, it is a huge improvement.  And although Stanford went 7-15 from the free throw line tonight, Sir Fields stepped up and showed why he is the captain of this team, nailing two freebies to expand a three point lead to five with 10.7 seconds to go to seal the deal.

While Fields shone brightest, plenty of other Cardinal had some nice spots.  Drew Shiller was unstoppable from long distance, converting three of his four deep ball attempts.  He also had two very nice rebounds (doesn't he always?) and I love the way he attacks the glass on the defensive end to secure that ball in mid-air instead of letting it come down to him.  As usual, Jarrett Mann did well to cut into the teeth of the defense and create shots for himself and his teammates.  Mann finished with five assists and two TOs to go along with seven points and hit his second three-pointer of the season to boot.  His shooting touch is coming along - when he becomes consistent at the free throw line, he will be that much more dangerous (only 2-7 from the line tonight).  I will say this about Jarrett and free throws, he does not hesitate to look to go to the line and will do what is necessary for the team to put them in a position to win down the stretch; he just has to convert his free-throw attempts. 

Lastly, I was again pleased by the spark provided by Elliott Bullock off the bench.  He might have made two turnovers, but he came in and provided good resistance down low and grabbed two rebounds and had a nice kick-out assist for an open three (either Shiller or Fields).  He is the kind of guy that won't show up big in the stat sheet, but does all of the intangibles that help the offense run smoothly and be in the right place at the right time.  When he learns to play with just a little bit more of a mean streak, he will be even more solid.

As long as we shoot good shots, hit a better percentage of free throws, and carry over Tuesday night's work on the glass to Wednesday night, we have a fighter's chance against the Wildcats.  Kentucky might be the #5 team in the country, but they barely beat Miami (OH) after falling behind 36-18 in the first half at Rupp Arena.  Furthermore, Stanford has made big strides already in this young season, most notably being able to finish a team off with better success.  Stanford found themselves in the same position Tuesday as they did last Wednesday night, up five with around 1:30 to go.  This time, they did not rush bad shots, ate clock, and got to the free throw line as the shot clock wound down.  Defensively down the stretch, they were very stout and forced a big turnover that just about sealed the deal.

Be sure to watch the Cancun Challenge Championship at 6:30pm between Stanford and Kentucky, and log on to thebootleg.com afterwards for a post-game wrap-up and analysis!

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