And 1: Stanford 85, UC Davis 69

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 jumped out early in the game and never looked back in an 85-69 victory over the UC Davis Aggies on Sunday evening.

Being the first game Stanford had played in two weeks due to the break for dead week and finals, there were some concerns regarding how much rust the Cardinal would show.  In recent history, this has been a game where Stanford has faltered - the Farm Boys dropped their games out of the break in the 2005-2006 season to Virginia Tech and 2006-2007 to Santa Clara.  However, no re-calibration to game speed was necessary Sunday night as the Stanford Cardinal thoroughly defeated the UC Davis Aggies 85-69, never letting the Big West squad get within single digits once they scored.

As Ray Salloom wrote in his article, it was the big run that Stanford opened the game with that really set the tone.  In the huddle right before the guys took the floor, everyone was really amped and eager to play in an actual game again.  This high energy translated itself into a 14-0 start for the Cardinal, and they never looked back from there.  Usually when a team gets out to that big of a lead, it is because of great shooting and a little bit of luck on the defensive end - not so much in the case of last night.  By no means was Stanford cold from the field, but they weren't lights out either.  Everything was keyed by the second and third-chance opportunities that they were getting thanks to some big-time hustle that led to offensive rebounds.  Jack Trotter, who would finish with his first career double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds), outworked every Aggie on the floor to create those extra chances.  They weren't your typical offensive rebounds for a big guy, where a post would usually just get better position and finish off a possession with a quick put-back.  Trotter was hawking down long rebounds that fell considerably further away from the hoop, which is a testament to Jack's effort and increased aggressiveness on the court.

Eventually like all college basketball teams do, UC Davis would score, but it didn't come until after the first media timeout and the defensive effort remained strong for the rest of the game.  Mark Payne, the Aggies' leader in just about every statistical category, was held scoreless for the first 14 minutes of the game.  While he would eventually get more than his average with 21 points and equal his three steals per contest clip, the Cardinal did a great job of keeping the lefty off the glass as they limited him to just three rebounds and one assist.  Furthermore, Payne only scored six of his 21 points in the first half, meaning most of his buckets came when the game had already been well-decided.  When it mattered most, the Stanford defense was more than on-point and held UC Davis to 24 points in the first half.

Also impressive was how Stanford never let UC Davis go on any kind of significant run, and even mini-runs were an extreme rarity on Sunday night for the Aggies.  After Stanford started the contest with that 14-0 run, the Aggies were not able to get it closer than 11 points and never threatened the Cardinal all night long.  The Aggies did keep the margin at around 18-20 points for the majority of the first half, however, and it was 44-24 with under one remaining; this set the stage for a fantastic first-half finish.  It started with Landry Fields, who worked himself to the line and split the pair to make it a 21-point deficit. The Aggies came back and retrieved an offensive rebound that would have let them hold for the final shot of the half…if it wasn't for that fiery guard from Burlingame!  Drew Shiller came up with a huge steal with 12 seconds remaining and passed it ahead to Landry Fields, who threw it down with eight seconds left, getting Stanford to the locker room up 47-24.  Typically a strong first-half finishing team, Stanford will need to continue that trend as the season progresses.

Lastly on the team front, I loved the unselfishness of our guys offensively.  Everyone was looking to make that extra pass to find the open shooter or open "big" down low, and it translated into all five starters going for double-digits, and almost a sixth in Drew Shiller (sidenote on Shiller's nine points: I fully believe that he would have had ten if the 6th Man section didn't scream "Sit Down!" to Ryan Sypkens as he fouled out and took a seat on the bench, right at the same time Shiller rimmed out his first charity stripe attempt.  Tradition is great, but can't the chant wait until after the free throw has been made?!  Luckily, it didn't matter this game because we were well-ahead at all times, but come Pac-10 season when every game is going to be a battle, that might come into play).  In that opening run, only two of the 14 points were from Landry Fields, and his was the first bucket of the game.  As much as I love Landry, it was a big positive to see Stanford not have to rely so heavily on the captain for scoring all throughout the game.

Individual props for me start with Jeremy Green.  This was the most unselfish I have ever seen him play and his shot selection continued to improve last night.  He only took good shots, and connected on 50% of his field goal attempts as a result.  Finishing with 16 points, three rebounds, and two assists, Jeremy really helped the offense to run smoothly and was aggressive, but not overaggressive, on defense.  I will take 16 points on ten shots from Jeremy every night.

Andrew Zimmermann really seems to be coming into his own.  Having not played in a collegiate basketball game in almost two years coming into the season, it obviously was going to take Andrew a little bit of time to get adjusted to game speed.  Now a month into the season, his confidence is growing with each shot he takes and makes and is really stepping up defensively.  In addition to his 11 points, he had a very nice block on the defensive end to go along with a steal and seven rebounds.  His season really started to take a turn for the better in that second half against Kentucky when he hit three big shots down the stretch and drew two charges.  Since then, Zimmermann has continued his big play and will be a serious factor in conference play.

And how can you not love Jack Trotter?!  This guy is all heart with a great jumper and underrated athleticism.  In his first career double-double, five of his 11 rebounds were on the offensive glass and he was 5-9 from the field to go along with perfect shooting from the free-throw line (4-4).  Once a question mark for many college basketball enthusiasts, I think you have to say the post players are becoming a strength for this team and will do more than just hold their own in conference play.  Have you taken a look around the conference?  The big men aren't really there.  Michael Dunigan, Reeves Nelson, and Eric Boateng are nice, but I'll take my guys any day of the week.  Jack Trotter's play against DeMarcus Cousins was nothing short of big-time.  Outside of the North Carolina game, DeMarcus has consistently put up big numbers, and his 13-point, five-rebound stat line against Trotter and the rest of the bigs in Cancun is looking all the more impressive.  If only we had Josh Owens as well…let's hope for the best for the Kennesaw native.

Finally, and as one Bootie already mentioned, Drew Shiller has found a great role as that veteran guard off the bench who can come in, run the offense smoothly when necessary, and hit a high percentage of his jumpers.  Shiller is a huge asset to Stanford, and is going to hit a lot of clutch shots down the stretch as 2009-2010 rolls on.

Up next are the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  Wednesday Night.  8pm.  Be there or be a bad fan!  And check afterwards for thoughtful insight and analysis from Ray Salloom.

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