9:14 p.m.: Marquees does make a good point: Mann has shifted his game inside successfully after his offensive struggles from outside three feet. Good for him not to fold and be the proverbial good player who finds a way to get the ball in the hoop, even when your primary means of scoring have gone horribly awry. Stanford draws yet another foul, maybe its fourth of the half already, and it's not yet the first media timeout. 43-34 OK State, as they're starting to make the threes they missed in the first 20. Stanford was just 5-of-12 from the stripe in the first half as Green misses another one. Barf. Hits the second. Maybe it's a deliberate ploy by our guys: miss the FTs so the officials don't realize what a big discrepancy there's been in the foul calls.
Lead's back to ten for OK State after (another) uncontested bunny from OK State. Marquees: "When you're a scorer, you find ways to score." Why yes Marquees, that's true. Heck, I could replace scorer/score with any noun/verb pairing and that sentence would work. Eater/eat. Snorkler/snorkel. Drug dealer/drug deal. Funny how the English language is. I've done commentary, it's not that hard, especially on TV, where you have to say less and get more time to think before you talk, lest you sound like an idiot, and especially as the color guy, where you also get to say less. … OK State by 10 as we're at our first media timeout of the second half. Two Stanford promos already. Like the Roz one, though maybe that's just because she's a ringer for my mom with the Brooklyn accent. FSN is pumping the heck out of the Tennessee/Stanford women's game on Saturday. Another liveblog perhaps?
9:20 p.m.: Mann made a free throw! 1-of-5 baby! John Stockton here we come. Mann misses the second, but hey, the road to stardom is bumpy, right?
9:21 p.m.: Let's look at some stats as Fields gets absolutely packed. … Speaking of which, OK State plays more like an And 1 team than a college team. Sick individuals making some incredible athletic plays, but no team concept is visible. … Stanford's 13-of-33 overall (39 percent), 1-of-8 deep (1-of-4 from Green). Fields is 5-of-9, everyone else is having pretty average shooting days statistically. Fields has eight boards, no one else has more than three. Mann has seven! of the Card's nine turnovers. Poke out my eyes with something sharp. Add in 1-of-6 free throws and the Card are winning with an average D-I level performance from him. Zimmerman has eight and Green has seven. OK State's +6 on the boards but -10 in fouls (15-5).
9:26 p.m.: Now it's a 15-point margin, with Marquees again saying OK State's on the verge of blowing this open. Broken watches, Marquees, broken watches. That Fields has missed six in a row is the biggest issue. He makes a nice winding fingerroll, but then picks up his fourth foul with 12:54 left on an OK State and-one. Marquees: "If [Fields] fouls out, you have absolutely no chance." Dude's had us losing this game 30 times already. Who'd have thunk that Tompkins, who neglected to put a T. Gerhart on his Heisman ballot, would be the pro-Stanford one of the bunch? Mann misses yet another free throw, now is 2-of-8. Tompkins: "It's got to be psychological." No poop. I don't think we'd recruit a wing who can only make 25 percent of uncontested 14-foot shots. … Sixth Man is chanting bullsh-t, I don't know why. Maybe just practice for Pac-10 season? Maybe part of our ploy to make the refs forget about the whistle discrepancy? They do realize, after all, we're +15 or something in fouls now. … Stanford's cut the lead to 53-41 with 11:41 to go, and then Green comes off the media timeout and drains a three. No word yet from Marquees on whether we're about to blow this one open. OK State, now 8-of-12 on the half, responds with another three. They're 5-of-7 deep on the half. Green fires right back though. 56-47, 11 minutes left. Marquees said someone else has to step up if we "just want to stay in contact." Well, Fields is on the bench with four fouls, which makes that self-evident and, I guess, is also why Sixth Man is miffed. I know I'm a minority of one on this, but I'd have Fields in there. We need to cut the lead back into single figures if we are going to win. And if he fouls out with five minutes left, isn't that akin to him sitting for five minutes anyways? … Zimmerman with a SICK pick, probably illegal on OK State guard Ray Penn. He is the new Taj, it's official.
9:35 p.m.: Tompkins, as Mann rolls in a free throw: "it's not pretty, but he'll take it." There's another meaningless phrase. What's the alternative? Mann going to the officials, "Take it off the board, it wasn't pretty enough." … 59-49 Oklahoma State with ten left. … Stanford just committed its first turnover of the second half and is doing much better on the defensive glass this half. Give Dawkins credit for correcting the Card's two most glaring deficiencies at halftime. It's not rocket science, but if your coach can just fix the two things your team is messing up the worst each halftime, you're going to win 75 percent of the time, easily. Good for him to identify what was most wrong, prioritize the most glaring problems and find and implement apparent solutions.
… Zimmerman flops and draws OK State's Muonelo's fourth foul. God I love him. My Stanford athlete love list, based on both on-court performance and our off-court interactions reads like this: Dan Grunfeld, Chris Hernandez, Taj, Trent Edwards, our LB recruit Daniel Davis and now Zimmerman. (Oh, and Toby's girlfriend, but that's another story.) Stanford now actually has fewer turnovers, 14-12. … Three straight turnovers for Stanford as Mann apparently thinks we're in the halftime half-court shot contest and chucks one out the media entrance and into the parking lot. I must have jinxed these guys (or, more likely, they're lost without Landry.) But between Dawkins fixing what's wrong and having really successful in-bounds plays, he's doing a great job as a game day coach. Marquees is right on one thing: on talent alone, we shouldn't be in this one. Green drains another three and we have a game folks, 59-52 OK state. Stanford shifting to zone has really been an underrated key to sparking the comeback.
9:41 p.m.: Fields back in the game with 6:50 left and OK State up 61-52. Green has come alive in the second half, I think he's 3-of-4 deep, all contested. Great job by Dawkins to ID that after the called OK State timeout, Stanford would likely just have one possession before the under-eight media timeout, and with the Card on offense, Stanford didn't have much to lose by bringing Fields in. (Or it was just fluke timing, but whatever works.) Fields with a post-up two… 61-54. We've really got a game, folks. Admit you were wrong, Marquees! OK State's Anderson's back in the game after cramping up for a few minutes (which probably had a lot to do with Stanford's comeback) and responds with an and-one against Mann. 64-54, Anderson has 28 points after the free throw.
9:45 p.m.: Green makes another catch-and-releaser, 67-56 after OK State responds. Green had that ball in his hand for maybe a second and was coming left-to-right hard off a screen. That's an NBA shot. I realize this isn't saying much given the roster of the past few years, but he's Stanford's best pure shooter since Chris Hernandez, easily. Fields on the line, misses a pair, guess the woes are contagious. "Very uncharacteristic of Stanford, not shooting well from the free throw line." Did they not see the Kentucky game? And aren't we in the mid-60s on the season? Fields with a transition lay-up off a turnover, 67-58 with four minutes left. Stanford's 10-of-22 for 45 percent on the line. … Shiller with a SICK tip to himself and save out-of-bounds for a rebound OK State had dead to rights. Play of the game. Mann with a layup on the other end and it's 67-60 just under four. Andyfg, we see you in Sixth Man.
9:50 p.m.: Green misses a wide-open corner three from the right side to cut the lead to four. Groan. Now we're under three with the margin still seven. Field fakes left, his defender bites, goes right and it's an easy layup. 8-0 run and 67-62 with 2:19 left.
9:51 p.m.: This is going to be a tough game to summarize if it ends up a narrow Stanford loss, as appears most likely given the time and score. On the one hand, you have the missed free throws and it doesn't take one of those students in the Stanford commercials to realize that if Stanford shoots 75 percent, not 45 percent, from the line, we probably win this one. On the other hand, we fought back from 15 down against a team much better than us on paper. … Fields has 20 and 10 on 10-of-17 shooting. Stanford's in the double bonus, OK State's in the one-and-one with the ball, the arrow and 2:20 left. OK State pull-up jumper from the free throw line good. Card respond quickly with Fields no look to Zimmerman for a bunny, then OK State throws it away unforced in their backcourt. They are really trying to lose this one. 69-64, 1:43 left. Stanford calls a timeout.
9:55 p.m.: Muonelo has 18 on 7-of-9 shooting in the second half. He and Anderson have 32 of the Pokes' 34 second-half points. T. Boone would be proud. Green leaves a 20-footer off a double screen well short. Tompkins: "[Stanford] doesn't deserve to be in this one, but they are." Hey, only we can say that about our pledges!
9:57 p.m.: Stanford fouls an OK State big man, Moses, for a one-and-one, he misses the front end to make the strategy look smart. Goodness, Dawkins is a good in-game coach: Zimmerman from Fields again for another layup, and then Zimmerman draws another charge, Anderson didn't even see him there. 69-66, 48.5 seconds left. We're 4-of-16 deep, I'd take the two if we can get it. If we're smart we've got to go for the two-for-one here. Don't let me down, Johnny. … Fields was FIRED up after Zimmerman took that charge; the celebration looked straight out of "The U" documentary.
9:59 p.m.: Zimmerman slips and scores from three feet out, two-second shot/game clock difference, Stanford's on a 12-2 run, and Zimmermann has made three shots from inside three feet to bring Stanford within one. OK State's still in a one-and-one. With a two-second differential, you have to foul, let's try to get one of their big men. (Is that Bobbk we see in the stands?) Stanford plays it straight up and then fouls an 82 percent free-throw shooter, albeit a freshman who hasn't scored yet this game in Ray Penn. Wish we'd fouled someone else. Penn swishes them both. Off-ball foul sends Fields to the line with OK State up 71-68 with 12 seconds left. Thank goodness, because we were about to chuck up a heavily contested three otherwise. Bad foul by Anderson. Fields, come on here. … No arc, but he line-drives them both home. 71-70 OK State. We have a chance in a game in which we should be dead to rights, which is all you can ask for. Our coach is doing such a great job, I wonder when the Dawkins to Kentucky rumors start up. OK State also is in the one-and-one one more time. How clutch would a miss be?
10:04 p.m.: Off-ball foul on Zimmerman before the in-bounds sends OK State's Page to the line. He's a great free throw shooter, but misses the front end. 71-70 with 6.4 left, Stanford timeout. Fields to Zimmerman one more time? Stanford hasn't led since 6-4.
10:05 p.m.: "Go Stanford" cheer rings loud. My legs are shaking. Josh Owens in a sweater on the sidelines… when will the official word come down? Average age in Sxith Man is 27. Okay, here goes…
10:06 p.m.: Fields in-bounds from the right baseline, 30 feet from the hoop. Zimmerman gets it, dribbles to six feet, puts it up too hard, maybe panicking because of the clock, and that's the game. Fields was in good position for the putback too if the shot had caught rim at all. 71-70 is your final, heck of a showing from our guys.
Postgame: Our guys will hurt from this one, as they should, but we saw a lot from three players: Fields, and, less obviously, Green and Zimmermann. Given that this is a season in which the only way to the Big Dance is by winning three or four straight come March, a last-second loss doesn't hurt as much as it would any other year, so I'm just darn proud of our team for fighting back. I really like our half-court zone defense, and we also did a good job in transition defense, which is one of those thing you tend not to notice until its absence kills you. I also really like Zimmerman maximizing his potential by playing within himself offensively (save for the last shot, which is totally understandable), and Green's potential offensively, which he showed in flashes. Dawkins did a masterful job on the sidelines.
The biggest problem right now is that Stanford's young guys are simply pressing too hard. Trent Johnson's teams experienced the same problems (perhaps why we always started a disappointing .500 in our first 12 or 14 games under him), and he said part of the reason stemmed from the fact that our guys were so cerebral. This year, into this category of mental errors, we can file an awful lot: the free throw hijinks have to stop. Stanford needs to stop turning it over willy-nilly, as Jarrett Mann did, especially in the first half. Stanford is actually shooting better contested than they are open right now, a classic sign of pressing or trying to do too much or whatever you want to call it. Green makes three ridiculous long shots in a row and then misses a wide-open three to cut the lead to four. Mann airballs a six-footer, not to mention the free throw struggles. Defensively, our big guys are so busy trying to hedge and help out on a guard somewhere on the perimeter that, oops, forgot about the man wide open for the layup or putback.
All our guys are doing too much right now that, if not for the physical side effects, they would play better on some Xanax or drunk. Just calm down, kids. Short of calling up Tiger's guy and asking for some Ambien though, there's not much Dawkins can do. Bring in a sports psychologist, I guess.
Still, I'm comforted by two facts concerning our mental errors. First, they're obviously temporary. These guys have been playing their whole lives, once they stop bugging out and get used to playing on the college stage, they're going to improve. Second, it's nothing our players or staff specifically are doing wrong: the same thing happened, as we mentioned, with Johnson's teams, so much so in fact, that he developed the cerebral theory to explain why our guys were pressing too hard.
If our guys can get the jitters out of their system by Pac-10 time, and if the Pac-10 is really as bad as everyone says, we have a chance to finish in the nondescript middle of the nondescript Pac-10. My reasonable best-case scenario right now is maybe 5-4 at home, 2-7 on the road, 7-11 overall? Sagarin predictor had us essentially tied for sixth in the league heading into tonight (with Arizona and Oregon State). I'd take that for this season, because if we exceed preseason expectations by a similar margin over the two or three subsequent seasons, bring your scissors, we're cutting down some nets.
PS: Wyndam Makowsky is a genius, as his pending Stanford degree and superlative analysis on this site plainly evidence. As such, and because he's my bro and all, I asked him for his thoughts on the game, and I thought they were pretty spot-on:
Me: "Hey Wyndam, what a beautiful evening the gods raineth upon us. [Okay, maybe it had an expletive or two and wasn't phrased quite like this. Stay with me here.] Haveth you any thoughts on the game?"
Him, verbatim: "Learn how to shoot a free throw?"
"Dawkins is a fantastic coach. His plays in both this game and the Kentucky game worked marvelously when, you know, we actually executed them. But that's certainly not a guarantee with this squad."
"We don't have much talent. Only two legit Pac-10 starters (Fields and Green). But we're hanging tough with some good schools. That's better than pretty much anyone's expectations."
Couldn't have said it better myself. Here's hoping this gang of Stanford student-athletes stay true to the student body's ethos, and keep overachieving.
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