And 1: Stanford 54, USC 53

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 held on for a 54-53 win over a hot USC team on Wednesday night at Maples Pavilion.

The law of averages states that everything evens out in the end, more or less.  That's not a direct transcription from a stats book, nor is it perhaps really what the law of averages states.  But finally, after a multitude of one possession and overtime losses, Stanford eeked out a one-point victory with a 54-53 triumph over the USC Trojans Wednesday night.

Of course, the game didn't come without its heart-stopping moments.  After building a 53-46 lead in the final minute, it began to look like the same old script.  After a missed free throw, Dwight Lewis of USC came back the other way and hit a jumper to cut it to five.  Then Landry Fields slipped on a wet spot near the USC bench after receiving the in-bounds pass and was called for a travel - USC ball. 
(Quick soapbox session - it should be illegal for teams to move their benches onto the court for this exact reason.  What do you think happens in a huddle besides scheming?  Guys get water, of course!  And those water bottles are usually wet on the outside and drip onto the floor.  Not only that, but guys are sweating profusely, and where do you think that sweat winds up?  It sure doesn't stick to their skin!  As a result, you get a wet playing court near the sideline or wherever the bench was moved for the timeout- sometimes as far out as the wing 21 feet from the hoop.  You could say that's the manager's or ball kid's job to wipe that up, but ball kids usually only concern themselves with the paint and there is really too much going on during a timeout for a manager to recognize potential wet spots- especially when you're on the road and only travel two managers for the most part.  What's the best solution?  Just keep your bench where it is!  It will also allow for more time to talk to your team in the huddle since you don't have to move anything.  I have no idea why coaches are so adamant on moving a bench all the way out on the court.  There aren't any spies in the stands on a Nextel Two-Way Pager relaying game planning for the opposition!  Come on!)

Back to the game.  Another Dwight Lewis jumper off the Stanford turnover.  53-50.  And then some more bad luck.  After two misses from the charity stripe by Andrew Zimmermann, lefty Leonard Washington turned to fellow lefty Nikola Knezevic for inspiration and banked in a three to tie the game up with 32 seconds left to play.  Jarrett Mann gets inserted into the lineup by Coach Dawkins after the timeout and gets fouled by Washington with 10.4 seconds remaining.  Mann, the man who missed two big free throws against Kentucky, had a chance to redeem himself against a quality conference opponent…and he did just that by swishing the second one to give Stanford a 54-53 lead (the first one looked good too, but just rimmed out).  Gerrity came down and put up a baseline floater that just missed, but Nikola Vucevic was there and had a couple of point-blank putbacks and missed them both as time expired.  Game over.  Stanford wins by one!

The obvious player of the game was Jeremy Green, who led all scorers with 17 points.  He hit so many big shots down the stretch for the Cardinal - every time USC got within serious striking distance, Green would come off a curl screen by the left wing or left baseline and knock in a mid-range jumper or three-pointer to extend the Stanford cushion.  Another day, another seven field-goal day for Jeremy, but this time on just ten attempts.  His shot selection continues to improve and he is also proving himself to be a valuable rebounder and defender.     

However, my personal hero today was Da'Veed Dildy.  His calming presence in the backcourt was paramount for the Cardinal off the bench.  Da'Veed is a guy who will not rush anything and has great shot clock awareness, something a team needs to have to be successful against a great defense like USC's.  He made plays when he needed to, taking a Trojan perimeter defender off the dribble and to the rack for a nice finish to go along with three rebounds, two assists, and just one turnover.  Da'Veed is going to be huge off the bench for the rest of the season; let's just hope he stays healthy.

You also have to love how Matei Daian played off the bench.  In his first minute or two in the game, Matei got an offensive rebound, converted it for a left-handed lay-up, and took a charge on defense the next possession.  He always holds his own on the defensive end and knows how to use his fouls pretty well.  Plus, and trust me on this one, he has a very nice outside jumper from about 18 feet and I've seen him consistently hit long balls in practice. 

As a team, one stat really stood out that I thought wouldn't have going into this game- rebounding.  For as big as USC is at positions three through five on the floor, I think it's absolutely remarkable and a testament to the work ethic of the Cardinal that Stanford outboarded the Trojans 32-28 over 40 minutes.  As I noted in the pre-game article, USC averages six more boards per contest than their opponents, and they have been playing some pretty good competition - Texas, Georgia Tech, UNLV, St. Mary's, and Tennessee to name a few.  USC outrebounded Tennessee by 25 (42-17) and held their own against those other four teams.  In fact, Stanford's rebounding margin against USC was greater than all five of those teams listed.  Our bigs might not average a whole lot of rebounds per game, but they do a darn good job of keeping the opponent's post players from snatching those boards.  In one play today, Elliott Bullock did a great job of boxing out Stephenson and would have had the rebound if Alex didn't push him in the back (Stephenson would wind up dunking the offensive rebound, but it was an obvious foul.  Elliott had him completely sealed).

It was also nice to see Stanford get a third player in double figures, especially against a hard-nosed USC team that only allowed 37 against Arizona State and gives up 54 per contest overall.  That player today was Andrew Zimmermann, who found his mid-range jumper and had a couple of nice finishes at the basket.  He would have had more than ten points too if he was able to get a couple of those free throws to drop, free throws that were pretty much on target.  Rest assured, he will hit those freebies the next time he is in that situation.  Coach Dawkins is great at getting guys to learn from previous mistakes - look no further than Jarrett Mann tonight, a guy Coach put in on purpose down the stretch to see how he would react to a tight late-game situation.

Saturday should be really interesting when UCLA comes to Maples at 3pm.  The Bruins are coming off a big-time upset victory over Cal at Haas Pavilion to improve to 2-1 in Pac-10 play.  Will the Bruins be able to feed off their win over the Bears on Wednesday night, or will they play like they did the last time they took the court on a Saturday when they lost by 14 at home to Arizona?  Check back on TheBootleg.com for continued analysis of the 2009-2010 Stanford Basketball Campaign.

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