And 1: Arizona 71, Stanford 69

Men's Basketball Writer Kevin "Kevo" Danna provides the Bootleg faithful a look at the game flow, stats, facts, and his observations after Stanford again couldn't hold onto an early lead and were devastated by a last second sequence that culminated in a 71-69 loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday night.

In my time of following Stanford Basketball, I have only felt worse about one other defeat- losing to USC in overtime at the 2007 Pac-10 Tournament, which had me thinking we were headed to a second-straight NIT.  After the 71-69 loss to Arizona, it is all but assured that Stanford won't be going to the NIT.  But when that shot from Lamont Jones went in at the buzzer (well if you want to be really technical about it, there should have been 0.2 seconds left on the clock- enough time for a 94-foot heave from Shiller and a tap-in from either Fields or Trotter), I wasn't thinking about not going to the NIT or the fact that our streak of winning seasons is in serious danger.  As that Lamont Jones shot banked home and the wind was subsequently knocked out of the Maples faithful, all I could think was "how can this happen again?"  The loud chorus of "U of A" from the Wildcats fans just about brought me to my knees and is still ringing in my ears today.

I'm not here to make excuses for what happened.  Arizona deserved to win the game and Stanford didn't play well enough down the stretch for us to say that our team got jobbed.  6-13 from the free throw line in the second half will not get it done, Derrick Williams was dominant and made the defensive play of the game, and Jones had a breakout game culminating in the game-winner.

With regards to free throws, what really is there to say?  Practice them more?  I've said it before and I'll say it again - shooting X amount of free throws in practice is only going to do so much.  Shooting free throws with liners as a punishment for a miss is a good tactic, but it obviously doesn't come close to simulating the pressure of a late-game situation.  There's really no way to practice those free throws.  As long as your mechanics are fine, which most of our guys are, then it just comes down to being able to make a shot in a tight spot.  Like every other shot in the game, there are only two options - it's either going in or it's not.  On Saturday, they didn't for eight of the 18 attempts.  You just have to hope that next time a better percentage of the freebies will fall, and our guys have shown they can make those free throws; they are what sealed the deal in both games against the Oregon schools on the road.

Let's visit Stanford's final two possessions.  The first one was with just under a minute to go and Stanford up 69-68.  The ball gets kicked to Emmanuel Igbinosa over on the left baseline near the Stanford bench, and he launches an open three with about 28 seconds left on the shot clock that eventually rims in and out.  It has received some attention on the forums, and I have talked about it with a couple of different people - I fully support Emmanuel's shot.  As the great Herm Edwards once said, "You play to win the game."  By jacking up that shot, which was WIDE WIDE open, Emmanuel played to win the game.  So what if it was early in the shot clock and there was under a minute to go?  I guarantee you that would have been the best shot Stanford would have had regardless.  If E-man holds that up, the best we could have done was run the shot clock down to about nine or ten seconds, call for the "5-up" screen and have to launch a rushed or bad shot as the shot clock expires.  There's no guarantee Stanford gets an open look.  Plus, had E-man held up that shot and kicked it back out, the Card would have being playing not to lose.  And when you play not to lose, you lose that assertiveness and aggressiveness on offense, and as a result, you probably don't get a good look.  And another thing - running the shot clock down to zero would still have given Arizona 25-30 seconds to work with.  In a one-point game, that is still a LOT of time, and it still would have given the Wildcats enough time to run a good set, probably the same play that got Derrick Williams fouled near the left block.  If there was a five-second or ten-second difference between game clock and shot clock when Emmanuel took his shot, then I would say it was a bad shot.  But there were about 25-30 seconds of separation.  He had to take that shot, and it was halfway in.

Now let's fast-forward past the Williams free-throw and get to Stanford's final possession when the game was tied at 69 and they can hold for the last shot.  I will agree with those that say the play was started a little too early in the clock, but then again, had Landry not found his way into the paint with eight seconds to go, is Trotter that free down low?  It was another "play to win the game" decision.  Yes, the worst Stanford could have done was force overtime if they held the ball until one second was left on the clock and then shoot, but what would have been the quality of that shot?  Probably not nearly as good as the look Trotter had.  Our guys found themselves pretty much in the same situation against Washington State a couple of weeks ago at home.  Jeremy Green's game-winner came with just under five seconds to go.  Trotter's shot was blocked with around five seconds to go.  Jeremy took that shot because it was there, and it paid off.  Landry and Trotter did the same thing, except the end result was different.  I don't think they can be faulted for that, because you expect the shot to go in, and with that, Stanford would have had a little bit more time to mark up who to guard defensively, and Jones or whoever would have had a much more difficult shot.  Yes, it is a "what if" situation, but you don't execute a play if you don't think it is going to pay off.

As for the 50-50 foul/no-foul call that went against Trotter on that Derrick Williams block or slap of the arm, I couldn't tell from my angle whether it was clean or not.  My immediate reaction was "whoa, great find by Landry -> slam it home, Jack! -> where the hell did Williams come from?"  I will say this, though.  In that situation, Pac-10 officials have more often than not given the 50-50 play at the basket to the home team.  There was of course that Darren Collison-Lawrence Hill situation at Pauley Pavilion a couple of years back.  Exactly one week later, Jeff Pendergraph got called for an over-the-back on what appeared to be a put-back dunk over USC's Taj Gibson at the Pac-10 Tournament (and yes, those are home games for USC and UCLA).  Last year, DeAngelo Casto appeared to make contact with Anthony Goods in Pullman as Goods drove to the hoop with the Card down one and under seven seconds to go.  The only time I really remember the road team getting that call was Stanford when they were down in Tucson two years ago, and Chase Budinger appeared to get called for a foul on Brook Lopez when it appeared the block was clean (the official box score lists Kirk Walters as getting the call).  At that time, Stanford was down one with well under a minute to go.  Brook calmly made both and the Card came out with a 67-66 W.  So perhaps this past Saturday was a little payback.  But more often than not, the home team will get that call.  I guess that's what happens when you're the 288th luckiest team in the country, right?

That Williams block was such a shame because up until then, Jack had been finishing beautifully around the hoop.  He really had a very solid weekend, and his basket finishes have improved drastically just over the course of a couple of weeks.  When he catches the ball in traffic, he is going straight up and keeping the ball high the whole time he is in possession of it- a simple ploy that many big men don't utilize.  He's becoming a lot stronger around the basket, too.

And since we're on the subject of strong basket finishes, how about Jarrett Mann on Sunday?!  This dude could do no wrong around the paint.  He was making shots after contact and worming his way beautifully among the towers that stood down low.  If he can do that against a team as athletic as Arizona, he can do it against plenty of other teams in the Pac-10.

There is one more chance for the Cardinal to get their eighth regular season Pac-10 victory, and it comes on Senior Day against the conference champion Cal Golden Bears this Saturday.  In the meantime, check TheBootleg.com day and night for more exclusive analysis!

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