Senior Night Success

Sure, the goal was to get a win to secure sole possession of second place in the Pac-10, and an important #2 seed and earlier start time in the Pac-10 tournament, but the Cardinal were on a mission Saturday night to send off the seniors on a high note. The result was a resounding success, as Stanford led almost the entire game and coasted to a 12-point win over Cal, 72-60.

Stanford's regular season ending win over Cal Saturday could scarcely have been a greater reversal from its Pac-10 season opening loss at Berkeley more than two months ago.  In that 59-72 loss, the Card were out-muscled and out-hustled in a standout defensive and rebounding effort by Cal.  The Bears bested their rivals by nine rebounds in the game, while holding Stanford to 23% shooting from three-point range and 41% overall from the field.  Matt Lottich was in what proved to be his worst shooting slump of the year, scoring nary a point while misfiring on all five of his field goal attempts, including 0-of-3 from deep.  Josh Childress was surprisingly dominated on the boards by the smaller Joe Shipp by an alarming seven-rebound margin.

However in the second half of this season series, the Card took it to the Bears on the defensive end and on the boards.  Stanford outrebounded Cal by nine boards and held them to just 19 field goals in the entire game, on 29% shooting from three and 33% overall shooting from the field.  It was a far tougher game for Stanford than the January lax performance, and that was a key emphasis in game preparation this week.  The 6'8" sophomore Childress had payback particularly on his mind, as he revealed afterward.  "It was an emphasis for me," he offered on the subject of rebounding.  "Some reporter did a story this week on how Joe Shipp was going to manhandle me, and I really didn't care for that."  Childress showed up any doubters with a game-high 10 rebounds.

Defensively, Stanford locked down on the "Big 3" of Cal, who shot a combined 10-of-39 in the game and 4-of-15 from three-point range.  Joe Shipp was the only one of the trio who produced a good game, hitting 4-of-10 from the field, but on several tough shots against tight defense.  He also tallied eight rebounds.  Brian Wethers led all Cal scorers with 16 points, but he also jacked up 42% more shots than any other player in the game.  The senior, who has yet to meet a shot and defense he didn't like, had just four points in the first half against a pestering defensive tandem of Matt Lottich and Dan Grunfeld, but resorted to taking deep shots in the second stanza.  He did hit 4-of-6 there, but missed all six field goal attempts from inside the arc.  Amit Tamir was the goat of the day, finishing with just two points on 1-of-12 shooting in a career nadir for the Israeli.  As was the gameplan, Stanford made sure to get in the 6'11" perimeter player's face to force him to put the ball on the floor and try to create his own shot.  And as planned, Tamir struggled mightily to drive and find good shots.  "Tamir didn't have the game he's capable of," said Mike Montgomery afterward.  "But you have to give a lot of credit to Justin Davis for that."  Cal head coach Ben Braun echoed the defensive praise, and admitted that once Tamir was missing early attempts, his shot selection spiraled downward.  Davis was pleased with his own effort on defense afterward: "I thought I did a great job on Tamir.  He's a great scorer and I think I held him to something like 15 points below his average."

On the flip side, Davis had his own woes offensively.  He hit just 1-for-8 from the field, scoring just three points and pulling down just two rebounds.  Both totals rank as the second worst of his season, and the shooting ranks last for the redshirt junior.  In some ways, it was a continuation of the game that Davis showed at UCLA a couple weeks ago, trying to do too much in tough situations and forcing shots.  "I noticed that," he admitted afterward when questioned.  "A couple shots tonight were bad, but there also were some times I was fouled and nothing was called." 

Foul trouble was one of the concerns that loomed over the Cardinal throughout the game, threatening to derail an otherwise solid Stanford performance.  Julius Barnes picked up two fouls in the first nine minutes of the game, and sat the remainder of the half.  Justin Davis and Nick Robinson would also receive a pair of first half fouls.  Early in the second half, Rob Little picked up two fouls within literally a few seconds of each other; his third foul came minutes later.  Davis would get his third foul early in the half, and even Josh Childress reached three fouls before five minutes had elapsed in the second half.  That put the onus on Stanford's bench, who came up big.  "Jason Haas saved our bacon once again tonight," Montgomery said.  "Every time this year when Julius has been in foul trouble, Haas has kept things steady and run the show."  The freshman point guard started off very shaky, with some trouble on clock shot awareness and a badly rushed field goal attempt.  But he quickly settled down and would hit a deep pull-up jumper just inside the three-point line that filled him and his team with confidence.  Haas finished the game with four assists and no turnovers.

Joe Kirchofer had a tremendous game, scoring three baskets on offensive putbacks and another one with his patented eight-foot hook shot.  "A lot of it was being in the right place at the right time," the modest Stanford redshirt junior allowed after the game.  "They were doubling down on Justin [Davis] and that gave me space to work."  Classmate Julius Barnes was in awe of what Kirchofer showed in the game.  "Joe with those one-handed putbacks - I've never seen that before.  We've seen that jump hook a lot, but we all kind of kid him about his vertical leaping.  I guess he showed us," said a smiling Barnes.  Even Ben Braun had praise for the eight-point performance off the bench.  "I thought Kirchofer gave them a big lift around the glass.  It seemed like every time they got an offensive rebound, it hurt us."

A big lift for the Cardinal in this game was junior Matt Lottich, who stayed out of foul trouble and hit big basket after big basket.  He nailed his first three three-point shots, and hit finished with 14 points on the game.  All of his treys came from deep, and most with a man right in his face.  It was just one of those nights that you could tell the Chicago native was 'feeling it,' and it's only a shame he didn't have more touches in the first half.  It was certainly in marked contrast to his last game against Cal, and yet another element in the role reversal between these two affairs.  To his credit, Brian Wethers played pretty


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