Friday, November 30, 2007

Women's Vball NCAA Round 1 11/30/2007

Stanford 3 Santa Clara 0 (30-22, 30-28, 30-27)To paraphrase, the road to Sacramento began tonight. Thanks to our tough wins and strength of schedule, we secured the overall #1 seed in the NCAA tournament and received a pretty good draw. If the seeds hold, we'll face UCLA in the Elite 8 and Texas in the Final 4, which is definitely better (in my mind) than USC, Washington or even Cal in the Elite 8 and Nebraska or Penn State in the Final 4. But as I mentioned previously, we need to take it one game at a time.

The first 75 students got in for free tonight although I'm not quite sure that all the tickets were used up. It was understandable though, with the final night of Gaieties coinciding with the game. Gaieties is an annual production that runs the 3 nights before Big Game. Alex is on the Board of Directors and this year, the Lopez twins were in it too although I hear that Robin didn't perform tonight, probably because of the trip to Colorado.

While we may have been the overall #1 seed in the tournament, Santa Clara is definitely not the 64th team in the nation (for volleyball, they seed the top 16 teams and then figure out other match-ups based on location). They definitely made us work in games 2 and 3. We started out the match really strongly, looking very fluid on offense and winning the long rallies with scrambling defense. It looked like we would waltz to a very comfortable victory.

In games 2 and 3 especially, we seemed to go away from Foluke. Even when Bryn received a good pass, she didn't set to Foluke in the middle, instead choosing to go to Alix or Cynthia outside. Santa Clara adjusted to this and while we still scored our fair share of points, it seemed like they managed to get some digs and touches (I might just be quibbling too much because based on the hitting percentage from box scores, we actually did a better job in 2 and 3). Sitting directly behind the players as opposed to midcourt, I was able to appreciate the amount of movement that certain serves have. I guess I'm more understanding now about serve reception, but still, it was iffy in parts and we especially struggled with #1's serve, which moved quite a bit in the air. I also noticed that Santa Clara didn't have that many service errors - one reason they were able to keep in the game.

But at the end of the day, we responded to the challenge with a monster game from Alix, who had 3 consecutive solo blocks in the 3rd to swing the close game in our favour. We face Sacramento State, who upset Minnesota earlier today, tomorrow after Big Game. 1 win down, 5 more to go (but really 1 more tomorrow and then we'll worry about the next one). As a side note, I can't believe that tomorrow will be my last Big Game as an undergraduate. Let's Beat Cal!
~ Zhihao

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Women's Basketball vs USF 11/28/2007

Stanford 96 USF 61

Having played a string of 6 games on the road, I'm sure the girls must have been happy to be back in the friendly confines of Maples for their first regular season home game. The overall turnout wasn't that great and I find it rather unfortunate that our women's team, despite consistently being one of the top teams in the nation, does not get much support from the students. That being said, the marketing team, could definitely do a better job promoting the Brickyard Club. I also shouldn't be one to talk since I will be missing most of the Pac-10 games because of my travels to the men's basketball away games.

This was the first time I'd seen us in action and it was a lot of fun even if USF wasn't that great competition. In the first half, most of our baskets came off layups, putbacks and the occasional short jumper. We would feed our posts who'd either make a strong move to the hole or hit whoever was open for an easy bucket when they were double teamed. We also made a concerted effort to push the ball whenever we got a defensive rebound and out ran USF down the floor several times for layups. Last year, one of my frustrations was free throw shooting. We've been shooting pretty well from the line this season and were 13-14 tonight! Our men's team could definitely learn from their counterparts at the charity stripe as well as passing on the fast break.

In tonight's putting contest, Maple witnessed another successful half court putt. A friend of mine who clearly learned from my ugly previous attempt, calmly slow rolled the ball straight down the middle for a cool $500. Since hardly any other students were in attendance to witness it, I'll post it as proof that it actually happened.

In the second half, we shot more jumpers. I think it was partly a concerted effort to test our outside shot rather than USF taking away our post play. We struggled from the 3 point line which judging from previous games, is going to be an issue this season. I'll fondly remember the days when we had Rap draining 3 after 3. On the whole, I was pleased with the play of our freshman. Kayla was the dominant force I had been reading about and waiting to see in action. Donaghe and Pohlen looked good and hit a 3 pointer each. Hopefully they'll develop into reliable shooters from behind the arc. The upperclassmen were solid. Jillian especially stood out - getting boards and always in the right position for a lay up.

We definitely need all the help we can get from our freshmen this year with Melanie and Michelle done for the season. Hopefully everyone else will stay healthy and this will be the season where we finally get over the Elite 8 hump.
~ Zhihao

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Men's Basketball vs Sacramento St. 11/27/2007

Stanford 84 Sacramento State 58 Even though the 6th Man Committee was giving out pizza at the door, I decided to have my pre-game dinner at the Alumni Cafe where they are serving hot meals 2 hours before tip off of selected home basketball games. Dinner was great and I was able to catch the second half of the Indiana-Georgia Tech basketball game. Not having a TV this year, I've definitely missed watching college basketball. It's probably a good thing though, since there's no way I could cope with everything I have going on if I could watch basketball on TV every night. Indiana went on a run as I finished up my meal and one thing that I noticed was that the refs allowed quite a bit of contact and didn't call cheap fouls (just like our game against Colorado State). How ironic that we got our favourite, whistle happy Pac-10 ref, Libby, for this game.

The 6th Man Section had a decent turnout for the game tonight. It wasn't fantastic but I guess my expectations have been tempered by previous games. As I mentioned in my last post, Sacramento State isn't that good. We were favoured to win by 30 and quickly showed why. Even though we weren't hitting our long range shots and missing some easy close range shots, we cleaned up on the offensive boards and got lots of put backs. We were also able to break their press with reasonable success and scored on some easy layups. That being said and it might be me being overly critical, but somehow, I never quite feel comfortable when we have numbers and are attacking the basket. Our rate of success seems lower than one would expect.

In any case, I liked our defense today. Mitch who I've definitely picked on in the past, stayed with his man and played scrappy, bothering defense. The Sac State ball handlers were really sloppy too and we recorded what I believe should be a season high 9 steals (5 by Fred). We had some great rejections too. Robin and Fred (who redeemed himself after a turnover) had two especially vicious swats that were rightfully named as "Plays of the Half". The 6'8 guy Robin was matched up against (#40) seemed intent on posting up and trying to take it to the hole. He got Robin to bite on a pump fake once for an easy bucket but Robin quickly learned and didn't leave his feet when challenging him. That led to about 4 more blocks. Who needs to jump went you're that much taller and longer? It kind of reminded me of the USC game last year when they were taking it to Brook over and over again.

Offensively, we definitely had some sloppy passes and could have ended up with several more turnovers if the ball hadn't bounced our way, but on the whole, I thought we dealt pretty reasonably with Sac State's aggressive trapping defense. We improved in the second half/they didn't press as much. Mitch made some nice dishes throughout the game. He did have one pass straight to the defender but I can live with that. We didn't shoot a great percentage from the 3 in the first but when they started zoning in the second, we showed that we could make hard passes, get people open and hit 3s. That was somewhat comforting after seeing us lob the ball around and struggle with the zone in previous games.

Robin had another solid outing. There was a play when he figured out that he had several inches over the next tallest Sac State player and made a nice hook leaning towards the basket. Yay for not fading away. Josh Owens got some minutes and had a nice fast break dunk. He's definitely a fan favourite among the 6th Man Section and everyone is excited about his potential. Goods also found his stroke tonight and was draining 3s. Let's hope it carries over to Colorado. Finally, Taj was scrappy as usual. He got boards, made put backs and ran the floor well for a nice catch and finish off a sweet Goods pass.

It's sometimes hard to tell how well we're performing when playing against an over-matched opponent. Nevertheless, I was pretty happy with the game tonight (just need to work on the free throw shooting). Let's hope we don't lose our baggage like last time against Sienna and bring our A-game against Colorado this Sunday. I'm not looking forward to the cold and potential snow, but excited about the game. We need the Pac-10 to have a good showing against the Big 12 in the Pac-10 Big 12 challenge. All these out of conference losses (even to good teams) aren't helping the Pac-10's RPI.
~ Zhihao

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Men's Basketball vs Colorado St. 11/24/2007

Stanford 73 Colorado State 53 After the miserable football game, there's nothing like watching some basketball to cheer you up. The game was never really in doubt after the first 10 minutes or so when the second team came in and incited some scrappiness and defense, but it was nice to see only 5 turnovers and Robin do well against another 7-footer (#30 Stuart Creason). Brook and Daveed got a huge kick out of Robin's 3 pointer to get us on the board and the 6th Man Section loved his tenacious defense which included a couple of nasty swats of Stuart.

Speaking of Stuart, he apparently played on a 4th grade YMCA basketball team with a guy in the 6th Man Section. They exchanged greetings during warmups and Stuart told him that his dad, who coached the team, was behind the visitor's bench. 6th Man guy promptly went to say hi to his former coach and they had an extended chat. Meanwhile, we talked to Stuart and found out that he wore New Balance instead of Nikes because he had surgery on both his feet (which might explain why he was pretty slow) and New Balance provided greater support. He also said he wished he remembered 6th Man guy's name but definitely recognised him from elementary school. Seemed like a nice kid.

Back to the game, it was nice to see one where the referees weren't calling every single touch foul or bump as Pac-10 referees like to do. They might have slightly favoured Colorado State in the latter stages but that was only after the game was a blow out. In the opening few minutes, they were pretty consistent with the non-calls. I'm sure if Pac-10 refs were calling the game, Robin would have picked up some early fouls for his aggressive defense.

It also seems like we are going to be a team that lives and dies with the 3, especially when teams zone us and double Robin as Colorado State did. Even on fastbreaks, Goods was pulling up for 3 pointers instead of driving to the hole. He did break out of his slump but was still only 3-9 from 3 point land. We took less 3s in the second half, and I guess it's fine when we're hitting them, but there are days (especially on the road) when we won't and give up transition baskets off long rebounds. I also feel that we utilise the pull up jumper on fast breaks too much. Sure, there are times when the defender is clearly backing off but there are other times when the pass and maybe pass back results in an easy bucket. Finally, it seems to me that we'll always have trouble guarding the opposing point guard. #43 was quicker and stronger than Mitch and blew by him with ease. I was surprised that Colorado State didn't isolate him, let him create off the dribble and kick to open shooters when we collapsed. That's going to be our weak link come Pac-10 play and hopefully we have some sort of defensive scheme in mind.

At the end of the day, it was a win against a not very good team. But hey, I'll take it especially after the football debacle. There were also several entertaining moments like when Prowitt air-balled the ugliest looking free throw I've ever seen and neither the 6th Man Section nor Coach Robinson could contain their laughter; or when someone in the 6th Man Section started heckling Colorado State's #22 during a dead ball situation in the silent arena, causing several Colorado State players to laugh and promptly allow Taj to get the inbounds pass under the basket for an easy lay up; or when Taj had a crazy inadvertent tip of Drew Shiller's 2nd missed free throw (come on Drew, you got to make those).

Sacramento State on Tuesday should be another easy win and then it's off to Colorado for the Big 12 challenge, against a team that is probably better than people initially thought. They have Air Force's old coach who might run some version of the Princeton Offense that we've struggled with in the past. It'll be a good challenge and one that we need to overcome if we expect to compete on the road.
~ Zhihao

Football vs Notre Dame 11/24/2007

Stanford 14 Notre Dame 21 Wow, what a frustrating game. I feel bad for TC. It was finally his chance to shine and he made two perfect throws in crunch time while nursing a hand injury. His receivers let him down. End of story. The defense missed some tackles but they did force 4 turnovers and numerous punts, and were on the field way too long, oftentimes in bad field position. Derek didn't warm up well and missed 4 field goals. I know he's been hurt and has struggled recently. Should another kicker (Zagory) have been dressed?

What made the loss even worse was that it was on ESPN. So much for the recruiting image that the USC win helped restore. There were also numerous recruits in the stands. I found it amusing that the volleyball girls had to sit with them. I was also pretty impressed with the Notre Dame crowd. They showed up in full force despite a terrible season (although maybe they felt they had a shot at this game) and were extremely loud. It definitely felt as if they outnumbered us.

Even though we should have sent the game into OT and made a few more of our field goals, it's debatable whether we really deserved to win the game. Maybe our defense did but we definitely dodged a bullet with the hail mary interception turned The Play II, thanks to a personal foul and it really looked like the TD that was reversed was good, although I guess they had a better view from the replay. In any case, Moore and especially Sherman who cost us another 7 points with his drop turned interception in the 1st quarter, should have made their catches in the end zone. We might not necessarily have won it in OT and ESPN would have probably switched to the Kansas vs Missouri game, but that's would a halfway decent offense would have done.

With the injuries that our O Line sustained (Mattran and Fletch) and how our whole team has played, I'm not too optimistic about Big Game. Fletch looked like he could have come back so he might be probable but Mattran didn't look too good. I also don't know what the deal with Tavita is. TC did look good out there today, standing in the pocket and making a quick throw before the one blitz that they threw at him came (and then hurting his hand). At least Cal isn't looking that hot either. Good thing I have the basketball game tonight to look forward to.
~ Zhihao

Friday, November 23, 2007

Women's Soccer vs UConn 11/23/2007

Stanford 0 UConn 2
Initially I had planned to fly back from home Friday morning with the intention of watching the final regular season volleyball game of the year against Cal, but then the soccer team beat Cal and had their game scheduled for the exact same time on the exact same day. Since Zhihao said he’d rather go to volleyball, I went to soccer. Unfortunately, we did not play our best and UConn came in with a strategy to shut us down and a brick wall named Stephanie Labbe(#0 GK).

I was surprised at the large turnout for the game considering that it was the day after Thanksgiving, but at the same time soccer is one of those sports (like volleyball and softball) that is a good draw with the local girls’ soccer leagues and their parents. The student presence was negligible, but I think the announced crowd was in the 1500s which is fairly close to selling out LCQ.

In the first half, I was sure that we would get a tough, but comfortable, victory. We controlled possession and outplayed UConn throughout the half and basically were in control of the game. It was a little sloppy, but Buehler, Kirby, and Marissa were controlling the back line as usual and not letting much through. #11 on UConn (MF Megan Schnur) was the only player who consistently gave us trouble as she seemed to almost be toying with and then blowing by April Wall on the right side of our D at will (foreshadowing). They got a couple of chances in the first half this way, but Buehler was around to clean up the mess. We had 3 great shots, but each time the keeper would punch it over the bar. Out of all of the goalies I’ve seen this year, she was the most confident and steady in the box. All crosses were snuffed out, and it seemed like it was going to take something extraordinary to beat her. UConn’s strategy seemed to be to sag back a little up top and keep Press, Riley, O’Hara, etc. from getting the ball and making the runs that they usually make. Then they would counter attack off of that and use their speed on the wings to try and make plays from there. #3 and #11 had some serious speed and today was the first time I could remember someone being able to outrun Marisa for balls on the left side.

UConn got their first goal about 5 min into the 2nd half off of a counterattack headed by #11 down their left side(our right). She got by April pretty easily and when Buehler came over to help, someone else made a run right down the middle and it was an easy finish. For some reason, everything we had been doing went to hell after that goal even though there were still 35 minutes left, and we were only down by one goal. We immediately lost our composure and seemed to be in a hurry. Instead of trying any build up, we resorted to long passes up field from the back; however, this didn’t work because of UConn sitting back to prevent that specific thing. We had no flow to our offense after that first goal, and after the second UConn score, the writing was on the wall.

I was sitting in front of a couple of ladies who had played college soccer recently, one I believe for Stanford (or she was really good friends with the team) and the other from Northwestern. From listening to them, they were impressed with UConn’s #11 and their keeper as well. They also felt like Press was not in the game. She never really seemed to impose herself on the game like I’ve seen her do before. They wondered why Ratcliffe never subbed Lizzy for Christen like he’s done before. My only guess can be that once we got down two goals, we needed Christen’s ability to make something from nothing more than Lizzy’s steady, physicality, but I definitely would have given her a chance earlier in the game. (Sidenote: My favorite Lizzy story is hearing her tell a story about how she broke her HS boyfriend’s nose in front of his friends after hearing that he cheated on her. Apparently she throws a mean right.) One last thing that they kept coming back to was our inability to string anything together offensively. We had bad first touches, passes to no one in particular, and missed passes. Surprisingly we seemed far less composed than we should have been. Our attack never really got untracked, and the difference in the game was their ability to counterattack on the wings and convert the couple of chances they got. All in all in was a good year, but I’d bet that the girls are a little more than pissed that it ended the way they did. We played nowhere near our best and UConn came out, executed, and took advantage of the chances they were given.

Women's Vball vs Cal 11/23/2007

Stanford 3 Cal 2 (30-32, 30-19, 23-30, 30-22, 16-14) With the women's soccer Sweet 16 match against U Conn and the volleyball game both at the same time, Albert decided to go for soccer and I chose volleyball. While soccer was more important, I kind of liked being indoors and it's always fun to go up against Cal, especially with the out-right Pac-10 title and a #1 seed on the line. It was also senior night for Bryn and Franci.

The turnout for the game was tremendous and I saw a couple of signs that said "Will you marry me #10 (Alix)" and "I love you #8 (Cassidy)". They screened a little tribute for the seniors, who were accompanied by their parents onto the court where they received their fair share of hugs from team mates and coaches. Franci was holding back tears and I laughed when they announced that she would be working for Goldman in New York after graduation. That's what a Stanford education gets you! There were also numerous Cal fans (who ruined the national anthem, as usual) in attendance. I thought it was classy that Coach Dunning gave their two seniors flowers as well.

We started slow out of the gate in Game 1 but got it together and managed to get out to a nice 4-5 point lead. With the team playing on the road and our travels to Chicago and Albany for basketball, it's been a while since I last saw us play in person. I noticed that Gabi wasn't serving and Cassidy had entered our main rotation, with Jessica coming in for Alix occasionally. Cassidy had some shaky moments today but I'm all for it, although I have to say that tonight, Jessica was really solid whenever she came in.

I had been selected to do the full court putt for $1000 (which I missed terribly - trying to aim left in order to compensate for the floor which I thought ran right, but ending up pulling it left) in between Games 1 and 2, and so moved out of the Block Party section to the holding area. That was when we started to collapse. Up 28-22, we ended up losing 30-32 thanks to some terrible serve reception and not so great sets. It was reminiscent of Cal's collapse when we played them in Berkeley.

As Albert who joined me after the soccer game commented, how far we go in the NCAAs is dependent on how we receive serves. He's spot on. In the games that we won (2, 4 and 5), we did a pretty good job. In the ones that we lost, we were terrible, and had great trouble with Cal's float serves. The serve mishandlings also came in streaks, which was especially disheartening as it seemed more mental than anything else. There were also times when the timing was off between Bryn and the attacker or she simply made a bad set. She's absolutely crucial to our team's success. Finally, Alix and Franci had some attack errors. When they get one on one opportunities (as they are likely to have with Foluke and Barboza getting a lot of attention), they simply have to put them away.

Defensively, we couldn't stop Hana on the left side even though we knew the ball was going there. It's definitely a testament to how good she is. Even when we managed to get touches on the block, the ferocity of her shots carried them out of our back row's reach. We did a pretty good job on Pressey who whined way too much about phantom touches, and I liked our scrambling defense which won a few points due to sheer hustle. Even though we didn't record a ton of blocks, we managed to get useful touches on everyone but Hana, and Franci had a great night blocking.

Negatives aside, I loved our team's composure. Down 1-2, I knew that the game was far from over. Erin stepped up big time (something she'll have to do in the NCAAs) and Foluke and Cynthia were solid as usual - getting us kills that were absolutely crucial in preventing Cal from gaining the momentum. Alix had a couple of beautiful finesse kills which showed off her touch and court vision too. We also had quite a bit of success with back row kills which speaks to the quality of our hitters. As I mentioned previously, Jessica did a great job when she subbed in for Alix. I remember her coming in at a critical juncture of the 5th game after sitting out the 4th (I believe) and thinking to myself that Dunning had a lot of faith in her. I've been pretty critical of her previously but tonight, I can't remember a single bad pass.

In the end, with the score knotted at 2-2 and Game 5 going back and forth in dramatic fashion, it came down to which team had the stronger nerves and performed better in the clutch. Down 13-14 (match point), Cynthia made a nice pass in a slightly awkward position, Bryn set it right on the money, and Alix took care of the one-on-one opportunity. Alix then came up with two nice jump serves that took Cal slightly out of position for the set and we were able to dig the first one for a Cynthia kill and block the second one for the match. What a win! Full credit to Cal for a terrific match. They'll be a tough team to beat in the tournament.

Now that we've won the Pac-10 and have a #1 seed, we need to take it one game at a time in Maples. And then hopefully, two road trips to Sacramento will be in the offering.
~ Zhihao

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Men's Basketball vs Yale 11/20/2007

Stanford 72 Yale 61

While the East Coast was fun, it's great to be back in sunny California. With Stanford giving us the whole week off for Thanksgiving break, there weren't that many students on campus. I would guess that we had just over 100 people in the 6th Man Section, many who were alums. The first thing I noticed upon entering Maples is that we now have banners for men's and women's basketball as well as women's volleyball, listing NCAA Titles, Pac-10 Titles and for men's basketball, a NIT championship. NIT. Seriously? I sure hope we won't be adding anything in that department. Monty was also doing commentary for FSN.

One thing I noticed is that our shooting during warm ups at home versus at Siena was like night and day. But enough about that game and on to this one. We started out pretty well and there was a concerted effort to push the ball. Mitch made a couple of nice passes down the court and we scored some easy buckets. I definitely see the emphasis on making high risk/high reward passes in transition. It sure looks good when we execute. I also saw an increased effort to feed Robin the ball. It would be nice if he could get better position (and win an opening tip) but his passing out of double teams has definitely improved and he was a monster on defense. Getting him into the game with touches is key to our success. I was also happy to see Kenny Brown come in early. I thought he earned it after his performance at Siena where he was the only one who shot the ball and attacked well in the 2nd half.

There was a point midway in the first when Mitch fell awkwardly. He was grimacing as he got up and I don't know whether I started to pay more attention to him on defense thereafter, but he was absolutely abused by the opposing point guard. He lost him on screens and was taken off the dribble repeatedly. The good thing was that he didn't let it affect him on offense and I thought he ran the team well. The turnovers at the end of the half really frustrated me, especially the one with 8 seconds left, after a time out when they full court pressed us. We had a similar turnover at Siena and it seems that we have much more difficulty inbounding the ball this year - no matter whose basket we are under. Maybe teams are defending us more aggressively after seeing us crumble against Louisville last year.

In the second half, we turned the ball over way too much (I know I sound like a broken tape recorder). Mitch and later Drew, lost their guy too often and Yale starting bombing 3s - a sound strategy with Robin patrolling the paint. They closed the gap to 3 which finally got the 6th Man section into the game. They also played a zone trap near the sidelines which we struggled with the first few times before finally adjusting. Maybe once, just once, we should call a time-out. The good news was that we finally started to feed Law in the post. It's about time especially since I recall him having great success in the post last year. After a few nice baseline moves that resulted in easy buckets and trips to the foul line, he started to catch fire and was our zone buster, hitting his patented high release jumper as he flashed to the high post. It's good to see Law finally break out of his funk, when it was evident that his ankle is still bothering him. It was timely too with Goods falling into one. He was yanked rather early in the 2nd after some turnovers and a blown fast break opportunity.

With Fred in foul trouble, we also tried a line up that I don't think I've seen before: Mitch, Drew, Landry, Law, Robin. I liked it offensively and I think it worked defensively because Yale was jacking up 3s and not really challenging us inside (but I could be wrong). Towards the end, we became overly sloppy and passed straight to a Yale defender several times. The game was pretty much over but it irked me and Law, who was visibly frustrated with himself after 2 straight turnovers.

Even though we didn't blow Yale out as everyone expected us to, I was happy with certain aspects of our play. I liked how we fed both Robin and Law in the post and also how we played against the zone. Hopefully we can continue doing this, especially on the road. Mitch's play on offense was also reassuring. He looked good out there. Hopefully the foot thing isn't serious and was part of the reason why his defense was curtailed today. I know he'll never be a defensive stopper but he should at least be able to fight through screens. We also did a decent job getting to the free throw line and making them. I'll take 8 of 10 from Robin any time! Obviously, we need to make smarter decisions passing the ball, but I'm praying that it will come with time.
~ Zhihao

It was clear two minutes into the game that this was not going to be another Harvard or Northwestern State. For one thing, Yale is much bigger, and they actually look like college students (although whether they looked like basketball players is debatable). Man it would be nice to win an opening tip. Robin is so much massively bigger than their guy, but he's just not anywhere near as physical as Rob Little was. And he's still working on timing. Fortunately he made up for it two possessions later, waiting for his defenders to come down before putting the ball up and into the basket.

The entire first half was really nothing special. Fortunately we were able to build a 9-11 point lead and keep it, but no-one was particularly glowing in their play. There were constant substitutions, trying to find a rhythm but then committing a turnover or not capitalizing on opportunities and then changing it up again.

The second half turned into a real basketball game, which I think was a good experience for the team to have had. Coming into the half with a steady but not great lead, I think Yale showed the guys that they really have to shape up if they want the W. They went on an 11 point run, featuring three threes from three different players. Like Zhihao said, the whole stadium (and especially 6th man) really got into it when we were suddenly down by only 3 points, and the team ramped it up too, with four straight points from Hill, who came up with 14 points in the last 14 minutes of the game for a total career high 25... it was excellent to see Hill back to his normal, quiet but deadly scoring self. As ugly as that win may have been, I'll take career highs from Hill and Robin any day. Let's go do it again.

#22. Eric Flato. What a little brat. He's just one of those players you don't want to succeed because he's so damn sure of himself. Mitch had a lot of trouble defending him, and eventually Shiller came out and was doing really well for a few minutes, before slipping a couple times in a row, long enough for Flato to get his hotshot (and hot shot) rhythm. The sad thing was that since Drew was defending their best player, he couldn't really get a shot off. The only moment in the game when he was open he went for it and swoooosh. It was beautiful.

I also liked the Drew Mitch Landry Law and Robin line up, which gave us a ton of flexibility on offense and a quick enough defense. I found Yale to be fairly predictable- if they couldn't find the open three they'd go for the pull-up and fade away, which Law did a pretty good job of defending (they found it a lot more often in the first half when he was not as productive). I suppose that also implies that our defense on the inside was fairly successful, as they very rarely took it to the basket (Robin's five blocks helped a lot on that count), although when they did it was pretty embarrassing. It ended up being not a bad game, all in all, and I'm really glad the guys stuck it out and adjusted when they needed to. On to Saturday!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Men's Basketball @ Siena 11/17/2007

Stanford 67 Siena 79 After spending the day walking around the Northwestern campus, I caught the last flight out of Chicago to Albany on Friday night. Albert had left bright and early on the first flight out and was waiting for me in the cheap motel we had found on the net. The room was surprisingly nice and size wise, comparable with the lower end hotels I've stayed at in Vegas.

We watched the women's volleyball gamecast against Arizona State and kept track of the first round NCAA women's soccer blow out of Sacramento State, where goals were reportedly scored in the 0th minutes of each half. Our men's water polo team also had a clutch win in double OT against #1 ranked Cal. If the Gauntlet challenge against Cal was still on this year, it wouldn't even be close. We also watched the exciting Nevada vs. Hawaii football game which Hawaii managed to win with a dramatic 42 yard field goal with less than 20 seconds left to remain unbeaten and keep their BCS bowl chances alive.

On Saturday morning, I placed my first insurance bet of the basketball season, wagering $25 (+320) on Siena with an $80 payout. It seemed like a good bet but one that I would be more than happy to lose. The first thing that came on when I turned on the TV was something about "The Play" against Cal. Definitely not a good sign. We took the bus to the Times Union Center (where Albany plays all its home games) and met up with the "Court Jester" of the Bootleg forums who kindly agreed to store my luggage in his trunk during the game. Our seats were pretty sweet - 3 rows behind the bench. We saw one of our recruits/signees for next year, Jarrett Mann sitting close by. I also spotted several Taj Finger #31 jerseys in the crowd (he's from around the area). Law participated in the usual warm ups, but as Albert commented, looked like he didn't have a lot of lift on his shot.

Siena introduced it's players to much fan fare. Their stadium went dark and they played a clip from the NCAA tournament game where they upset us 80-78. Law started the game well on offense, hitting quite a few buckets. He seemed a step slow on defense but thankfully, they didn't attack him that much. Anthony, on the other hand, struggled with his shot and picked up an early second foul on a bad reach. He was replaced by Landry who struggled even more, rushing things on offense and failing to make the extra pass. Unsurprisingly, we struggled with turnovers but were lucky that Siena didn't fully capitalise. Offensive rebounding kept us in the game and we were lucky to escape only down 2 after shooting 36% in the first half. It looks like teams are going to zone us and if we struggle to shoot well on the road and can't penetrate without looking like a turnover waiting to happen, we'll be in trouble.

Coming out in the 2nd, Law scored our opening bucket but Siena made the right adjustment of attacking him on defense, forcing Trent to take him out for what turned out to be the rest of the game. The game was back and forth for a little bit thanks to Siena's poor free throw shooting but then, just like the game against Northwestern, there was a stretch where we couldn't score, turned over the ball too much (some of it unforced) and allowed three straight 3 pointers, two of them when Robin didn't step out to close in on his man who had shown the ability to shoot 3s. We couldn't score on offense, or get a stop on defense, and with the home crowd roaring, just crumbled.

We tried to fight back with our all shooters lineup, but the margin was too big. Siena's students targeted the overrated chant towards the "younger" alumni sitting in the lower level corner (the older/more connected alums were with us in the better seats) and rushed the court when the buzzer sounded. It was their first win over a top 25 team in the building and they were clearly overjoyed as they streamed out of the arena to the waiting buses which probably took them from campus. We met up with the Jester and his brother, Arizona alum and newly minted Siena fan, and headed to the local sports bar Jillian's, which was a pretty impressive establishment.

I can't say that I was shocked that we lost. Siena's a good team, it was an early tip off on the East Coast and as Albert commented, Law gives our offense an added dimension that Landry doesn't, just by virtue of being on the floor. Robin still has a ways to go and if Goods isn't feeling it, our offense doesn't generate any easy buckets against a zone, especially with our shaky ball handles. Rushing our shots isn't a solution either. Hopefully going back home will allow Law to get healthy and some easy (hopefully) wins will get us back on track before the next road game against Colorado. We also need to figure out a game plan when our shots aren't falling and the opposing team zones us with impunity.

I'm spending a day in New York before heading back to Stanford on Sunday while Albert is heading home for Thanksgiving. We have what should be a promising week of sports ahead with basketball games against Yale & Colorado State, a football game against Notre Dame and a women's volleyball game against Cal which would clinch the Pac-10 title for us. Even though we lost, this road trip has been a blast.
~ Zhihao

Friday, November 16, 2007

Men's Basketball @ Northwestern 11/15/2007

Stanford 71 Northwestern 60I got in on Wednesday night (Albert got in Thursday afternoon) and had the whole day to kill before our 8pm tip off on Thursday. It was my first time in Chicago and so I decide to roam around the city. Places of note were the Sears Tower, Chicago Stock Exchange, United Center (home of the Chicago Bulls) and University of Illinois-Chicago. It was a lot of fun exploring Chicago and while it was cold and windy, not as bad as I had expected.

After a pretty exhausting day which involved lots of walking, I ended up on the same train as Albert. We were staying with the sister of a friend from Stanford, who was kind enough to put us up and bear with our obnoxious Stanford apparel (to be fair, besides my 6th man and Brickyard shirts, I own only 1 other long sleeved non-collared shirt).

Thanks to the Bootleg forums, we found a place to get our pre-game dinner (Albert hadn't eaten since breakfast before his 7am flight). The Blue Stone was a bar the size of the former Old Pro on El Camino and we managed to get a pretty reasonably priced dinner. There was a sizable contingent of Stanford fans at the place. This would be a common trend that continued at the game. If I had to guess, I'd say that there had to be over 200 Stanford fans in attendance (including our Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby himself).

We arrived at will call about an hour before tip off, grateful that Andrew Stein (Head of the 6th Man Committee) managed to secure two tickets for us. He's confirmed that we have tickets for the Siena game and hopefully they can keep on coming! The seats were pretty good (front row corner of the second tier), especially in contrast to the Northwestern student section who were right behind the basket. I'm glad that we have such prime position in Maples. I picked up one of the student section handouts and there was a buy one large pizza get one free promotion that lasted till the next home game (Saturday) if Northwestern won.

Fan started trickling in closer to tip-off but it was not a very well attended game. I thought the Stanford fan showing was pretty impressive and it does make sense that lots of alumni settle in the Chicago area or have ties to Northwestern, another premier educational institute. One alum who sat in front of us during the scrimmage a month back recognised us and said hi.

The game started out with us taking a lot of 3s as Northwestern played zone. We we were decently open for most of them and made a couple thanks to lucky bounces, but it would have been nice to see us attack the basket and throw it into Robin who had at least 4 inches on the tallest Northwestern player. I think one telling stat of how we settled for 3s too much was that we didn't shoot a single foul shot in the first half and of our first 19 points, 5 were 3s. On defense, we got burned a couple of times on cuts and could have done a better job pressuring the passer and getting our hands in the passing lanes. We were bailed out of a couple of times thanks to our recovering defense and missed layups. Robin had several monster blocks, one nice alley-oop throw down and seemed to get the ball more as the half progressed. He was a real stud and I don't think we could have won the game without his inside presence. Mitch also had one nice drive to the hoop for a lay-up. Last year, defenders used to play him for the pass whenever he penetrated and it's nice to see him take it to the hole and pull up for jumpers this year.

We finally made it to the foul line in the second half and it looked like we would pull away when a disastrous span of about 4 minutes hit when I began to worry that we'd lose the game. I don't know the exact terminology but Northwestern played an aggressive trapping zone that we countered by not attacking or throwing the ball inside. We must have turned the ball over 4 times in 5 possessions. After Northwestern tied it, Goods finally started being more aggressive and driving (one aspect of his game that has improved). Landry hit some key 3 pointers and had a good offensive showing, save a couple of turnovers and quick shots, which are expected when you have an offensive minded shooter like him (I'd like to see him make his free throws though). We also went inside to Robin and finally put the game away as he went 4-6 from the free throw lines to chants of "Where's your brother?" from the Northwestern student section. They also started an overrated chant which I thought is only used when your team is winning.

As we were leaving, I overheard a Northwestern fan say, "They won because we aren't a very good team". That was true to some extent. Northwestern didn't shoot free throws particularly well or make some layups and were without their star player. We also turned the ball over way too much against their defense and should have capitalised more on our size advantage. At the end of the day though, the season is still young and this was our first game on the road. A win is a win and there were positives. Siena will be a challenge, especially after seeing how they played against Syracuse. Hopefully Lawrence who sprained his ankle but looked much better afterwards, even though he didn't re-enter the game, will be fine. He hasn't looked like his old self this season but I'm sure he'll work hard and break out of his funk. In any case, I'm off to Albany!
~ Zhihao

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Men's Basketball vs UCSB 11/11/2007

Stanford 67 UCSB 48

Many people felt that UCSB would be our first real challenge of the season. Picked to win their conference and coming off a tournament berth, their pressuring defense would test, in Trent Johnson's own words, our Achilles heel. With this possibly being our biggest non-conference home game of the season, I hoped for a good turn out, especially with the game being televised.

I got to Maples early and managed to make the tip off of the Harvard-Northwestern State game which wasn't very well attended save the Jeremy Lin fan club. Northwestern State was absolutely terrible, turning over the ball 6 times in the first 5 minutes and letting Harvard make lay up after lay up. Harvard won by 30 and Jeremy had a good game with something like 17 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. He also made some nice dishes running the fast break.

Students started trickling in with about half and hour till tip off. It wasn't a great turnout for a Sunday 3pm game and I really wonder what will happen after the Class of 08, which took up most of the front row, graduates. Hopefully the freshmen will get into it, or people will start jumping on the bandwagon, but I'm not very optimistic at the moment for the "Greatest Students Fan Section in the Country". Hopefully I'll be proven wrong.

Thankfully, those of us who did show up realised that it wouldn't be another cupcake victory and really got into the game. It was nice playing a decent team and having to watch us fight on both defense and offense. Goods went off in the first half, hitting 3s and driving aggressively to the hole as the Gauchos overplayed us on the perimeter. At one point, it was Goods 20, UCSB 20. I also thought we did a great job defensively and forced UCSB into many tough shots and reasonably containined their star player Alex Harris. Our main weakness was free throw shooting. We just can't afford to leave points at the charity stripe like that.

The half time show was pretty entertaining with a karate performance that involved one kid doing a back-flip kick of an apple off the edge of a sword. Phil Helmuth also dropped by to chat with the TV commentators. Some students with a dry erase board (brilliant idea) asked him for one of his bracelets and whether he wanted to play poker after the game.

We started the second half slow especially with the refs swallowing their whistles when there was contact but still played solid defense. Mitch promptly hit a 3 (now whenever he shoots an open 3, I expect it to go in) and connected with Robin for a sweet alley-oop that got the crowd pumped up. He did have a couple of bad passes when he got too excited and tried to hit Fred on the far end, but I love how he's worked on his shot.

In response to the pressure that UCSB brought, Fred handled the ball quite a bit when Mitch was out and Shiller was on the floor, and did a pretty good job. Drew did ok too, except for that one pass that sailed over Prowitt's head. On defense, Fred did a great job on Alex Harris. He made him work hard for his points and it seemed that most of Alex's points were scored when other players switched on him. Hopefully, Fred can be our defensive stopper.

Turnovers were still a problem and as mentioned above, free throws were horrendous. One other thing that Albert pointed out was that we never call a 30 second time-out whenever we are double teamed and absolutely trapped. It happened a couple of times during the game and nothing good usually came out of it.

In the end, it was a solid win over a good team. Sure there's still stuff to work on but we met the challenge and this bodes well for the season. I guess our next blog entries will be from Chicago and Albany. Come say hi if you see us there! Also, I'm still looking for somewhere to store my luggage during the Siena game since our room is only booked for Friday night.

~ Zhihao

That we were going for three consecutive wins (exhibition excluded) for the first time since 03-04, and were riding the wave of 104 points a game into the final, and hardly ANYONE showed up in the student section was rather depressing. Do students really have better things to do on Sunday afternoons? Absolutely not. It was easy to forget about the crowd, however, when the game got off to something other than a 10 point lead. My heart started racing a little faster when they pulled it to 3, and then 1, and then suddenly we actually had a game to play.

The play of the tournament in my mind will forever be Mitch's pass to Robin for the alley-oop... he was flying through the air for the dunk. It was gorgeous.

Watching Mitch at half-court had me thinking that he really is a point-guard. Of course we have pac-10 PGs to worry about, but in the meantime his ball handling vs. Shiller's or Fred's shows a marked difference. He had one absolutely beautiful three, as well, as did Landry. Our free throw shooting was horrendous tonight- it amazes me that we're still over 50%. Thanks to Shiller for hitting all six of his (his only points of the game after two big nights out). Fred looked so exhausted at the end as he missed the first, made the second, missed the third, made the fourth, made three in a row and then missed the last.

I love the depth on our team. While Brook coming back will make a difference, I feel like I've started to invest in the guys who've been on the court all weekend, and in what they can do. I'm glad I'll be around for the games on the 20th and 24th, although I'm missing the trip to Chicago and Albany. The question is how can I get big ten network tv to my house in Palo Alto... :-)

Til the 20th,

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Men's Bball vs Northwestern St 11/10/2007

Stanford 97 Northwestern St. 58

It was a rather strange day for the Cardinalmaniacs™ with a Billy Joel concert, the football game going on right till tip off and a date. Albert was watching the football game and got there right at tip off, Alex was at the concert and I was on a date. We were thus unable to claim our usual spot of front row center although I managed to catch the first 10 minutes of the UCSB vs Harvard game from courtside seats. My main motivation was to sweat UCSB and urge them to cover the 16.5 spread (which they did with an 18 point win) but to also see how they looked against the team that we annihilated. The first 10 minutes was pretty ugly with lots of turnovers and missed shots. UCSB didn't really implement their press either - probably saving their energy for tomorrow. From what I saw, we should win if we take care of the ball and play with the same level of intensity as we've shown.

In any case, I couldn't hang around to see the outcome of my wager because I had to go for dinner. I had been set up on one of those Stanford blind dates known as "Screw Your Sib" where your friends set you up with someone. When I realised that it would coincide with the Northwestern State game, I panicked, but fortunately managed to convince my cool date (who was a good sport about everything) and another couple to eschew the traditional dance and do an early dinner followed by the basketball game. Whew!

We raced through dinner and managed to get to Maples about 15 minutes before tip-off. I've been told that the turnout for the Harvard game was actually pretty good, considering that our band wasn't in attendance. I guess I use our exhibition game last year against the University of British Columbia (I believe) on a Sunday which had the whole 6th Man Section rocking as my non-conference schedule benchmark. In any case, tonight's attendance was low and we managed to get some front row center standing area for our dates.

Well, enough about my sports oriented personal life and onto the game. It was amusing to see Robin face up against one of the shorter NW St. players for the tip off and I guess that basically summed up the first half. We had a lot of size and they didn't. We hit shots and they struggled against our defense. We started off well with Mitch really lighting it up. There was one play in the first half where he was semi-open and elected to shoot instead of passing it to Goods who was probably more open. Even though he missed and I'd normally want to see the extra pass, he earned that shot with his earlier performance and it underscored his confidence, which is great to see.

It was a solid performance all around although I feel that we could have done a better job on the boards, especially with our size advantage. We could have also made better decisions with the ball. Not to single him out, but Landry needs to work on defense. During half time, a friend who broadcasts for KZSU invited me to go on air for a minute or so to talk about the blog and our grand plans for senior year. It was pretty cool.

Completely unrelated, but it was great seeing USC lose to Mercer. I didn't see the game but the lack of defense and OJ Mayo's Kobe wannabe look and line of 32 points, 4 assist, 8 TOS & 27 shots gives me hope that the team will self destruct. It was their first game against any sort of opponent (don't know why Floyd didn't schedule an exhibition) and they'll probably be good come tournament time, but I can always dream.

Another game, another blow out. It's good that we're not playing to the level of our opposition as we might have last year and that our bench is getting a lot of minutes. The level of play did go down during the last 10 minutes but you can't really complain about a 39 point win. Bring on the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos!

~ Zhihao

Friday, November 9, 2007

Men's Basketball vs Harvard 11/9/2007

Stanford 111 Harvard 56

And so it begins - the first regular season game of our 2007-2008 basketball schedule. With a spread of 24.5 points, it was more like another exhibition game, but hey, cupcakes still count towards your overall record and it would be nice if we improved on our ball handling and defense.

As part of the Basketball Travellers Classic, there was an early game between UC Santa Barbara and Northwestern State. They let the handful of 6th Man fans who showed up early into the student section and we caused some mayhem rooting for the underdog (Northwestern State). In one rather comical moment, we started the end of half count down prematurely and "forced" UCSB into an early shot which was compounded by a defensive foul on the boards. Northwestern State was unfortunately unable to capitalise, as they missed both free throws but we had the satisfaction of a UCSB player looking at the 7 seconds remaining in the half and turning towards our small group with a bewildered and later amused look as we "apologised" for screwing up the countdown.

The teams looked pretty sloppy in the first half but they did play pretty aggressive defense, pressuring the ball holder and causing turnovers. Northwestern State will get us geared up for that style of play tomorrow and UCSB will be a great test on our main weakness. Watching both teams play, we should be able to beat them, but that was what we thought about Air Force last year after seeing them eke out a sloppy win against Long Beach State. We all know how that turned out (losing by 34 at home), and given our non-conference strength of schedule, every game (especially at home) is crucial.

I was excited that I managed to get a couple of friends who had never been to a basketball game in their 4 years at Stanford extra 6th man shirts. Anything to help us fill up the 6th man section which was again not filled to the brim. This time the culprit might have been special dinners, but seriously guys, we're supposed to have a good team this year and what better thing could you be doing at 7pm on a Friday night?

In any case, we tore through Harvard with relative ease. Our shooters were on and we had a huge size advantage which allowed us to dominate the boards. Law got in foul trouble early but we didn't need him at all especially with Goods on fire. Shiller hit a bunch of 3's which was nice to see but struggled handling the ball. If only he was taller and better defensively so that he could play the 2. Mitch made all 3 of his shots and I liked his confidence in taking them. Taj dominated the boards with his scrappy play and Owens showed some nice post moves and rebounds, but missed a breakaway dunk which I'm sure he'll be hearing a lot about from the guys. We willed Robin to take it strong to the hole instead of shooting those fadeaways and he did once or twice. Landry was good on the boards but forced some shots and turned the ball over several times. We did foul a lot and quite a few were because we did not get into good defensive position as Harvard drove on us. Hopefully we can work on minimising those and the turnovers due to careless plays. It'll definitely come to bite us against better teams.

Of note on Harvard's team was Jeremy Lin, former Palo Alto High star who led his high school to a huge win over perennial powerhouse Mater Dei back in the day. He had his own fan club who wore "The Jeremy Lin Show" T-shirts. Unfortunately for him, he was held scoreless and had the indignity of fouling out. The 6th Man section also rode him pretty hard throughout the game. I guess he has two more bites at the apple tomorrow and on Sunday.

A celebrity I noticed sitting courtside in Jerry Yang's usual seats was 11 time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Helmuth and his wife. I recall reading somewhere that she is a psychiatrist at the Stanford hospital and know that he has been to games in the past. A couple of 6th Man members got his autograph during half time, which I'm sure pleased him. I wonder if he had any money riding on the game and if he'll be at more games this season. If I had to guess, I'd say no and yes, just because even though he is a degenerate gambler, I don't think he does sports betting. I also expect him to be around more, especially if we have a good season.

All in all, a fun game to start off the season. Even though Harvard probably couldn't hang with Concordia, they gave us the opportunity to try the 2x + 4 where x is your score (106-51) volleyball taunt (even though it didn't quite take off) and practice the "Safety School" chant. We also cracked 100 for the first time since I've been here and my first-time friends had a blast. Hopefully, the fun has only just begun.

~ Zhihao

What fun it is to rout a team. Harvard in particular. I did feel pretty bad for Jeremy Lin, but no points and five fouls was edging on the ridiculous side. It was really nice to see Drew and Anthony hit 4 of 5 and 5 of 6 from deep, respectively. Every time I see Josh Owens on the court I think he's really going to show us something, and 12 points in 19 minutes wasn't a bad start. It was sad to see Law and Robin so completely out of the action early on in the game, after Robin's dunk to start off a fantastic weekend of basketball. Taj had another great showing with 6-7 shooting, and Mitch with 3-3 (1-1 from 3) was nice as well. It was really hard to judge our skill at all based on this game, besides noting as others have already done (TJ in particular) that we actually played to our level instead of playing down like last year. Which, while making for less exciting games, does mean that we do run over the teams we're supposed to run over. That 13-0 (or 12-1) non-conference season doesn't seem as unreasonable as it did on Monday.

Other musings:
Prowitt looked great in the post, which was nice with the absence of both 7 footers. There was actually a point in the second half when Peter, Kenny, Robin and Fred had the lowest number of fouls with 1, 1, 1 and 0 respectively. I actually had to look at the box score to see that Fred had no fouls, it seemed like everyone was getting called and the foul column was full every time I looked at the board. The number of fouls called on us was incredibly obnoxious. Good job, Fred. On the other hand, about a minute after I noticed Peter only had one foul he got another and subsequently fouled out of the game. Peter I was so proud of you, I decided not to call you the walking foul anymore! I really hope that he still plays when Brook comes back, because he really does contribute.

Like Zhihao, it was fun to hit 100 for the first time since I've been at Stanford. Also, we attempted a "2x+4, where x is your score" chant at 106-51, which although unsuccessful, was quite amusing. Particularly because it was at such a ridiculous score.

All in all, quite a fun game for a season-opener. It will be nice to see some real basketball, but for the moment let's all celebrate our most points in a season-opener since 1990, and our most points in a first half in like 70 years... :-)


Monday, November 5, 2007

Men's Basketball vs Concordia 11/5/2007

Stanford 82 Concordia 70

The moment the basketball schedule was released, November 5th was circled in my calendar. Today, basketball season was finally upon us and marked the beginning of our final year of Stanford basketball in the 6th man section. It was highly fitting that today was also Alex's 21st birthday. Happy Birthday Alex!

Albert and Alex were outside Maples early to ensure that they were the first ones in the building, when doors opened at 6pm. I joined them later after getting out of class and picking up my 6th man shirt. I love this year's design. It definitely ranks up there with freshman year's shirt. The black was also a nice touch and is hopefully a sign of things to come (the last time we had black 6th man shirts was 2003-2004).

The 6th man turnout wasn't that great but I guess it is to be expected for an exhibition game on a Monday night. If I recall correctly, last year's exhibition game fell during the weekend and the student section was slammed. Hopefully it'll be better on Friday night when we play Harvard. I noticed that Daveed and Will Paul were not dressed and I recall reading somewhere that they might be red-shirting this year.

It was good to see our guys on the floor again and our first unit looked pretty sharp during their first stint when they took a 13-2 lead. I was pleased to see Concordia employ a press and our first unit performed pretty well against it in the first 4 minutes. Of course, reality had to set in and we struggled with the defensive pressure for the rest of the game. 18 TOs vs 13 assists against a NAIA team is not going to get it done in the Pac-10. Thankfully we still have time to improve. Our free throw shooting was also worrying early on, but we picked it up as the game progressed. We did get to the basket pretty easily (although finishing was sometimes an issue) and rebounded well. Landry was easily most improved, but most of us knew that coming in.

As the scouting report on Concordia said, they shot and made lots of threes, especially in the second half. There were quite a few when the defender was a step slow getting around a pick or screen. I'm sure we'll be working on those in practice. They also had some fans in attendance - in particular a young girl and boy who screamed and jumped rather obnoxiously every single time Concordia scored. They endured the wrath of several 6th man members.

Speaking of the 6th man section, we've added a few new twists this season. The first is crouching down and getting low with our spirit fingers whenever Lawrence Hill is shooting free throws. The second is the catchy Soulja-boy-like final "on you" after an opponent commits a foul. Hopefully we'll get more people this weekend.

All in all, it was fun to see us on the court again. There were some positives and there are definitely things to work on, but we have a long season ahead of us. Last but not least, a special thanks goes out to Taj Finger for getting the team to autograph a basketball for Alex.

~ Zhihao

I literally almost cried when Zhihao handed me the ball. And still felt like crying 20 minutes later when I returned from putting it in my car (good thing I drove). I may be ridiculous but it really meant something not only to have something that really represents the years and life I've put into Stanford Basketball thus far, but from people who know how much I care (Zhihao and Taj). It was pretty wonderful.

Onto the game, though. It was a surprisingly chilly day to be sitting outside Maples for hours... a sign of things to come. It was quite nice to get inside and watch warm-ups. The most memorable for me was seeing Fred and Mitch shoot airball threes simultaneously, followed by both of them making the next shot (and Fred made the next two). The beginning of the game looked great, as we pounded the ball to the basket for the early lead. It was interesting to see Trent switch it out entirely at that point, as if we in fact have two different teams, like we saw in the scrimmage. I worry that they've practiced too much like that, because while the 2nd team had a harder time than the starting five, everyone had a much harder time once they got mixed up. Trent was clearly experimenting with lineups, but I didn't see anything I was in love with.

The most telling stat of the game, I think, was Law with five points on two for nine shooting. For the number of times he got to the basket, he just couldn't finish. Granted, some of those definitely appeared to be uncalled fouls, and he did his two free throws, but it was really disappointing, especially because nearly all of them were on the fast break. With the applied pressure from Concordia's defense, no-one seemed to be able to control the speed of the ball, which resulted in way too many turnovers. It was also hard because everyone wants so badly for Law to succeed, and the scoring drought between him and Robin seemed to really disappoint the crowd.

Except for those of us watching the scoreboard religiously, I doubt many realized (before looking at the box score) that Anthony had 22 points and Landry 17. Both of them did a great job of getting to the basket, and the moment when Anthony fell saw a huge change in momentum away from our team.

The most remarkable stat of the game was probably the 25-32 free throw shooting, because after making 1 of 2 for three sets of free throws, we were brainwashed with the impending doom of 50% FT shooting for the year. The bigger news is: not one player on the team missed two in a row. Every foul (and there were a ton of them) saw at least one point go up on the scoreboard. Plus Landry with 6-6 and Fred with 4-4 (the latter in the crucial last two minutes of the game), which was excellent.

Special game mention goes out to Mitch with the pretty clutch three when we were only ahead by six (who knew Mitch could be clutch?), Taj with 9 hard-fought rebounds, and Josh Owens, because while his stat line is nearly empty, at the time he was on the court we could not penetrate with the ball at all, and then they caught up and it was time to get the vets back on the court. I see him being a big force once we've figured out our penetration.

And I hate to say it but the new "On Yoooooooou" at the end of the sixth man cheer is absolutely awful. I'm with the band, can we please go back to just five yous, period? We just sound ridiculous now.

Usually it won't take me this long to post but everytime I get enough time to sign onto Blogger I've had to update the blog I'm actually getting paid to write, and haven't gotten around to this one. But that will end Saturday.

Hurray for basketball season!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Women's Soccer vs Washington St. 11/4/2007

Stanford 2 Washington State 1 (OT) A friend who had accompanied me to several women's soccer matches (UCLA, Santa Clara) still hadn't seen us win, or score a goal for that matter. All he had seen was us hitting the post time after time. We joked that he was bad luck but decided to chance it since this was the last Pac-10 home game of the season and senior year.

When Washington State got their early goal, it looked like his streak of bad luck would continue, but we pressed hard and won the possession battle even though the few shots we got off never really troubled their keeper. High crosses into the box were another matter and she must have mishandled or misjudged 4 or 5 throughout the course of the game.

We finally broke through off a defensive error that Christen nicely converted thanks to her great ball control (and a lucky bounce of the ball). The goal was somewhat controversial since it went in off the post and may or may not have fully crossed the line before coming out. The side line referee signalled that it was a goal and I wasn't going to complain. It would be interesting to see the replay on FSN, which will be showing the game on Thursday 8 November at 9am.

The goal definitely sparked us to life and we continued to attack as the first half wound down. During half-time, I joked with my friend that he still hadn't seen the ball in the back of the net. It appeared that he wouldn't after a sloppy second half where we gave away possession too much and missed a couple of close range headers. The players began to tire towards the end and so it was yet another overtime.

I was unaware that Pac-10 overtimes followed the golden goal rule (i.e. the game ends the moment one team scores) but seeing the whole Stanford bench rush onto the field after Shari Summers scored from point blank range off a corner made it pretty apparent. It was a good win over a decent team and hopefully we can finish the Pac-10 season strong at the Oregon schools and have a strong showing in the tournament.
~ Zhihao

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Football vs Washington 11/3/2007

Stanford 9 Washington 27
Who would have guessed at the beginning of the season that we'd be thinking about bowl eligibility? The program is definitely on the rise but as we saw today, it just isn't there yet. The game was definitely winnable but we struggled offensively. Even though the defense gave up a lot of yards, I felt that they kept us in the game with turnovers and their bend but do not break attacking philosophy. They were simply on the field for too long and couldn't deal with Washington's running game.

The student section wasn't as filled as in previous games. It was semi-disappointing seeing as how this was a pretty big game and San Jose State aside (which Albert just called a high school team), the best shot Vegas has given us at winning all year (we were only +3 underdogs). Midterms maybe? The Washington faithful had a decent sized contingent and even brought their band. It must be quite a drive down from Washington so kudos to those who did.

There aren't too many positives to be taken from this loss. Maybe Gatewood's emergence as a running back, our ability to break off long runs and kick returns or holding an offense that has torched several schools like Oregon and Arizona to only 29 points? On the whole, our offense looked terrible. Receivers weren't making catches. The QB was taking too many drive killing sacks and even kicking was disastrous. It looked like the refs screwed us out of a touchdown but momentum aside, I don't think it would have made a difference. The defense fought hard to contain Locker but missed a bunch of tackles and couldn't consistenly get enough pressure on him.

I don't know what the deal with the QB situation is and the diagnoses on Pritchard. He wasn't looking that great before he was taken off but to be fair, he has started most of our good offensive games pretty slow. The series before he came out, it looked like he got hit in the ankle region by a sprawling defensive lineman and it did seem that he was limping slightly upon returning to the sidelines after a trip to the locker room.

Playing Washington State in Pullman is going to be tough. We need to win out to be bowl eligible. I wouldn't bet on it but that's why they play the games. As a side note, I can't wait for basketball season. Just 2 more days to the first exhibition and 6 to Harvard in the opener. Finally, congrats to the women's field hockey team for beating Cal and clinching the NorPac Title. Hopefully they can win a berth into the NCAA Tournament by beating Lock Haven on Tuesday in the play-in game.
~ Zhihao

My takeaways from the UW game:
1) T.C. is not a Pac-10 caliber QB. He made some absolutely, incredibly, jaw-droppingly stupid decisions with the ball. I can understand some sacks, but I cannot understand taking a 15 yard sack when you're down 10 and in field goal range. He also got away with another play when we were near our goal line and he decided to throw the ball away. However, throwing the ball away meant some backwards, underhanded garbage that wasn't picked only because it somehow managed to hit Marecic(I think) in the back. Harbaugh says that Tavita could have come back in, but I have to doubt that because there is no reason for T.C. to play when Tavita is even borderline healthy.

2) The defense got blasted if you look at the yards, but despite that we were still competitive well into the game. I honestly believe we would have won with Tavita, because he steps up and gets rid of the ball, but this point is about the defense. I've gotta give props to Tyrone and staff because we were outcoached and outexecuted on that side of the ball. Unlike Arizona, they kept running the power/trap play up the middle and we kept getting dominated by it. They did not deviate from it very often, but when they did, the passes were quick and put into the space opened out by our zone blitzing. Our entire scheme is predicated on getting pressure on the QB and forcing bad decisions, but we could never get the pressure on Locker and couldn't force him into mistakes. I was surprised that we did not commit more to stopping the run and forcing Washington to pass, but at the same time it seemed like we were scared of Locker's running ability and did not want to bring too much pressure out of fear of him taking off and running. I would not be surprised to see the same game plan from Wash St., Notre Dame and Cal(the power run up the middle).

3) Unlike year's past, we can run the ball effectively this year. I've been impressed with the improvements in the O-line. There is a lot of potential for moving forward in the upcoming years, and I'll be very interested to see what changes are made to the offense for next year when we know the starter will be either Tavita or Forcier since both bring the running element that couldn't be planned for with T.C. at the beginning of this year. McGraw and Gatewood both ran really well today, although it was huge when Gatewood lost the fumble on the goal line. We never seemed to recover from that momentum given to us by the defense. We have to take better advantage of the stops they give us in the final 3 games of the year. He almost lost another at the goal line later in the game, so I'm sure the coaches will work with him on ball security before this weekend.

4) Becoming bowl eligible will require wins in the last 3 games. Quite frankly, we should only be needing 1 win because this game was very winnable as was the TCU game. Despite this, it is still possible for us to win out. (Disclaimer: Possible as long as T.C. is not quarterbacking the team. If he plays, we lose all 3) Washington State is hit or miss, Notre Dame is a bad team, and Cal is inconsistent. If we can keep Brink somewhat in check, not let Tandy run all over us, and keep the QB clean we should win. I'm pretty sure Mkristo Bruce graduated last year, and he dominated our line last year. Notre Dame is just bad, and there should be no way that we lose to them. That game should be a field day for our defense hopefully. Cal's fortunes seem to go as their QBs go. If we can get pressure on Longshore and not give Desean and Co. time to get down field we may have a chance. However, if I were Tedford, I would run Forsett and Best every play with a reverse or 4 thrown in to the receivers for good measure.

Men's Water Polo vs UC Davis 11/3/2007

Stanford 6 UC Davis 4

After our team's recent struggles against opponents ranked lower than us, this was an important conference game against the #8 team in the nation. As I arrived, I saw several Washington fans taking advantage of the newly instated free entry to most Stanford sporting events (all games are free except football, men's and women's basketball, women's volleyball, baseball, and men's and women's soccer). UC Davis also had its group of fairly vocal supporters seated near the top of the stands.

We created a lot of good opportunities but were unable to fully capitalise thanks to poor finishing and a great performance by the UC Davis goalie. I don't know enough about water polo to determine which had the bigger impact but it was slightly disconcerting that we let them hang around in the game for so long but in any case, our defense played well and we really shouldn't have a problem with finishing, especially after scoring 22 goals two nights ago against UC Santa Cruz. Hopefully the team will hit its stride as conference play continues and we will make the NCAA tournament which will be held at Avery Aquatic.
~ Zhihao

Friday, November 2, 2007

Women's Vball vs Oregon State 11/2/2007

Stanford 3 Oregon State 0
This was one of those games where I hoped we would build off the previous night's finish and not overlook the opponent. We certainly did not want to see another ugly Washington-state like game. Attendance was better than the night before but seeing as there was a men's soccer game against UCLA at the same time and it was Oregon State, it was understandable that the turnout wasn't great.

We came out of the gates pretty sharp. It was interesting to see Cassidy in the starting rotation as she subbed in for Erin and played in the back row for the whole of the first game. Alix was given the green light to jump serve, as was Gabi when she served in the second game. On her first service run, Alix had a couple of powerful serves before hitting one long. Alex Fisher saw her first piece of action since her hand injury and we were able to sub in Janet and Joanna towards the end of games. Franci had a great game too, and it seemed like she was connecting very well with Bryn. We basically ran away with the game in the first and third and managed to pull away from Oregon when they clung around for a bit in the second. The putting contest also returned in between the second and third game and tonight's contestant sunk his half court putt for a cool $500!

I can't really tell whether it was us being great or Oregon State being bad (probably a combination of both) but it was nice to see us maintain our focus and play well in what many would consider a gimme game. The upcoming road game to Washington will most likely determine the Pac-10 champion. I hope we bring our A Game.
~ Zhihao

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Women's Vball vs Oregon 11/1/2007

Stanford 3 Oregon 1 With most of our teams on the road these past 2 weeks, I've definitely missed watching 'live' games. What better way to kick off the multi-sport weekend (Volleyball, Soccer, Water polo, Football and Basketball) than a volleyball game against another ranked team.

With our team dropping to #5 in the rankings after a loss at USC and the previous loss at home to Washington, it would be fair to say that we are struggling. While it sounds like we've been sloppy on service receiving and serving, there's no doubt that the Pac-10 is strong and some of our players may be fatigued after playing volleyball for national teams all throughout the summer. Hopefully we'll get a second wind and finish the Pac-10 season strong (garnering a #1 seed in the tourney), especially since we are hosting regionals this year and want to play at Maples. I would also rather not fly somewhere else the week before finals.

With it being a Thursday night and all, the turnout wasn't that great and we started out the game slow. We managed to pull ahead but definitely did not look like the dominant force early on in the season. Because of our serving struggles, the only player that jump served was Cynthia. Alix used a short floater and Gabi (when she did serve) took something off her usual jump serve. Our passing was inconsistent but we still won pretty handily thanks to Oregon's terrible setters.

As has been the case in our previous 2 LA road games, we lost the second set. It just seemed as if we weren't that fluid offensively. Foluke was a dominating force but we weren't able to get her the ball enough thanks to struggles with serve reception. We also seemed a step slow on defense. In between the second and third game, the putting contest was brought back to replace the "serve volleyballs into randomly placed baskets on the court" which was deemed too hard. The contestant could choose to either make a half court putt for $500 or a full court putt for $1000. I think full court is the way to go since the probability of making a full court putt should be more than half the probability of making a half court putt but I could be wrong. The contestant was wide right as is almost always the case, since the court doesn't play straight.

We came out in the third with greater intensity. Passing and the attack was much improved and Erin turned in a stellar game. A dismal performance by the Oregon libero helped us out and they started piling up the errors as well. The fourth was a rout after Cynthia's run of thunderous jump serves completed shifted the momentum in our favour and we were attacking with power and ferocity. It was a good way to end a game that hadn't started out very well and if we can continue to play like we did in the fourth (not to overlook Oregon State or anything), it'll be a great game next week up in Washington.
~ Zhihao