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

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