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!

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