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.
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.
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... :-)