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!

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