Thursday, January 31, 2008

Men's Basketball @ Washington 1/31/2008

Stanford 65 Washington 51 With Spokane and Pullman besieged by a snow storm, I was glad that we were playing Washington today. The flight in and subsequent bus ride to the UW campus went extremely smoothly, except for the creepy guy sitting across from me. What is it with my luck on bus rides? In any case, Ben and I grabbed lunch before checking into our European style Inn located on the outskirts of campus. It was actually a nice sunny day for an hour or two, before the light rain that Seattle is synonymous with started. We walked around campus, stopping by their student union named the "Hub" which had a bowling alley, pool tables, ping pong tables and an arcade. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, it cost $3 for 2 hours of unlimited bowling. What a great deal.
We made it to the Hec Ed Pavillion / Bank of America Arena about one and a half hours before tip off. Ben was able to get in with his press pass but I had to wait outside the player's guests will call for my ticket. It was right by the student entrance where there were about 100 students waiting in line to get in. While waiting, I met one of Trent's guests who used to be on UW's women's basketball team and found out that he was a former assistant coach there. When they finally let us in (long after the student's doors had opened), we welcomed the warm confines of the arena.

Even though my seat was in the last row, I still had a decent view thanks to the relatively small arena. I noticed that UW's student section (the Dawg Pack) stood on the sideline behind the team benches - perfect for getting inside your opponents' heads. During warmups, Brook took a shot while sitting on one of the courtside seats. He came pretty close to making it and was subsequently egged on by the Dawg Pack to attempt a few more. Someone yelled that a bet was resting on his making the next one. He missed.
I never expected the game to be a blowout, but we finally clicked on offense and defense and played a complete game. Brook was outstanding. He got great position in the paint and finished superbly. Our guys did a great job feeding the ball to him as well. It looks like they've been working hard on entry passes in practice. When the double came quicker in the second half, he found Taj under the basket for a layup, but also threw it away a couple of times. Most importantly though, he stayed out of foul trouble and didn't have to worry about his minutes being limited. Robin did a tremendous job on Brockman. When Brockman took it right at Robin and scored on UW's opening possession, I thought that we'd be in for a long night. Robin, however, used his length to bother Brockman and made him work for every single basket. He stuffed Brockman a couple of times and forced him to travel as well. For the most part, he played Brockman straight up and clearly frustrated Brockman, who missed his first four free throws. The mother and daughter sitting next to me were friends of the Lopez family. They were extremely pleased by their performance.

With UW's go-to-guy Brockman stifled, Appleby was their next threat. Again, I thought we might be in for a long night when someone (Anthony I believe) lost him on an inbounds play and he drained his first shot. Anthony, however, was able to get in his face for the most part, over-playing him several times and forcing him to put the ball on the floor. Appleby benefited from several moving screens - the most egregious one by Brockman on Landry was thankfully called. Landry, who had a high school classmate sitting in front of me and cheering him on whenever he took the floor, had a great first half. He played solid defense, nailed a 3 when UW zoned, hit a couple of free throws and a nice pull up. He seemed to hesitate on his jumper in the second and didn't do as much. Still, a pretty good game for Landry.

From a coaching standpoint, I liked how we started both twins and imposed our height on Washington, forcing them to bring in their 7 foot stiff after the first time out. I'm not so sure how much I liked Drew being the first guy in to substitute Mitch. Against Cal, Mitch was on the floor with him, but tonight he was in charge of bringing the ball up and running the offense. His first stint at giving Mitch a breather resulted in a quick hook after he turned the ball over with a bad pass after he picked up his dribble too early. To be fair, he did get back on defense and fortuitously broke up the fast break opportunity. When UW started zoning, he was brought back in but had to guard Appleby for the waning moments of the first. Appleby promptly hit a 3 over him. It might just be me, but I'd prefer to give Kenny a shot. I know he doesn't shoot the 3 ball as well as Drew, but I feel he brings much more to the table (and Drew missed his semi-open look today).

Brook aside, no one else really lit it up on offense. Goods went down hard after a missed reverse lay-up attempt and didn't re-enter the game, most likely because the game was already in hand. Judging from his post game demeanour where he was chatting with some friends/family, I think he's fine. Law struggled from the field and free throw line, but I loved how he still found ways to contribute by hustling for offensive boards and tipping loose balls to team-mates. Mitch turned in another steady performance, hitting a 3 when they zoned and knocking down free throws when they were intentionally fouling. He did have an errant pass but more than made it up for it with some great entry passes.

All in all, this was a dominant win in a place that we haven't won at in a while. That's what top ranked teams are supposed to do and I'm glad that I was able to witness it tonight. I was especially pleased to see frustrated Husky fans head for the exit with 8 minutes left. With Washington State falling to Cal tonight (the fans who were still around cheered when it was announced), it appears that they are ripe for the picking. A win would be huge, and solidly establish ourselves as the number 2 team in the Pac-10. Getting to the game is going to be another challenge. Our current flight plans have us flying into Spokane and taking a shuttle from Spokane to Pullman. With the fierce snow storm that caused classes at WSU to be cancelled and part of a highway to be closed, it might be a dicey prospect. Nevertheless, we're going to give it our best shot.
~ Zhihao

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Men's Basketball @ Cal 1/26/2008

Stanford 82 Cal 77 Of all the trips that I've made to Berkeley for sporting events, men's basketball games are my favourite. We've always managed to have a sizable contingent and this year was no different. Two buses were chartered and over 200 tickets were sold through 6th Man. Tucked high up in Sections 12 and 13 and right next to the band, the students dedicated enough to make the trip up to Berkeley typically have an us against them mentality and are especially vocal. Aided by the great acoustics of Haas Pavilion and on our feet for the entire game, friends have said that they've heard us on TV. There is no doubt that our presence is felt.

A lot of trash talking goes on as well. Last year, two students walked by the Cal student section during half time. One of them was attacked by a Cal fan and the two Stanford fans were escorted out of the arena, only to sneak back in. I know our players get up for this rivalry game too. After we won at Haas last year, Lawrence Hill dedicated his entire facebook profile to beating Cal. This year, our band endeared themselves to the Cal fans by continuing to play as the national anthem began. In their defense, there is no way that they could have heard it. When Cal was singing their school song after the anthem, we started a "We have the axe" chant. As Albert commented, we were off to a good start.

What wasn't good when the game finally started, was Brook getting into early foul trouble and being forced to sit after only 5 minutes had passed. It was extremely frustrating. Thankfully, we managed to go on a run and break open the back and forth game thanks to good defense (we zoned when Anderson was on the bench), Mitch hitting a couple of jumpers and a couple of fast break opportunities. While the sample size is admittedly small since we don't really get that many fast break opportunities, I've decided that the only person on our team who I feel confident running a fast break is Fred. That being said, he led Robin too far when an easy breakaway dunk was in the offering. From my seats, I couldn't tell whether it was a bad pass or Robin seeming to slow down. Trent experimented with many different lineups - bringing in Prowitt for his first meaningful Pac-10 minutes, which sparked a Peter Prowitt chant. One of those lineups however, wasn't too hot (I believe it was Mitch, Law, Prowitt, Washington and Robin) and we stagnated on offense, allowing Cal to narrow the 10 point lead and gain some momentum. They eventually narrowed the gap and we only took a 1 point lead into the half.

During half time, Cal's men's waterpolo team (National Champions) took the floor. They also flashed something about Cal leading the Director's Cup Fall standings. I thought it was pretty pathetic and akin to Arizona State celebrating leading the Pac-10 after 4 games. It also made me want to ask Cal fans to name the sports that they had beaten us in this year. There's waterpolo (although we upset them in double OT at home), field hockey (although we beat then in the Nor-Pac championship game and made the NCAA tournament) and men's gymnastic (with our top two gymnasts absent). Off the top of my head, we've beaten them in football, women's volleyball (twice), women's basketball (total demolition earlier today), women's soccer (twice) and men's soccer. What a great senior year!

We started the 2nd half running the same play for Brook 3 times. Mitch made great entry passes and Brook quickly got on the board with 2 jumpers and 2 free throws. Meanwhile, we dominated the offensive boards and created numerous second chance opportunities. We needed every single one of them, especially during a stint when we struggled from the free throw line with a normally dependent Brook missing 3 in a row (including the front end of a one and one). It might just have been a coincidence, but I noticed that the free throw shooting slump coincided with Cal fans behind the backboard being issued blue and gold balloons. The good news was that we got Hardin, who had a field day in the post against an under-sized Taj and Brook who was in constant fear of picking up a 4th foul, in foul trouble. One other thing I noticed, was that starting around the 10 minute mark, Trent played offense-defense, subbing Brook and Taj in and out repeatedly. Even though Taj struggled to guard Hardin, it was a good way to keep Brook from picking up his 4th foul.

With Anthony struggling (I've heard someone mention a stomach flu) and Landry being ineffective in the 2nd after a promising 1st half, Trent gave Drew Shiller major minutes. On offense, he hit 2 big 3s and helped prevent Cal from completely collapsing on Brook since they had to respect both his and for this game, Mitch's 3 point shooting. He also managed to get the ball to Brook in the post. His entry passes don't quite have Mitch's touch but they got the job done. On defense, he was completely abused by Randle and racked up numerous fouls while trying to stay in front of him. I wonder whether Kenny could have done a better job. If only he shot the ball as well as Drew. We ended up trading baskets for much of the 2nd half which was good enough to preserve our slender lead.

Even though Cal intentionally fouled Fred and sent him to the free throw line, we hit enough free throws down the stretch to clinch the game. It was especially fitting that Mitch made 5 of 6 to ice it after his all around great performance. Credit must also go to Robin who had the task of defending the Pac-10's leading scorer, Ryan Anderson. His size clearly bothered Ryan who didn't hit a single 3 and was held to 11 points. Robin also grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. My one wish is that he finished around the hoop better. Finally, with all the scouts who I'm sure were in attendance, Brook had a phenomenal 2nd half. Not to be greedy, but could he possible stay out of foul trouble and put together a complete game one of these days?

The upcoming Washington road trip would be the perfect time. While I would take a split, I think we can play with anyone - even Wazzu in Pullman. If anything, they've shown themselves to be vulnerable with the drubbing at Arizona and 1 point win over Arizona State who fell to Washington. I'll be heading to Seattle on Thursday and Pullman (via Spokane) on Friday. Hopefully the forecasted snow won't put a damper in my travel plans. If anyone has suggestions of things to do in Pullman, I'm all ears.
~ Zhihao

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Men's Basketball vs ASU 1/19/2008

Stanford 68 Arizona State 52 With USC's upset win over UCLA earlier in the day which propelled an unlikely Arizona State to the head of the Pac-10, it also meant that the middle of the Pac-10 got a little more bunched up and we needed to protect home court to separate us from the pack. 6th Man turn-out before doors opened was pretty paltry and I heard a couple of seniors reminisce about freshman year when the line for the Ike Diogu led Arizona State game went all the way up to the swimming complex. Ah, those were the days. On a completely separate and somewhat sad note, this was Albert's last home game as an undergraduate, as his softball managing schedule takes him on the road for the next 5 home games.

I was worried that with the various dorm ski trips going on, the 6th Man section wouldn't get filled. But it did, as people started appearing minutes before tipoff. Those who did come early were treated to some relentless ASU heckling with Duke transfer Eric Boateng and bench warmer "Big Head" Steve Jones being the main targets. It was pretty funny and some of the ASU players cracked up too. Phil Helmuth, who seems to only get courtside seats for the lesser game during any given weekend (USC and Arizona State instead of UCLA and Arizona) was spotted almost tripping and falling while trying to get to his courtside seat.

It was a pretty ugly first half for Stanford as ASU's zone stymied us on offense. We turned the ball over and didn't generate good looks, Brook was a black hole and forced some tough shots instead of finding the open man, our passing wasn't crisp when we had shooters open for 3, and every single loose ball seemed to go in ASU's favour. Our defense was decent and kept us from falling even further behind, but there were a couple of breakdowns when the twins lost their man on the high screen and roll. It was pretty embarrassing to only have 20 points at half time at home.

Thank god for the adjustments made during half time where we crashed the boards, had Anthony attack the zone with some dribble penetration and got the ball to Brook when he had better position. Pendergraph's foul trouble helped as well. The key momentum shift occurred when Trent subbed in Robin, Taj and Landry, who joined Anthony and Fred on the floor. They brought energy, played some stifling defense, and overcame the 7 point deficit. I was especially pleased to see Landry's effort on the defensive end. Hopefully he's turning the corner and gaining Trent's trust. With the 6th Man section rocking and the momentum on our side, the starters came back and Brook finally got it going against a Pendergraph-less ASU. We hit our free throws, executed well with Anthony driving when they overplayed him in the zone and managed the clock rather well down the stretch. It was probably the finest half we've had in Pac-10 play this year.

The win was especially crucial as we have our next 3 games to finish up the first half of Pac-10 play on the road. It's not going to be easy but winning 2 out of 3 should be our goal. First up is Cal which is probably our most winnable game. Hopefully we'll get a sizable 6th Man contingent up in Berkeley and make ourselves heard thanks to the wonderful acoustics they have in Haas Pavilion.
~ Zhihao

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Men's Basketball vs Arizona 1/17/2008

Stanford 56 Arizona 52 Unable to camp out for the game, I got to Maples at around 1pm and found 3 tents set up. 2 belonged to Larkin (a freshman dorm). It was organised by one of our fellow camp-outees from previous years who is now an RA there. Hopefully they'll keep the tradition alive once the class of 2008 graduates.

In other news, all 6th Man members were sent an e-mail this morning stating that ID card sharing is no longer permissible. Instead, a ticket transfer system has been instituted where 6th Man members can transfer their tickets to other current students through a website. What has happened in the past is that 6th Man members have lent their IDs and shirts to friends when they were unable to attend games. A number of alums have used this method to get into the 6th Man section and I guess they want to crack down on this.

As someone who was planning on doing this after I graduate, I guess I’m somewhat biased. That being said, I don’t understand the need for this crack down. It’s not as if we’ve been filling the whole 6th Man section two deep this year. Tonight was our best shot (Arizona, early in the quarter, no skip trip) and I still feel like we could have fit more people. If a young alum is committed enough to find a way to get into the 6th Man section, he should be allowed to.

By making the process of sharing 6th Man membership more complicated, I worry that student attendance will fall. With an already small pool of people who get 6th Man and classes/studying/ski trip getting in the way, every person counts. In any case, it wasn't really enforced tonight since the card swipers were new and just happy to have the cards swipe properly. We’ll see what happens down the road.

Coming into the game, I was worried about Bayless after he torched Houston for 33 points and 9 assists. It great to see Goods contain him and Fred get in Budinger's face. Early on, the refs were also allowing a lot of contact on defense, which I think works in our favour. Brook got some nice blocks coming from the weak-side but he needs to do a better job of staying on the ground when defending his man since his length is enough to bother most other bigs. Jordan Hill got him to bite on some pump fakes and caused him to pick up his second foul which promptly sent him to the bench and prevented another career first half. It puzzles me why both Oregon and Arizona needed a full half to adjust to Brook, but I shouldn't complain. Kudos to Fred and Mitch for throwing some nice entry passes to Brook in the 1st half. Mitch also had a great bounce pass to Taj for a layup.

In the 2nd half, Arizona made better adjustments to guarding Brook and used Nic Wise to attack Mitch on offense. While some of it was on Mitch, Wise made some tough shots too. We also were careless with the ball and gave them some easy baskets, enabling them to go on a run which negated our once 10 point lead. Our inability to run any sort of break when we have numbers hurts, although I guess we now realise that and try and grind it out in our half court offense instead of attacking and rushing bad shots. In crunch time, Lawrence's 3 was huge, and it was our defense which saved the day as we managed to do just enough to get the crucial stops, even after missing 2 front ends of 1 and 1 free throws. It was especially poetic that Fred, who had gone 0-6 from the charity stripe against Oregon, redeemed himself by taking his time at the stripe and clinching the game with 2 clutch free throws that were 1 and 1's.

Whew, I'm glad we escaped with the win. I was beginning to worry that we would blow it in the second half with our sloppy play. We really need a sweep this week and Arizona State isn't going to be any easier, especially after they topped Cal in double over time. They are now 4-0 in the Pac-10. Could they be this year's Washington State? Time will tell, but let's give them their first conference loss of the season.
~ Zhihao

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Men's Basketball @ Oregon 1/13/2008

Stanford 66 Oregon 71 Having heard that there’s more to do in Eugene than Corvallis, I took the greyhound to Eugene the day after our game against Oregon State. I was joined by Ben Spielberg who does radio for KZSU. Seeing as he wasn’t travelling with the team, we decided to coordinate our travel plans and split a room in Eugene. Other than the hour delay and a weird guy sitting next to me who wet himself during our one hour bus ride, the trip was rather uneventful.

With the game falling on Sunday, we spent Saturday morning watching the UCLA-Washington State game, and the afternoon walking around the U of O campus. Once the rain stopped, the day cleared up and we enjoyed our stroll around the small but pretty campus, adorned with many red brick buildings. We familiarised ourselves with the location of the basketball arena (McArthur Court) and apart from a pick up football game on a muddy field, nothing much else was going on. The evening was spent watching the NFL playoffs and getting some work done as we readied ourselves for game day.
We got to Mac Court a good 2 hours before tip off and while waiting for my tickets and Ben’s media credentials, chatted with a scout from the Wizards who was buoyed by their victory over Boston the previous day. He’d been racking up the frequent flier miles this week and was heading to Sacramento tomorrow. According to Ben, there were tons of scouts on press row – one for the Cavs who took offense when Ben tried to steal a peak at his notes. It appeared to Ben that he was looking at the Lopez brothers, Hairston and maybe one other player, and was especially interested in Brook who he took extensive notes on.

Unlike the Oregon State game where I was seated directly behind the bench, this time I was up in the nose bleeds where there was a small contingent of Stanford alums. I was seated next to a gentlemen who had driven down from Portland and had gotten his tickets by, and I quote, “donating”. As tip off approached, the first thing that struck me was how loud the place was. While the Pit Crew (Oregon’s student section) was roughly the same size as a typical Pac-10 6th Man turnout, it was more spread out – covering most of one side line, a base line and an eighth of another sideline. This probably contributed to the noise level. I spotted a couple of signs among the Pit Crew, one referring to the “Lopez Sisters” and another which read “I love Leunen… no homo”. They were also throwing around a rather large blown up male genitalia with the words “Brooks like this” on it. It was promptly confiscated during the first time-out.
We started out the game well with two nice entry lobs by Mitch to Brook for an emphatic dunk and Law for a lay-up, and were up 6-0 after a nice Brook move and score. Ernie called a time-out and the Ducks came back with a couple of 3s, the first by Leunen when Brook didn’t close out quickly enough. It was apparent as the half continued that Goods was ice cold and Brook red hot. Robin also had a nice first half for us. We made some great entry passes and Brook was able to make quick strong moves to the basket before the double team came. He ended up being 8-9 for the half with 20 points.

Coming into the game, Oregon was shooting a high percentage from the field. They continued this trend and just like last year, Tajuan Porter killed us as Oregon ran screen and rolls all day and every shot that he took seemed to go in. Leunen played really well too and used his 3 point shooting ability to draw the twins out of the paint and his speed to beat them off the dribble. Their foul shooting was pretty good too, unlike ours. Fred, who has been shooting pretty well of late from the charity stripe, missing 4 straight free throws and Kenny missing 2 at the end of the half. I was pretty happy to see us weather their 10 point lead down to 1 thanks to Brook and a zone defense off made baskets that mixed things up and prevented Tajuan from abusing us too much.

During half time, I made an appearance on KZSU and chatted with Ben about the first half and my impressions of the Pit. I expected a lot more doubling of Brook whenever he got the ball and more of our zone in the second. Neither really materialised as we had trouble getting the ball to Brook in the post and relied on crashing the boards to get our points since our outside jumpers weren’t falling (even though some were good looks). We did manage to get to the free throw line, much to the chagrin of the Oregon crowd. During one time out, their mascot came out in referee colours and a poked around with a stick, pretending that he was blind. It was rather amusing. Unfortunately, apart from Taj and Brook, we were terrible from the line with Fred missing another 2 to put him 0-6 for the game.

Thankfully, Oregon cooled off from the outside although they managed to get some easy layups off good ball movement, especially when Porter was in the game and running all over Mitch. I would have liked to see more zone. It was back and forth but ultimately came down to 3 plays: Porter’s layup after getting around Mitch with our big men pulled away from the basket, Mitch trying to force a lob to Robin that wasn’t there and Brook air-balling a tough shot from the baseline when we were down 2 and Oregon played solid defense. Sure there were things earlier on during the game like Goods hitting one extra 3 or Fred hitting free throws, but these 3 plays really stood out. The final nail in the coffin was the turnover when we were down four and Mitch tried to hand it off to Goods.

It was a heartbreaking loss on the road with our team coming so close to pulling it out. Brook and Robin had great games and Taj was outstanding in the limited minutes that he had. Oregon did a great job of protecting home court and this makes the upcoming home games even more crucial. Both are dangerous teams – Arizona with Bayless who looked incredible yesterday in his first game back from injury, and Arizona State who are still unbeaten in Pac-10 play. Hopefully the 6th Man section will be rocking now that students are back on campus and it’ll be as loud as it was in the Pit today.
~ Zhihao

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Men's Basketball @ Oregon State 1/10/2008

Stanford 66 Oregon State 46 With an 8am class, the only direct flight I could take to Portland left at noon. This left me with a tight connection since I had to catch a shuttle from Portland to Corvallis which ran only once every one and a half hours. Thankfully, Southwest (ranked #3 in terms of flights leaving on time) came through and I got into Portland airport with time to spare. One of the first restaurants I saw was called Stanford Restaurant. A good omen, perhaps?

I arrived on OSU's campus with about one and half hours till tip-off. The weather in Corvallis was surprisingly nice. The sun was out and it wasn't raining! I stopped by the bookstore to purchase a Beaver souvenir and while waiting in line, heard the guy in front of me predict an OSU win. I also overheard two girls talking about watching Family Guy and getting drunk this weekend. I decided to check into the Days Inn that I was staying at before the game. It was a nice 20 minute walk past frat row. It didn't seem like too much was happening this Thursday night.

I arrived at Gill Coliseum about 40 minutes before tip-off and picked up my tickets which seem to be getting better and better. Today, I was seated right behind the Stanford bench. Seeing as there are no courtside seats at Gill, I was as close to the floor as one could get and was able to overhear the bench talk/encouragement:

Unsurprisingly, there weren't that many Stanford fans in attendance (25 at most). In fact, the overall turnout was dismal. Even though attendance was listed at 4017, I'd say it was more like 1500 tops. I sat next to the parents of one of the managers of the basketball team and had a nice chat with them. His mum graduated from OSU and they decided to make the trip up from the Bay Area.

We looked great during warmups and everyone (Goods, Hill, Fields) was draining 3s. It translated to a quick start to the game. It was especially nice to see Law get back on track and I liked the starting lineup of Brook, Law, Fred, Goods and Mitch. Our defense was solid too and when OSU tried to zone us, Goods calmly drained a 3 pointer. One things of note was that OSU played a full court press off makes and dead ball situations the whole game. A couple of times we inbounded the ball into the corner - usually not a good thing, especially when the double team comes. Goods was trapped once and turned the ball over. Fields also got caught in a 10 seconds back court violation, and was subsequently pulled. We looked great in the first half but started the second somewhat slowly, turning the ball over in repeated possessions. Our defense held strong for the most part and kept OSU at bay till our offense picked up again. It's nice that we can rely on our defense. I also noticed that unlike the USC game, the referees were calling lots of hand checks and touch fouls. If anything, they were pretty consistent.

On the whole, it was a decent showing against an overmatched team. Mitch had some nice plays intermingled with bad entry passes that sailed out of Brook's reach. Law ran off screens and defensive breakdowns to hit 3 3's in the first half. Fields had one nice defensive play where he drew an offensive foul and was extremely pumped up. Fred played great defense, made some nice drives and was also poked in the eye during one exchange. Taj and Kenny hustled on the defensive end. Kenny was especially disruptive. I'm liking him more and more as our back up point guard. Robin brought the ball down yet again in traffic, but managed to make the basket and draw a foul. Someone near me overheard Trent emphasizing not bringing the ball down during the next time-out. Brook and Robin also picked up silly reach in fouls while going for offensive rebounds. Brook's foul was his 4th with about 6 min left. Even though the game was clearly out of reach for OSU, I was annoyed at his lack of discipline and might have shouted my displeasure at Brook a bit too loudly. It was embarrassing since I was so close to the bench.

As the game came to an end and OSU fans cleared out, one gentlemen came our way and wished us luck in Eugene. We thanked him and he mentioned that U of O fans probably wouldn't be that nice. I'm sure he's right. It should be a good game in Oregon. I wish we were playing them on Saturday since we're more rested and they have a short rotation. In any case, we'll need to play a complete game - offensively and defensively.

In other Pac-10 action, I watched the USC-Wash St game at a sports bar just off the OSU campus after our game. What impressed me most about WSU is their passing and how they took care of the ball. After a slow first half, they came out and executed very well on offense in the second. WSU-UCLA on Sat should be ugly but fun. I'm heading to Eugene tomorrow where I'll soak in the sporting action this weekend. I can't wait.
~ Zhihao

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Men's Basketball vs USC 1/5/2008

Stanford 52 USC 46 We weren't too happy with our place in line on Thursday for the UCLA game and made an effort to arrive earlier today. We ended up behind two other people. It should get better once school starts and we can actually camp out. While waiting to get in, I found out that Oregon beat Arizona in Tuscon. That was a surprise but then again, Arizona was playing without Bayless. It looks like the middle of the Pac-10 is wide open. It could also be that everyone is mediocre. I'm not quite sure yet.

With USC in town, there was great potential for good signs in the 6th Man section. There were references to Hackett's jaw getting broken by Mayo and Jefferson being academically challenged. Speaking of Jefferson, we were surprised that he didn't start or get much playing timetonight. My favourite signs were "Orange Juice + Mayonnaise = Vomit" & "OJ + 32 + USC = Murder". The latter was flashed in the background while the FSN announcers were taping their pre-game intro. One of the camera guys caught it and they had to retape the whole segment. When alerted, the head of the red-coats wasn't amused and gave the culprit a talking to.

Some time ago, I wrote that there are no ugly wins in Pac-10 play. I take that back. This was probably the ugliest games I've ever seen at Maples. It reminded me of the drought-fest we played at Wazzu 2 years ago that we won on a Goods put-back. This time, however, there were a lot more turnovers and it was sloppy as hell. The positives I can take out of this are our defense, free throw shooting, offensive rebounding and Fields and Brown showing that they can contribute when given playing team. We did a great job of blanketing Mayo. Goods, Washington and Brown (for a few minutes) fought through screens, kept him in front of them, and funnelled him towards the Lopez twins who forced him to alter his shots. The weakside defenders did a good job of keeping USC off the boards in the second half. I also liked how we kept our hands active on defense and got many deflections and tips. Today, most of these loose balls fell in our favour. USC failing to hit the handful of open shots they got helped too. One last positive was the play of the half:

video

Other than that, it was pretty ugly. Mitch plummeted back to earth from his UCLA performance. While he's still our best at bringing the ball up the court and feeding the posts, I don't know why he abandoned the controlled pull up jumper he scored with against UCLA for a rushed, leaning, let's-pray-it-goes-in shot. When we had that 3 on 1 break against Hackett who already had 4 fouls, Mitch could have a) taken it himself since Hackett wasn't going to challenge him or b) dished to Law who Hackett wasn't going to challenge. Instead, he had to bust out a behind the back pass that Anthony clearly wasn't expecting (who would blame him). We still look like a team that doesn't know how to run a fast break.

In addition, Robin needs to have it drummed into him that whenever other teams make the mistake of doubling him, unless he is deep in the paint, he needs to pass the ball to the open man, who should then make the extra pass to the next open man until one of our shooters gets an open look. Under no circumstances is he allowed to put the ball on the floor. None. How many times does it take for him to put the ball on the floor and get stripped before he learns? I wish Reveno was still here. In fact, Robin should be yanked the next time he does that, unless of course Brook is sitting on the bench with foul trouble. (Note to Trent: No Lopez twin on the floor against USC = bad)

Of the 4 fouls Brook committed today, 3 were cheap, dumb fouls. One was a handcheck on Mayo off a pick and roll, one was a clumsy over the back type foul on the offensive end and one was a debatable elbow he left sticking out as someone was running past him. Brook not being on the floor hurts us so much and frustrates him even more. He needs to play smart. As does OJ who should have taken it at Brook (when Brook had 4 fouls) when he was one on one with him. Instead, OJ settled for a deep 2 pointer that he missed with Brook in his face.

Our end of game clock management was also terrible. In fact, it's been pretty terrible for the past few years. When you are up 7 or 8 points with just over 2 minutes left to play, there should be a rule (just like how Robin should never put the ball on the floor when double teamed) that no shots or drives to the hole are permissible with more than 15 seconds left on the shot clock unless you are getting an open lay-up or dunk. I've noticed that Law likes to get trigger happy in situations like this (not just today). In fact, I'd be much happier with a shot clock violation than an out of control drive with more than 20 seconds left, since it burns precious time and allows us to play our half court defense. We shouldn't even be initiating our offense until there are about 15 seconds left. If all else fails, just give it to Anthony and let him create with the shot clock winding down. Speaking of Anthony, even though he didn't have a great shooting day, he abused OJ whenever OJ tried to guard him. It was beautiful to watch.

It wasn't pretty but at least we got the split that we needed. The Oregon road trip is probably one of the better ones to start the season. On paper, it's the easiest and hopefully will give us time to get our act together. I'll be up in Corvallis and Eugene from Thursday to Sunday. If anyone has any tips or suggestions for things to do, I'm all ears.
~ Zhihao

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Men's Basketball vs UCLA 1/3/2008

Stanford 67 UCLA 76 It was a tough match to start off the Pac-10 season especially with school only starting the following Tuesday and most students not back yet. I was staying with my cousin in SF while Albert and Alex flew in today. There was no way we were missing UCLA. On the way up, someone on the Cal Train asked me whether I had any extra tickets to sell. I recognised him as a scalper from the Women's Volleyball Final 4 in Sacramento. He told me he was from Sacramento and had made the trip down.

After grabbing a sandwich at the Alumni Cafe which was serving its pre-basketball game hot dinners, I headed over to Maples about half an hour before doors opened. There were about 12 people in line with the earliest group arriving before 5pm. The turnout ended up being surprisingly good for a game over the break. It's true that the 6th Man Section was reduced but we were packed two deep with people spilling over by the sides. There were a fair number of alums who might have gotten 6th man shirts from students who couldn't make it. I'm not sure whether it was UCLA, the beginning of Pac-10 conference play or our team being ranked, but hopefully the excitement will build and the student section will swell when school resumes.

There were a decent number of Bruin fans in attendance, some seated in the chairs placed right beside the reduced 6th Man Section. Those who made the mistake of walking past the 6th Man Section to get to their seats were heckled pretty badly. Before tip off, some were heard complaining that they wouldn't be able to see with us standing up during the game. Someone commented that they were lucky to have gotten such good seats. The rather annoying Bruins fan who was standing in the aisle between our section and the seats (also next to the rather annoying Stanford fan who had an OJ Mayo sucks sign) was finally ushered to his seat after half time amid vehement protests. I'm surprised it took the red coats so long, especially after Albert was thrown out of last year's Senior Day game for body painting a Carlton Weatherby jersey (and hence not conforming to the required 6th Man shirt attire).

In the first half, Brook struggled mightily from the field but everyone else stepped up. Mitch probably played his finest half and game in a Stanford jersey. Sure, he had some turnovers due to aggressive passes and wasn't able to finish at the rim, but he met the challenge of playing Collison (admittedly not 100%) and penetrated well, and for the most part, under control. His step throughs on the high pick and roll double were a thing of beauty. He's not the Chris Hernandez that we all wish he was, but he's definitely improved over the past 2 years. Hopefully this game will give him some confidence and he can continue his improved play while cutting down on the mental lapses.

Fred did a great job of driving and finishing at the hole in the first. It's been just under a month since his knee surgery and I'm hoping that he's close to 100%. We definitely need a healthy Fred to drive, handle the ball and play lock down defense. Anthony also had a good first half, hitting some step back jumpers. Defensively, we were ok in the first. UCLA did a good job running their offense with lots of screens (many that appeared to be moving although only one was called) and the pick and roll which we seemed to defend rather awkwardly with one of the twins showing. They also got a couple of buckets off turnovers which we really needed to avoid. Love got great position in the post and scored even though the twins' length bothered him. UCLA also shot well from 3 point land with many of them being pretty good looks because of a break down on our part. Each team cleaned up their defensive boards pretty well.

I noticed that we had a 7 man rotation in the first half (and game). My main concern with that is fatigue and the lack of outside shooting besides Anthony, especially with Law struggling. I'm sure Trent has his reasons, but as Albert mentioned, it would be nice to give Fields or Kenny a few minutes to see what they can do. It would also be nice to perhaps have someone bigger than Goods in-bound the ball from under the basket. We had huge problems with that tonight and twice Goods tried to bounce it off the foot of the player guarding him to no avail.

In the second half, we started off well on offense but just couldn't get a stop on defense, thus allowing UCLA to maintain their lead. Then we went cold and when UCLA finally started missing, they beat us to the boards as well. It was a less than inspired effort and we let Shipp drain multiple wide open 3s due to defensive breakdowns. One of them occurred when we had Mitch on him instead of Law (and he shot over Mitch) and the other when we forget whether we were zoning or playing man after our made basket that UCLA pushed up the court. Maybe if we had practiced our zone more during non conference play, that wouldn't have happened. At the end of the game, we also should have shot more 3s instead of driving to the hoop although UCLA did a great job of taking away the 3 point shot and basically daring us to drive.

While it's tough to open the Pac-10 with a loss, there are some positive to take out of the game, especially the first half. Mitch's play was great. We hit our free throws. Fred is getting back into shape. We were also in position for a lot of layups. We just couldn't convert them in the second. Finally, UCLA is a great team. Shipp, Westbrook, Love and a healthy Collison are a handful. With the opener out of the way, we really need to bring our A-game against USC. Unlike Collison who seemed content to run the offense for the most part, Mayo is going to be looking for his shot every chance he can get, and we can't let him get hot. With Cal beating USC tonight, we really need to protect home court.
~ Zhihao