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

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