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

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