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

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