Thursday, February 14, 2008

Men's Basketball @ Arizona State 2/14/2008

Stanford 68 ASU 72 (OT)After trips to Oregon and Washington, Arizona seemed appealing with its nice warm weather. Even though my flight was delayed by half an hour and the one hour time change took me by surprise, everything else went pretty smoothly. I was able to avoid a weird public transport encounter this trip but instead had the people in the room two doors down from me thrown out because of their dog that apparently scared several other guests with its incessant barking. It got pretty ugly as they demanded a refund (which was refused) and were threatened with police intervention.

In any case, when I got to Wells Fargo Arena, a guy with a video camera asked me for some sound bites. I obliged after warning him that I wasn't an ASU fan. He asked "What does college basketball mean to you?" and then tried to get me to say "When I miss a basketball game, I like to use facebook to keep track of the results." I refused the latter since a) no one uses facebook for sports updates and b) I don't miss Stanford basketball games. I also walked past an ASU students "pre-game fan fest" where 2 tickets to a Lakers-Suns game were up for grabs. There weren't that many students around. In fact, their student section (as far as I can tell, they don't have a name) wasn't as impressive as some of the other Pac-10 schools and the arena was pretty empty. Kind of disappointing for a program that's showing marked improvement. Someone commented that it might have been a Valentine's Day effect. I don't know. It did, however, make me appreciate a sign from an ASU student in the front row that said: "I ditched my girlfriend on Valentine's Day to watch the Devils".
There were a sprinkling of Stanford fans in attendance. Besides Law's friends and family who were behind the bench, there were about 25 of us in the upper sections. I met someone who had flown down from Palo Alto to watch the game with his girlfriend who was an ASU graduate and living in the area. The first half was a pretty ugly performance on our part. ASU jumped on us right from the start with Harden hitting several 3 pointers. We turned the ball over and had Brook, our only constant on offense, pick up his 2nd foul with 6 minutes left. ASU was killing us on the defensive boards and received numerous second chance opportunities. Trent also inexplicably picked up a technical after a call that seemed to go in our favour. I thought that we got more than our fair share of calls and could see why the home fans were annoyed with the officiating. At one point, someone from the ASU student section threw a shirt onto the court and coach Sendek had to get on the microphone and implore fans to refrain from such behaviour. In any case, I wanted to get out of the half with a not too sizable deficit and we did just that, holding ASU to 0 points after Trent's technical and scoring some buckets with our no Lopez lineup. Down 4 at the half seemed like a victory.

When we went on a great run capped by Landry's dunk and foul in the second, I was amazed that we had done it with a Lopez, Lopez, Fields, Brown and Shiller lineup. Landry had a great game tonight, making a 3, hitting his free throws and driving to the basket. I guess the thing with Landry is that you can immediately tell when he's having a good night and when you should leave him on the bench. Tonight, he was knocking down shots and full of confidence. Then came our meltdown. It had a lot to do with us not boxing out and giving ASU second chance opportunities. Even though Robin was having a great second half, it seemed like having one Lopez twin guarding a shooter wasn't the best move when we knew that ASU would be shooting 3s in the closing seconds. In fact, ASU had tons of good looks from 3 point land throughout the game and finally started hitting them when it counted. The multiple missed free throws hurt as well. Perhaps we should have gotten Drew in the game when they were intentionally fouling.

As I think back about it, we really didn't deserve to win the way we rebounded and played down the stretch. Full credit to ASU and the one fan who rushed the court after the victory and was handcuffed by police. But even so, with Pendergraph fouled out in OT, I don't understand why Fred (barring injury) wasn't given the job of shutting down Harden, who was clearly their go to guy. Even if he hurts us on offense, I think we could have mustered up enough points. At the very least, we could have tried some offense-defense substitutions. Without a doubt, this is the one that got away. Maybe it'll dampen the expectations and pressure on the guys with all this top 10 rankings talk. I don't get this sense from the team but with all the hype surrounding them, it can be easy to get carried away. Coming into this trip, I told myself that I would be satisfied with a split. It's still doable so hopefully the team can bounce back from this loss.
~ Zhihao

1 comment:

Peter said...

As a cardinal alum, I'm in tucson on business, and I happened to catch the tail end of first half and the second half. Exciting game!! you forgot to mention the runs(was a 24 to 2 run in the second half for the cardinal) followed up
by a true cold streak. Down the stretch we just weren't hitting our free throws or shots from the field from post or threes. Bottom line though is brook lopez had a chance to ice the game as did another cardinal but they missed some crucial free throws. To boot harden went nuts to say the least in the sundevil comeback in the waning minutes with an incredible drive followed up with great rebounding tip that somehow found a way to get in to tie the game. Man after regulation ended harden seemed like a men amongst boys. My generation(as a former 6th man club back in the day) was watching gilbert arenas, baron davis singlehandedly take games over in college. Harden was no exception and he had 8 points in overtime and was unstoppable when he was driving to the basket and relentless on the boards. Yes boxing out would have helped but so would have fouling him while he was super hot. Overall though cardinal surge appeared, but they lacked the killer instinct to put em away when it counted. Arizona looked good against cal, so they have their hands full on saturday.