Thursday, February 7, 2008

Men's Basketball vs Oregon 2/7/2008

Stanford 72 Oregon 43 Upon getting to Maples at 2pm, I was pleasantly surprised to see 4 tents - an improvement over Arizona and a development that bodes well for senior day when we play Washington State. Also, I might be wrong but it felt like the 6th Man section filled up much earlier today (another good sign). It was in direct contrast to the rest of Maples which seemed relatively empty until 5 minutes before tip off. Perhaps people were getting off from work.

The side of the 6th Man Section nearest the Oregon players did their usual heckling job during warmups with Tajuan Porter bearing the brunt of it. Meanwhile, Brook was shooting 28 feet jumpers and making a respectable number of them. In an act that still puzzles me, the 6th Man Committee thought that reminding Oregon of Kevin Love's performance against them as well as their Pit Crew's warning of taunting him with homophobic comments warranted a sustained Kevin Love chant + sign. I respect his character and game, but will never chant the name of an opposing star in a non-derogatory manner.

With the increased hype that a top 10 ranking brings, I was faintly worried that we might suffer a letdown, especially if Oregon got hot. Thankfully, that wasn't the case and we won our most convincing game of Pac-10 play, just like a top 10 team should do. After Oregon's performance tonight, I wonder whether the NCAA mock bracketology that took place yesterday would still have them winning the Pac-10 tournament. For what it's worth, they have us as the worst #2 seed. Still a lot of basketball to be played but at least for the first time in my 4 years here, we're thinking of our seed and where we could be playing the first week of the tournament instead of just making it.

After 3 consecutive road games, it was good to be back home. I'm sure the players felt the same way too as they started the game shooting lights out. I don't think we've shot the ball so well for a stretch since our opening game against Harvard when we dropped a 111 on the Crimson. It was nice to see Goods back (even if he didn't shoot particularly well) and even nicer to see Law put together another solid performance. Continue running plays for him. That's what I say.

Our hot shooting didn't last forever, especially when Oregon went zone, but our defense more than made up for it. We were absolutely dominant inside with Brook and Robin swatting shots with abandon. If they are allowed to play defense like this (as opposed to Washington State where fouls would have been called on a couple of the blocks), I'm liking our chances of winning out at home. I was also pleased to see that we didn't give up any layups to Porter, unlike the game in Eugene. We did give up lots of open shots on the perimeter (off high screens). Oregon, however, couldn't buy a jumper in the 2nd half and we did a great job on the defensive boards. Nonetheless, I'd like to see us do a better job defending the high screen as well as contesting shots since that's the offense that most teams are going to turn to once they realise that attacking us inside is futile. All it takes is a team to get hot, especially if we are on the road.

I also wish we could shoot better from the free throw line. Even though we seem to be getting offensive rebounds off most of our missed free throws (a testament to our hunger on the boards), I'd be happier if we made them. Right now, Brook and Taj are the only players who I have great confidence in and even Brook can go into a mini slump every now and then (think Cal game). Speaking of Brook shooting free throws, an amateurish Oregon fan tried to throw him off during one of his second half free throws. Is that really necessary in a blowout? I like to save my opposing floor free throw disturbances for the end of close games. The element of surprise is crucial and you don't want to squander it when the game's not on the line.

All in all, a solid dominating performance which allowed players like Josh and Prowitt to get some playing time. Our winning score was also identical to the women basketball team's victory up in Eugene. When's the last time that happened? It'll be hard to follow such a convincing victory against Oregon State who surprisingly played Cal pretty close tonight. UCLA also won in Pullman to keep them 1 game ahead of us while sending Washington State to 5-5. If we could stay within a game till we meet UCLA in Pauley, I'd be satisfied. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We need to take it one game at a time, except maybe Oregon State where my main concern is staying healthy.
~ Zhihao

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