Thursday, March 20, 2008

Men's Basketball NCAA Round 1 vs Cornell 3/20/2008

Stanford 77 Cornell 53 Finals provided a nice distraction from basketball and the 4 days between the Pac-10 Championship Game and the NCAA 1st rounds went by pretty quickly. I managed to get subsidised tickets through 6th Man. Supposedly, 6th Man was initially only allotted 20 tickets but they ended up securing 75. Still, they were in high demand and issued based on how many priority points we had. Luckily, that wasn’t an issue for me. Unfortunately, due to finals, quite a number of 6th Man members were unable to make it down to the first round game, but purchased tickets with the intention of making it down Saturday.

With a take home final due Thursday afternoon and a 7am flight to Orange County in the morning, I had to pull an all nighter and so it was an extra long day of basketball for me. After some logistical issues, I made it to my gate just as the plane was boarding. The flight to OC was filled with basketball fans and I heard a few Go Stanfords as I boarded in my 6th Man shirt. Alex and I sat next to a fellow Stanford fan and got some early morning basketball talk under our belts. After landing, we took a shuttle to the hotel that a friend who was doing the radio broadcasts had kindly offered us to crash in with him. There was a Cornell fan who good naturedly gave us some grief as we got on, but conceded that we would probably blow them out and had booked a flight out of Anaheim at 6pm. Talk He asked to be dropped off at a drinking hole across the road from the Honda Center. It was only 9am.
After dropping off our luggage at the hotel, we made our way to the Honda Center and met up with some friends – a fellow senior and So-Cal native, and the alum I had met when we played the LA schools a couple of weeks ago. I also later met up with Cardinal Junkie - the guy who inspired our blog with his video blog of Stanford’s amazing 2003-2004 basketball season. We first met at the Old Pro before our whole odyssey began and had continued to keep in touch. It was nice to finally catch up again. I also bumped into another Stanford fan who I had met at the ASU game in Tempe. He remembered me and this time, had his two adorable kids with him. We chose not to dwell on that game too much.
I wasn’t that impressed with the overall Stanford turn out. I thought Kentucky, Marquette and Cornell fans did a pretty good travelling and it seemed that a whole bunch of Cornell students (definitely outnumbering 6th Man) made it to the game. They were very enthusiastic and were standing and cheering throughout the 2nd half, even as they were getting blown out. In the first game between Kentucky and Marquette, we were mostly rooting for Kentucky, just so that we could avoid Marquette’s outstanding guards and pressing defense. Crawford of Kentucky gave it everything he had, but their valiant comeback fell short and Marquette advanced.
As for us, we started out sloppily, turning the ball over and giving up a couple of offensive rebounds, but our defense was dominating and we very soon righted the ship and started hitting shots. It didn’t hurt that we were much bigger than them. We even got out and ran the break with reasonable success. Hopefully that will dissuade Marquette from crashing the boards hard. Hey, one can dream. Everyone got playing time and we hit a good amount of 3s. Hopefully this will give the guys confidence come Saturday’s game. When we did get the ball into the post, I liked how both Lopez twins kicked the ball back out to open shooters. Robin was great today and seemed even more focused than usual. He’s definitely looked good these past few weeks. The part of me that likes to overthink things is afraid that his draft stock may have soared to the point that he may seriously reconsider staying in school (assuming that was his initial plan). Oh well, there’s nothing we can do except appreciate what we have and enjoy the moment.
All in all, the game was just what the doctor ordered. Cornell was clearly outmatched and unable to deal with our size. I’m glad that we didn’t screw around for too long and put them away early enough so that bench was able to get substantial minutes. It might come in handy on Saturday. Coming into the tournament, all I wanted was to get past the first weekend. Marquette’s in our way and it’s not going to be easy, but if we can play to our potential and pound them with our size – size that they haven’t seen before, Houston beckons. Let’s do this. Go Card!

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