Saturday, March 8, 2008

Men's Basketball @ USC 3/8/2008

Stanford 64 USC 77 With a day to kill before the USC game, I took things easy and caught up with a friend from Stanford who is now studying at UCLA med school. It was nice to catch up and we got some of that frozen yoghurt which seems to have taken So-Cal by storm. With an 11am tip-off on Saturday and our previous experience with LA traffic, we decided not to take any chances and left for USC bright and early. Traffic was pretty light and we got to the Galen Center two hours before tip off.

Will call wasn’t open yet but I was lucky enough to obtain a media pass. To be honest, with all the talk about how nice the Galen Center is, apart from the lobby area, I wasn’t that impressed. I can’t quite pinpoint what it was, but it seemed rather run of the mill. The student section comprised of seats behind the basket. Those who showed up early, showed up real early, but there weren’t that many of them. By tipoff, however, they had about the same number of people as we would have in the 6th Man Section, except that it was a lot more spread out. The rest of the arena wasn’t that packed and there were quite a few empty seats. Fans were late coming in and coupled with the glitzy team introductions and over-exuberant PA guy, it resembled more of a LA pro sports atmosphere than a college one.
The game was pretty disappointing. We came out extremely flat and played with little energy. USC just seemed a step quicker than us at every position. They killed us on the boards and had tons of second chance opportunities. I don’t know what it was - the early start time, our nagging injuries or a UCLA induced hangover. It wasn’t pretty. There were some positive though. We seemed to handle the full court press reasonably well and didn’t turn the ball over. We even managed to score a few easy baskets although there were times when the press seemed to take us out of our offensive rhythm – not that we were in much of an offensive rhythm when they didn’t press. I also liked what we showed on zone defense. It’s good to know that we have it in our bag of tricks. And of course there was Kenny Brown’s play. He always seems to step up in the last game of conference play (see Arizona last year) and even though it came in a losing effort, it was nice to see someone have a good game.

I don’t really feel like going into the deficiencies that the other players showed but hopefully this game will be a wake up call. Our teams has prided itself on defense and rebounding throughout the season and for the second half of Pac-10 play, the rebounding part of it has been largely lacking. I don’t really know what it is but we need to figure it out soon. Right now, we’re looking at a 4 seed in the NCAA tournament and with a Pac-10 opening match up against an Arizona team that is fighting for its life, we’re going to have a battle on our hands.

Even though the goal should be to win the Pac-10 tournament, I’m kind of conflicted between winning and playing more games versus losing and getting more rest for our players who clearly need it. But ultimately, I’m going to be down at Staples and we don’t want to go into the NCAA tournament on a 3 game losing streak, so I think a goal of one win is a fair compromise when looking at the bigger picture. Regardless, I’m excited for some good basketball next week and my pick for the team to win it would be someone not seeded in the top 3. Someone like USC or even Arizona if we don’t take care of them on Thursday.
~ Zhihao

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