Turns out Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley were able to
put up more combined points than the Hustlin’ Huestises and Jonesin’
In another game that Paul Westhead would consider a sight for
sore eyes, the Stanford Cardinal defended their way to another grueling triumph
that saw as little offense as the October football classic had in
As soon as the game got underway and USC started out on a 10-2
run, the January 2009 Oregon State- Stanford Maples game popped into my mind.
That was a Beavers team that at the time appeared to be very offensively
challenged, but somehow was hitting everything and got out to a great
Unlike that fateful loss to the Beavs, the Trojans never pushed
their lead to 16-2, and the Cardinal saved themselves from having to dig out of
too deep a hole thanks to the fire-starter Chasson Randle, who hit a much-needed
three to make sure the game didn’t get out of hand. USC doesn’t have that
pull-away ability, but a couple of more buckets added on to that 10-2 run and it
could have been a long afternoon for the home team. That 5-0 Stanford stretch to
cut the lead to 10-7 might have been the most important run because it mitigated
what otherwise could have been a disastrous start.
But still, the Trojans
continued to hit for a little bit. When they knocked down two of their first
three downtown attempts, I thought the world had turned upside down. That, along
with Byron Wesley’s eight first half points, and hey, maybe 2012 was the real
No disrespect to Wesley, but after watching that young man shoot
in warm-ups, he has one of the ugliest-looking shooting forms I’ve seen. I’m a
big believer that form is overrated and you should just shoot the way that is
most comfortable to you, but yuck.
And then I started to think about
Kevin O’Neill’s roster, and there are really no shooters on that team. I guess
Alexis Moore is pretty decent with the jumper, but if you don’t have guys on
your team that can knock down open perimeter jumpers, you have very little
chance of winning. So when USC got off to that 12-points-in-six-minutes start, I
was getting a little frustrated.
That, however, was about the only
offensive outburst the Trojans ever had. After starting 5-8 from the floor, the
Trojans went just 11-38 to finish the game, a percentage Ichiro would be
frustrated with if that was his batting average.
A big kudos goes to the
Cardinal perimeters for being able to agitate Maurice Jones, who was held to
only 1-12 shooting and five points for the late afternoon. Jones rarely got a
clean look and was chased off a lot of shots that forced him to take it to the
rack, where an Owens, Z or Nastic would be waiting to further aggravate his
eventual field goal attempt. For a team that allowed Ronald Nored to go for 16
in the second half and Lazeric Jones to score 26 in back-to-back games, holding
Jones to single digits and his lowest-scoring output of the season was by far
the best job Stanford has done defensively on a star player (or leading
Certainly, there was a lot left to be desired on the offensive
end after Stanford committed 10 turnovers in a half for the second consecutive
game, this time the final frame being the period of discontent. The only reason
this game was close at the end was because of a seven and a half-minute span in
which the Card gave it away six times. During that stretch, the Card’s lead
shrunk from 40-29 to 44-41. Yes, Stanford could have done much better on their
side of things, but USC’s smothering defense definitely played a major
role. The Trojans won’t turn a team over all that much, but they will
force the opposition to run a lot of clock. And in late clock situations, the
Cardinal have trouble.
But they are at their best with the shot clock
winding down when Chasson Randle has it in his hands. In one such situation with
the Farm Boys up 40-36, the Rock Island Rookie went into “F this, I’ve had
enough” mode and blew by the Trojans defense for a very impressive layup to
whether the storm a bit. As much as I love Aaron Bright, I’d rather have Chasson
handling the rock when the clock hits 10 and the ball is 30 feet away from the
However, it was Aaron’s 5-0 spurt that really put the game on ice
after the Trojans cut the lead to 44-41. His long two off the inbounds pass to
Owens (such plays are still a strong suit for Dawkins and company) combined with
the three on the next possession did the Trojans in, because when you’re USC and
you have to try to score nine points in four minutes, that means increasing your
offensive output by almost 60 percent for a tenth of the game. And for USC,
that’s almost impossible.
This marks the second consecutive defensive
struggle where Aaron has been able to provide consistent scoring, something that
shouldn’t be overlooked. Sure, he has made some bad decisions at times, but he
has also knocked down much-needed jumpers and hit huge free
Speaking of which, this also marks the second consecutive
defensive struggle where free throws played a huge role in the Stanford victory.
Had Maurice Jones and the rest of his guys done better than 9-17 at the charity
stripe (that’s bad for even the Trojans, who shot it at 60 percent coming in),
and had the Cardinal not hit nearly 92 percent of their free throws, this game
could have had a different result. Hopefully for the Cardinal, this trend
becomes a permanent thing.
By the end of the game, O’Neill had seen
enough of his Trojans putting together a great defensive effort but another
putrid offensive performance and elected not to foul with his team down eight
and 25 seconds to play. The mad scientist (as a friend of mine calls him) had
called off the dogs, realizing his team would be the second fastest in the Pac
to ten losses.
For the Farm Boys, they get the much-needed home sweep of
the LA schools. Neither the Bruins nor the Trojans will get into the NCAA’s
barring a conference tourney run, but they’re never easy to beat. At the very
least, Stanford proved it can hang with its conference foes. Now if they can
finally get in a win in LA…
This is the first time in Dawkins history
that the Card have started 12-2 and swept a conference-opening two-game weekend
series. New times appear to be upon us like the Mayan long count
Next question - can the Farm Boys hit the road with equal
success? A trip up north next weekend will be very telling.
time, Happy New Year, folks!
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