While the vast majority of the Bay Area was
transfixed with the Niners, those who set their watches to Dawkins Standard Time
(DST) were in for a treat on Saturday at Maples Pavilion. Forty-two hours after
escaping the friendly confines with a dirty three-point win over the worst team
by overall record in the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal played their most
complete game of the conference season; efficient and effective on the offensive
end, hounding and harassing on the defensive side to propel themselves to a
20-point victory over a current top-half team in the
Winning’s winning, but maybe it does matter if you win by an
inch or a mile, Vinnie.
For lack of a better word, Stanford just looked
crisp on Saturday afternoon. Seventeen assists on 27 made field goals and only
11 turnovers. Fifty-three percent shooting from the floor; 44 percent from
What a difference a game makes, because on Saturday afternoon,
Stanford came to play.
Maybe it was just me who was more excited and
amped for this First Down High-Mile High clash, but the game had a big-time
college basketball feel to it. With their athleticism at all spots on the floor
and multiple dangerous scorers, the Buffaloes came in looking the part of a
threatening team eager to prove themselves to the old
standards of the Pac
that new money can buy respect.
And, for more than half of the game, the
Buffs did just that. Tad’s team answered every little Cardinal spurt with a
counter-attack of its own. Despite reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Carlon Brown being saddled with early foul trouble (he picked up his second at the
15:10 mark of the first half), Colorado withstood some decent-sized first-half
jabs thrown their way by the Card. A Josh Owens steal at the top of the key
(boy, how well does he read those passes on the perimeter and get out into
passing lanes?) that led to a monstrous dunk for the first points of the game. A
barrage of three-pointers from Chasson and Company.
But despite all
that, Colorado was able to hang around and even tie it up early in the second
half. André Roberson showed why he is so difficult to guard, blowing past Dwight Powell a couple of times for basket finishes (“That’s twice!” Dawkins yelled to
Dwight after Roberson dunked one down) and even drilling a step-back three over
the Toronto native (that step-back was nasty; nothing Dwight could have done
better there. Outside of that sequence, Dwight was very solid for the Cardinal.
A nice finish at the hoop, a pretty eight-footer and tough-minded and athletic
rebounding). Austin Dufault was becoming a serious problem down low, nimbly
picking his way past low-post defenders for clever lay-ins. This had the
makings of a classic.
And then it didn’t.
Once Colorado tied it
up, the Cardinal decided it was time to put Ralphie back in her cage. A 32-5 run
over the next 9:15 did the trick, and by the time the final fifth of the game
arrived, the victor had already been determined. A frustrated and defeated
Buffalo squad wanted no more of the home team.
That nine-minute stretch
put on display everything that was right about that game for Stanford. It
started with Josh Huestis, who immediately responded to the tie by drilling a
pull-up J over Carlon Brown at the left elbow to give the Card the lead right
I tell ya, I didn’t expect Huestis’ offense to come along
this quickly. He has been most valuable for his defense and rebounding, which
also showed through in spades against the Buffs, but got the vast majority of
his scoring average off put-backs. This weekend was another story. Taking
defenders to the post and using the turnaround bank shot. Starting at the wing
and pulling up. Hitting threes. I always expected to Huestis to be most
effective as a post player in college, but now I’m not so sure. S’pose all that
summer work on his perimeter game is paying off. Dare I say that perhaps the
Cardinal now have potentially four go-to scorers (Randle, Bright, Owens,
Huestis), with a couple of more potentials (Powell and Brown)?
with his averages of 13 points, seven rebounds and two and a half blocks over
the weekend, Huestis has to get a serious look for Pac-12 Player of the Week.
I’d say it’s between him and Harper Kamp (14 points, seven rebounds per Mountain
contest), unless someone goes absolutely bonkers in the rivalry games on Sunday.
The argument for Huestis? Mr. Montana did his damage in 21.5 minutes per game;
Kamp did his in 30.5.
Back to the run. Shortly after the Huestis pull-up,
Chasson Randle blew past fellow super-frosh Spencer Dinwiddie to get to the
stripe. The Rock Island Rookie wrote another chapter in an already impressive
first year on The Farm - 18 points, 4-8 on threes. Does anybody remember his
2-14 start to the season from beyond the arc now? Also, zero turnovers, a great
sign for any newbie. Even when Chasson does turn it over, it’s usually not
because the defense harassed him into it; it’s more often than not because his
mind is moving too fast for his body in trying to make a flashy pass. The same
thing goes for Tony Wroten of U-U-U—U-Dub; those two are going to have long and
successful professional careers, barring injury.
Shortly after that, it
was Stefan Nastic, agitating the hell out of Shane Harris-Tunks down low on
defense. Staying strong with the ball on offense. Getting to the free throw
line. Laying one up and in through traffic. This was probably Stefan’s best game
of the year. Not only did he get those three points, but he more importantly
drew two quick fouls on Harris-Tunks (one on offense, one on defense) in the
first half when Colorado was already creeping into team foul trouble. He just
gets under your skin, and he seems to get off the most by drawing offensive
fouls. That’s the kind of player you want on your team.
Soon enough, the
finishing blow would come. Actually, it had already started. Coming out of the
under-12 timeout down 54-45, Tad Boyle threw out a lineup of Damiene Cain, Shane
Harris-Tunks, André Roberson, Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie on to the
floor. A decent scoring five, but a five lacking in experience- three freshmen
and two sophomores. I am not questioning Boyle’s lineup choice at all - I would
never question a coach I truly think is one of the best in the two most western
mainland time zones (huge fan of his from his days in Greeley with the real UNC
- Northern Colorado) - it’s just that there were a lot of young guys out there,
in a tight spot on the road with the game starting to slip away.
Stanford took advantage. A 7-0 run in the span of 81 seconds, and Boyle
had to blow another TO and get his seniors Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson back out there.
But by then it was too late. Stanford continued
to impose its will on the beaten Buffs. André Roberson was all hands on his hips
after a teammate was called for an offensive foul. Tad Boyle got T’ed up for
screaming “That’s f****** bull****!” after a foul was called on Tomlinson. The
final dagger came when Jarrett Mann finished off a pretty pass from Aaron Bright
and got fouled in the process to take the game into the next mandatory timeout.
In that four-minute stretch, Stanford outscored Colorado 20-2, and there was not
much more the Boulder Buffs could do.
The final score read “Stanford 84,
Colorado 64” and for a few short hours, Stanford could enjoy the thrill of
having first place all to itself (and then Cal rocked Utah by 36, and the Bay
schools were all tied up again).
Now it’s on to the road, where a win in
the Palouse is a must-have. But one-third of the way through the conference
season, the Farm Boys can look up and see nobody above them.
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