I felt pretty good about this game
coming into tonight. If I were a Black-Eyed Peas fan, I would say that I had a
feeling that tonight was going to be a good night. But I’m not - I hate that
group and all their commercial poppy, Top-40, mind-numbing ways. I was a KZSU DJ
- 408’s Finest, son!
Failed music reference aside, I really
liked Stanford’s chances against the Jumpin’ Jankoviches. I mean, after all,
there was no way in hell these dudes could shoot 74 percent from three again,
right? As long as Stanford could hit their open perimeter jumpers and limit
Illinois State’s second chances, this should be cinch. Win and a Wednesday 6pm
tussle with Trent’s favorite WAC school would be on tap for the second-best
Through the first three minutes of the
game, you could tell Johnny Dawkins must have said to his team, “whatever you do
out there, don’t let these motherf’ers shoot threes!” Mann was chasing Tyler Brown off the three; Nic Moore couldn’t get any looks. So far, so
“Hey, Illinois State hasn’t shot a
three yet!” I said to David Lombardi on my right and former Stanford walk-on and
Kevo-underling Chris Ebersole on my left. Of course, five seconds later, Jon Ekey released from deep. But at least it wasn’t Moore or Brown, and Ekey clanked
But Stanford was matching Illinois
State very early on in offensive inefficiency. The Cardinal were getting very
good looks - a Zimmermann open right wing jumper, a Chasson Randle layup, an
Anthony Brown drive to the paint for a six-footer - yet nothing would go
These early jitters were just that,
however, and it didn’t even take until the first mandatory for these teams to
heat up. Nic Moore missed on the next time down for Illinois State after Ekey’s
miscue, but Jackie Carmichael was there to corral the carom, and Tyler Brown
made sure the Cardinal paid in full for their defensive rebounding sin of not
keeping a guy who averages almost ten boards off the glass. That’s the Illinois State team I
That lead was short-lived, however.
Aaron Bright responded immediately with a trey of his own, and it wouldn’t be
his last. After the mandatory, Owens showed off that spin move off his right
shoulder against Carmichael - that’s 1,000! Well, actually
“Hey, I want 1,000 too!” Carmichael
retorted, getting to the line for Illinois State’s next points and then needing
another 14 for quadruple digits. You’ll get there, kid, yours will come in due
The pace was picking up, and so was
the swag. Aaron Bright has a lot of it; put it on display with a no-look dime to
Josh Huestis- slam. Jarrett Mann got jealous, threw a no-looker of his own down
to Dwight Powell for another dunk. Aaron Bright was back at it again, bringing
it up court to get his Card into the off - uh, check that - I mean, bring it up
court to give Bryant Allen a little shimmy before drilling a three in his face.
Stanford got up six a couple of times
in the first half and were looking like they might be able to pull away. But if
you thought Stanford was going to blow Illinois State out of the water (like I
did), you were in for a rude awakening. That’s because the fearless backcourt of
Tyler and Nic were just starting to lick their chops. Brown steal and layup -
down to four. Moore three (off a Wilkins offensive rebound) - down to one. Brown
comes down, uses a screen at the top of the key - just enough space to release
and tie this bad mamma-jamma up.
Unfortunately for the Farm Boys, the
three-point barrage was only beginning. The next bomb dropped by Tyler the
Creator was so deep and high-arcing it might as well have been mortar fired out
of a tank. Just like that, the
Redbirds were up.
“You should write that it’s like an
artillery war!” Cardinal Channel shooter and editor Mike Johnstone said to me at
half. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Crazy enough, whatever Illinois State
could do, Stanford could actually do it better. The Rock Island Rookie went deep
for a quarter of his first-half 12. Even Josh Huestis got in on the action,
hitting a much-needed trey to put Stanford back on top. Sprinkled in between was a display of
what Dwight Powell could be if he was 100 percent healthy and played with an
aggressive attitude every game- one of the niftiest lefty finger-rolls you’ll
ever see; Jon Ekey the victim.
Which brings us to the final play of
the half, and in stepped a man who didn’t make the Kevo scouting report for
Tyler Brown to assure he didn’t pick up a cheap second foul - Johnny Hill, a 6’3
freshman out of Glendale Heights, IL (without knowing off the top of my head, it
sure as hell sounds like a suburb of Chicago - I’ll guess northwest).
So play resumed and out came Illinois
State in the 2-3, much like they did at the end of the half against Ole Miss.
But you know what that means - the three will be there. Aaron Bright found his
way over to the left wing with two guys giving chase: Bryant Allen from the wing
and Johnny Hill from the baseline. They had him pretty well covered, too, but
not enough, as Aaron caught the pass deep on the left wing. The dude didn’t even
get squared to the basket and still had a few seconds to work with before
inexplicably hurling one up towards the hoop -I guess it’s a little more
explicable when you’re 3-3 from beyond the arc, and absolutely nail the awkward
J to give your squad a three-point halftime lead.
I rushed to the media room to check
the halftime stats - 14 combined threes (Stanford 70 percent from beyond the
arc!), six Illinois State offensive rebounds leading to 13 second chance points
(a couple of those OREBs directly led to open threes compared to one and zero in
the respective categories for the Card. Stanford’s bench shutting out the
Redbirds’ 25-0. Normally, if the opponent shot 7-15 from deep in a half, I would
feel pretty good that they would cool down in the second half. But this was
Illinois State, and compared to last Wednesday, they were ice
And the second half got underway some
15 minutes later, Illinois State put my fears to rest and assured me that yes,
Kevo, that near-50 percent of a first half was an aberration on the off-side.
Stanford had pushed the lead to seven thanks to a Josh Owens and-1 (did Chasson
not get fouled on the elbow that led to Owens’ offensive rebound?), but then
Carmichael cut into the lead with a deep two. And then Moore took over. The
freshman guard got a screen at the top of the key, forced the switch to get
Owens on him, swish. On the run at the top next time - catch-and-shoot over
Randle, who barely had any time to react. So much for that three-possession
So much for the lead, period.
Carmichael drew three white jerseys on the left block- someone was open. That
somebody was Tyler Brown (Randle was sucked in) and he did what Tyler Brown does
best off a Jackie Carmichael feed, and that’s give Jackie Carmichael an assist
with a rim-rattler of a three. Illinois State was up a deuce. Make it a cuatro
after an Anthony Brown split-job at the line (get used to that for the rest of
the half, ugh), with Tyler B on the ones and twos, running baseline and catching
and releasing all in one motion. Make it seven, as Jon Ekey was wide open in
transition off a Stanford turnover.
Timeout. God knows Stanford needed
The three-point shooting would then
take a little reprieve, as the next installment of UFC 238 or whatever the hell
number they are at now turned out to be Jackie Carmichael vs. Dwight Powell.
Carmichael got a couple of free throws to push the lead even further out to
nine. Dwight wasn’t bothered, though, just took 32 into the paint and muscled
one up over JC, who was starting to play as divinely as his initials-sake. He
lived up to the hype as much as humanly possible, going to his patented fade
away on the left block over D-Peezy, bringing him to within three points of a
grand for his career. Powell wanted some revenge, playing the role of Pontius
Pilate next time down and condemning Jackie for not fighting through a screen
hard enough and letting him drill an 18-footer. He hadn’t had enough, either,
stealing a pass intended for Carmichael on the block, then coming down after the
media timeout and utilizing a beautiful spin move to free himself away from the
Redbirds’ double-double man to cut the lead to five. Forget the guards, I wanna
see these two Duke it out!
“This is where Stanford needs to make
their stand, on the defensive end,” Mark Adams said as I watched the replay on
ESPN3 the next day. Down 65-60, Stanford was locked in defensively, everyone
hounding their man, forcing a miss by Bryant Allen…Gotta get the miss though.
Stanford was too focused on forcing the miss and nobody was in a position to
board. Like Illinois State had done so well in the first half, they made the
Cardinal pay in the form of an Ekey three.
After Jarrett Mann missed a couple of freebies (…), Frenchy Wilkins drove
to the hoop and damn near lost the ball.
But that’s because he had drawn in
extra defenders to hack away at him. This left Bryant Allen wide open, and the
Redbirds were up 11 after the Minnesota transfer splashed in the corner
In a game like this, however, 11
didn’t seem like much. Especially when Aaron Bright was as on fire as he was.
Hitting a three on the break, then pulling up on the right wing. Down to five in
the blink of an eye (well, after Zimmermann missed a couple of free throws, drew
a charge, and Owens nicely saved a rebound).
Turns out Carmichael v. Powell was the
undercard; Moore v. Bright was the night’s Cena vs. The Rock (this was something
we knew for quite some time already). Screen at the top of the key for
Moore…again. Big man (Z) gets switched out to Moore…again. Moore drills three
over big man…again.
“It’s your turn,
Aaron must have heard Mark Adams,
continuing along in his “F you, pay me” mode. Gets past Bryant Allen with the
crossover, encounters Zeke Upshaw on his way to the hoop - here’s the rock,
Zeke. Now you see it, now you don’t!
“OH!” Adams said, gleefully cutting
off Roxy Bernstein. If this were an And-1 game, the crowd would have rushed the
court like the college basketball blog after that move.
Defensively, Stanford was picking up
well beyond half court. Illinois State was 15-24 from beyond the arc at the
time, and Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle weren’t going to let Moore and Brown
get off any longer. Bright hounded Moore along the perimeter, and Moore had to
give it up. Brown had it, couldn’t get Randle off him and couldn’t keep control
of the rock, either. Randle was off, ahead to Bright, he finds the trailer Owens
in transition and it’s a three point game! There might have only been 1,781 in
attendance, but Maples was as loud as it has been since the NC State game back
Jankovich needed a timeout now; had to
calm his kids down. Didn’t work as the duo of Bright and Randle forced another
TO, as Moore threw a wayward bounce pass to Brown. Bright had Allen on him again
on offense, and again, murdered Devoe Joseph’s ex-teammate with a hesitation
dribble and finger-roll.
With the game on the line, the
defenses started to pick up on both sides, but more noticeably for the Card. Not
only were they picking up full court, they were helping terrifically. Or should I say Dwight Powell was
helping terrifically. Moore wasn’t getting his looks from deep anymore, so he
thought it might be best to go inside - nope. Powell was there to send him away.
Carmichael crashed the glass and also into Josh Huestis. The latter crashing got
noticed more by the zebras, and the over-the-back call incensed David Moseley to
rise to his feet underneath the basket. After Huestis threw a 7-10 splitter down
the lane, we were all tied up at 74.
Carmichael wasn’t finished with his
aggressive play. Now just one tally away from 1,000, he had to have that extra
field goal or free throw. Perhaps he wanted it too much, as he was met by Dwight
Powell two possessions in a row in the paint for two offensive fouls (that
second one looked like Dwight turned into Carmichael but whatever, I’ll take the
high-major call). Help-side D, baby!
Stanford couldn’t capitalize though.
The looks were there- Huestis wide open, Randle creating space from eight feet,
Powell wide open on the right baseline - but like the first three minutes of the
game, nothing was falling.
Illinois State would eventually take
the lead back thanks to Carmichael free throws (there’s 1,000 and 1,001,
finally!) and would get the ball back up a deuce. Moore was looking to get back
on track, and had the switch he wanted- Dwight Powell on him. But Dwight wasn’t
giving up the three and forced him to go baseline, forcing the D to collapse.
Uh-oh, this was going to lead to another wide open look…
…But Owens gets a hand on it! Tips it
up! Up for grabs - who gets there first- Chasson or Tyler? Chasson does! Tyler
crashes into him, and Randle is shooting free throws!
Oh, the bane of the Cardinal
existence. Free throws. This was Chasson Randle, though, surely he
Yes, he would. But it’s Owens again!
This time skying above everyone to snatch the miss at its peak. He gave it right
back to Chasson on the right baseline. A three-point attempt off an offensive
rebound off a missed free throw coming from one of the clutchest guys on the
Stanford team - did you really think he was going to miss?
Not a chance. Stanford had a lead for
the first time since 51-50 in a game that was making everyone in attendance go
Illinois State would tie it up with a
couple of freebies, taking a lot more advantage of their charity stripe attempts
than the Cardinal. After an Anthony Brown miss with under a minute to go (a
great look from the top of the key), Illinois State was in the driver’s seat,
and Tyler Brown was looking to drive. He did just that, getting to the hoop and
separating himself from Randle just enough to get off a good look at a layup,
which he made.
And it would have counted had he
stayed in bounds (Jankovich thought he was helped out; I think Jankovich was
snorting some pure Bolivian coke on that one). Huge break for the Cardinal, and
the Farm Boys would have a chance to end this one in
You knew who was getting the ball in
this situation after the game Aaron Bright had been having. He waited ‘til eight
ticks showed, used the Owens screen, got the switch with Carmichael on him and
drove - pitches it out to Randle for the threeeeeeee….iron unkind. Overtime for
the second time this season. Very good look out of the timeout; just didn’t
The opening possession of overtime set
a tone that Jankovich was not too happy with. Bright missed a right wing three
and Illinois State got the rebound, but Anthony Cousin was called for a foul for
essentially blocking out Anthony Brown. Jankovich was
“That’s a block out!” The Redbird head
honcho yelled over and over again. “He’s blocking out! That’s what we coach them
to do, and that’s what Stanford is coaching their guys to do
“I understand, now chill the f***
out.” According to David Lombardi, that was actually the ref’s retort to
As in regulation, Brown split the
freebies. Moore got fouled next time down and, of course, hit both of his free
And so commenced the see-saw battle in
OT, as Aaron Bright came down the next possession and hit a pseudo sky-hook over
Jon Ekey cutting through the lane. Was there anything this kid COULDN’T do on
All of a sudden, these threes weren’t
falling for Illinois State. Ekey had as wide open of a look as he had all game,
but front-rimmed it. Moore’s next trey attempt wasn’t as open, two sets of hands
in his face, and he missed. But oh those offensive rebounds. Stanford only
cleared about two-thirds of the Redbird misses (all told, that’s about what an
average rebounding team does), and this possession happened to be one of the
one-thirds. Carmichael again. Fade away again. Illinois State on top
Not for long, as the Dwight Powell
mid-range sesh continued with an 18-footer in front of the arc on the right
wing. I’ve been telling people in my mind all season that Powell can hit that
shot, and he made me an imaginary Nostradamus on Monday
“I’ve proved myself to the Booties
that I can knock down the open jumper, it’s time to go down low again,” Powell
said on the next possession, because in the heat of the game, it’s only logical
he would think about what a message board that he probably doesn’t even check
has to say about him. Whether treetop11 and Jeff83’s names were rolling through
his mind or not, he did take Frenchy Wilkins down to the paint from the right
wing off the drive - missed it, but turned all Kawika Shoji on everyone and
volleyball set it back in the hoop over Carmichael and Frenchy.
However, that wasn’t before Aaron
Bright was gift-wrapped one of the most fortunate timeout calls in the history
of timeout calls. The referee said to scorekeeper Kevin Chung immediately after
the timeout call that Bright had both feet down when he asked for time. Tim
Jankovich wasn’t buying it, banging his fists on the scorer’s table right in
front of me. The referee must have heard Bright call for timeout, because the
replay sure showed that he had one foot in the air when he made the signal. Oh
how great it is to be a one-percenter at home in the college basketball
Where had Nic Moore gone? Oh, there he
was! The three wasn’t working as of late, so why not use the push shot on the
run? Nic hit Stanford one Moore time with the runner that worked two-thirds as
well. Quick response begets a quick response, though, and Chasson got Aaron’s
feed on the right wing, flicked that Rock Island wrist and held the pose because
he knew it was going in. If he were the female lead from Love & Basketball,
he would have had to keep his wrist up and stay frozen on the left wing. But
this was no time for Johnny Dawkins to teach the young man a lesson that in
reality isn’t that big of a deal- there was a game to be won, and Chasson had
just put Stanford back on top by two.
With an ISU miscue, Stanford had a
chance to almost put this game on ice. Who do you think would have the ball in
his hands? Bellevue’s Brightest used probably the thousandth high ball screen
set of the game to get the optimal switch. Now it was Carmichael having to guard
the guard who was having the game of his life. Bright had been driving right for
the vast majority of this game, but on this possession, he took the left-hand
path. It goes without saying that he was quick enough to blow by Carmichael;
almost too easy for his 29th point of the game. Stanford up four with less than
20 seconds to go.
Carmichael wasn’t going to let his
junior year come to a conclusion just yet, tip-dunking a rushed Moore miss. That
means Stanford was going to have to ice this game at the free throw line- not a
great proposition consider the Farm Boys were 10-19 from the charity stripe.
Out of the timeout, Dawkins drew up a
great inbounds play that sprung Anthony Brown loose and allowed him to eat up a
couple of ticks. Eventually, though, he was fouled, and he would have to make
BOTH to put the game on ice. Stanford hadn’t perfected a pair since the first
half, and Anthony was one of those reasons.
Could he channel his inner-Fred Washington, who, though not the best free throw shooter by any stretch of the
imagination, was able to sink both freebies to put the Card up four in the final
seconds in an eventual 56-52 victory over the Arizona Wildcats back in January
of 2008 to improve to 3-2 in the Pac-10 (this was the Shoegate game, where
Jerryd Bayless played the second half in a pair of Stanford shoes given to him
by yours truly. I’ll cut myself off there)?
The answer was a resounding yes, as
neither freebie left any sort of doubt (we all know he can be a lights-out
shooter!). Illinois State was left to scramble down four with seven seconds to
go, and that was just too much to overcome in too little
The Redbirds probably felt like they
had been victimized in the mid-major’s attempt to Occupy Maples by the officials
on a couple of calls, but in the end, it was Stanford who made the bigger plays
down the stretch and forced Illinois State into six consecutive misses from
downtown to conclude the game. Regardless of how you felt about this team’s
performance in 2011-12, this was an effort worth remembering in one of the
craziest games I have ever seen and Aaron Bright later said he has ever played
This was the kind of game that made
you wonder how in the hell Illinois State only scored 47 against Fresno State in
the season opener and, with the way Stanford and the Redbirds had been playing
over the last few weeks, how they would do as 11 or 12-seeds in the Big Dance
(don’t get me wrong- I’m not saying either team should have made the NCAA
tournament- neither deserved to go, neither was close to being deserving from an
at-large perspective. But you think these teams could have fared better than a
Cal or Virginia, eh?).
Now it’s on to the NIT Quarterfinals
for the Trent Johnson Cup. Will the Wolfpack be back to cause a mass
destruction, or will the Farm Boys pack their bags for the
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