There was a certain energy in the building yesterday
that started hours before tip-off. I’d like to believe it wasn’t just me,
either. That afternoon, my boss Khari Jones, on a whim, decided Ros and I should
do a live pre-game show for the first time this year at a basketball game.
In-house video production guys were coming in more than an hour before their
call time. These folks were ready for some NIT quarterfinal action!
so was the Nevada contingent, just as much, if not more at the outset. The
soon-to-be Mountain West school did its mascot right by traveling in a huge pack
- hundreds of Navy blue and silver supporters filled the lower bowl well before
the Stanford fans showed up.
Wolf… PACK! Wolf… PACK!
looked over to David Lombardi and said, “get ready for the first-ever road game
at Maples Pavilion.”
Then I rolled through the media room to grab a
couple slices of pepperoni and while there, ran into SID Brian Risso. As a
Fresno State graduate, this game was personal. The WAC/MWC rivalry ran deep
within his veins.
“Let’s get this one, Kevo!” Risso said, high-fiving me.
“This one’s for Pat Hill!”
As far as the WAC was concerned, this one was
for more than just the ex-Fresno State football coach. As a San Jose native
myself, Teal City ‘til I d-i-e (A’s to the 408, F the Giants, all that jazz),
this was for Wil Carter, Calvin Douglas, Matt Ballard and Garrett Ton - Sparty
seniors who had their college basketball careers ended by the Wolf Pack in the
first round of the WAC Tourney. This was for George Nessman. This was for
Lawrence Fan. For all the WAC schools left behind by the Wolf Pack - San Jo
State, La Tech, Vandal Vision, Aggieville, Wild Bill- Stanford was going to
defend your honor tonight (and then maybe pay you $60,000 to come and get an
ass-whoopin’ in Maples in 2012-13).
By the time I assumed the position
behind the scorers’ table alongside Lombardi and Chris Ebersole, there was a ton
more cardinal red in the crowd. While it certainly wasn’t a Washington-Oregon
crowd, it was live. The Roscoe Maynards, Sludds, Sushis, and Boom-Booms of the
world - the die-hards, the ones who rolled with Stanford Basketball through
thick and thin - were out in full force, trying to bring Maples back to its
Wolf… PACK! Go… STANFORD!
Alright, this wasn’t a
road game anymore. Neutral site. Maybe only 3,020 in attendance, but a loud
three grand, ready for tip.
Won by Nevada, a bunch that looked fearsome
on paper and in their Sweet 16 dub-sac against Bucknell on Sunday. Two
high-major transfers, a conference player of the year, the school’s all-time
leading shot blocker, and a jump-out-of-the-gym-kinda guy to round out the
starting five. A team that had knocked off Washington in the regular season and
was 28-6 up to this point.
But Stanford wasn’t fazed by the Wolf Pack
aura, not in the least bit, and certainly not Josh Owens, who sent Olek Czyz’s
attempt back with an imaginary wave of the finger as if to say, “That s*** ain’t
flyin’ in my house, bruh!”
It didn’t take long for Stanford to capitalize
with a nice little dribble hand-off action from Jarrett Mann to set up Chasson Randle for a three - yes indeedy, like writing graffiti on the bus with his name
last through the looking glass.
“Let’s go Indians!” said a fan behind me.
Like I said - true-blue supporters in the house tonight.
The two seniors
that had combined for a block and an assist in the first 35 seconds continued to
own the first stanza. Owens got it on the left block, one-on-one with Dario Hunt, no help coming. Oh come on, Pack, that’s no way to let Joshua operate!
Beautiful left shoulder. Then it was Jarrett Mann, who started out harassing
Malik Story and never stopped getting frisky with him. Offensively, he was his
usual aggressive self, finishing tough over Dario Hunt. Andrew Zimmermann wanted
in on the fun, too; going baseline, but Dario had other plans. Not yet, Z.
You’ll get yours.
Stanford was up 10-4, but I was waiting for the Wolf
Pack to start pushing back.
“I like this team,” I said to Ebersole and
Lombardi, referring to the Wolf Pack. “They just aren’t hitting their shots
“They’re not really getting any good looks; everything’s tough,”
one of them corrected me. Yeah, I suppose this was a pretty good defensive
effort - holding Nevada to 1-8 thus far? Yeah, well done.
It was time for
the subs to do some work, and Huestis went right at it, getting to the right
elbow from the wing and dismissing Patrick Nyeko from his personal space in the
“That a way to put him down, Indian!” Too bad he couldn’t
connect. Wasn’t the last we would hear from Mr. Montana.
Aaron Bright was
up next, who had just gotten abused by Deonte Burton in the post. His response?
Just come on down the court and get the bucket back, finishing cleverly over a
six-inch-taller and bulkier Malik Story.
“He took it personal!” Stephen
Bardo said. He followed that up by finding Powell out of a double team for the
open 17-footer. What did I keep telling everyone in my mind about his mid-range
game?! Later on in the half, Dwight would have a spin move leading to a right
baseline contested jumper that made you think “man, this guy is SO
The sophomores were doin’ it, doin’ it, and doin’ it well.
Huestis hit both free throws after forcing Dario Hunt to commit his second
personal (one-percenter call; that looked like a jump to me), a victory in
itself. His confidence was up for this one, and it showed the next time down on
offense, soaring above all to grab the offensive rebound off an Anthony Brown
perimeter miss and going right back up to get his first field goal.
Malik Story didn’t feel like getting blown out quite yet, and when he is left
all alone at the top of the key, the 42-percenter will make you pay. Five point
game through two segments.
Wolf…PACK! Go… Stanford! This place was
a-buzzin’, and the Farm Boys were feeding off the atmosphere.
Bright was showing why he wasn’t a two-hit wonder, feeding D-Peezy down low for
an easy finish off an o-reb. Talk about a move - penetrating the Wolf Pack zone,
forcing multiple defenders to collapse, then finding the open Powell on the
baseline, all in no-look fashion. That’s the swag he brings!
brings a nice three-ball, and when you’re playing zone like Nevada was for a
couple of possessions midway through that first half, you gotta find a way to
mark him, no matter how deep he is. So when Aaron Bright rose and released from
NBA range after Jerry Evans, Jr., failed to get out on him, only one thing came
Hand down, man down.
Josh Huestis, meanwhile, was playing
like a man, at least that’s what my notes said. Ripped a rebound away from Czyz
the Bzyz. Had another one of his patented timing blocks, this time on Jordan Burris. Had one of the sweetest spin moves around Evans and then finished over
Dario Hunt for perhaps his best move of the season. Where did that come from (oh
how dare you forget about the Utah-Colorado home weekend, Kevo!)?
other Josh was playing like a man possessed. Tipping in a miss for a “let’s
f-ing go!” type of put back - he was wearing his emotions on his sleeves
tonight. Dario Hunt was back in there with two personals matched up on Owens,
and so Dawkins made sure his big man got the ball on the left block, just where
the Kennesaw Kid likes it. Oh, the touch! The arc! It’s what had been missing on
his left shoulder bunnies in previous games.
Finally, it was Zimmermann’s
time to shine. Malik Story and Olek Czyz were doing what they could to keep it
close, but Z’s six straight really helped the Card create separation. The
driving capability of this man! Beating both Dario Hunt and Kevin Panzer to the
house. Moving without the basketball, led by Jarrett Mann to finish down the
If it weren’t for a couple of Story and Czyz points, this would
have REALLY been a blowout. As it was, the Card were up 18, and Nevada had the
last possession of the half…if they wanted it. Malik Story didn’t, deciding to
chuck up a three with double-digit ticks left on the clock. Had it not gone
down, that would have been one of the worst decisions of the game - you could
tell Nevada was looking to get into something before they needed to also. But
hey, the damn thing went right through the net, so it wasn’t all bad for the
Still, the Card were dominating 42-27 at the break in what was
perhaps their best half of the season. Sixty-five percent from the floor, 4-5
from three, 4-4 from free, outrebounding Nevada 18-9 with a defensive rebounding
efficiency of .777.
“You still like Nevada?” Ebersole said, mocking me. I
could only shrug. I mean, they did only have three turnovers at the break…but
when your offense was dissolving into Malik Story jacking up 25-footers with 25
on the shot clock and Deonte Burton trying to go one on the world, it wasn’t
“You know, as well as Stanford has played, Nevada could
make it a 12-point game if they get a three on this possession,” I said, as the
second half opened up. Just as I made the remark, Malik Story threw a beautiful
bounce pass to Josh Owens, who would eventually slam it down on the other end.
“Hammer time!” remarked Roxy Bernstein.
Possession No. 2: repeat
possession No. 1. Turnover Nevada. Dunk Stanford- this time, Jarrett Mann in the
open court, and nobody bothered to cut off his lane to the hoop. More correctly,
it was an Andrew Zimmermann steal that led to the Mann dunk, as Ebersole pointed
out to me after looking at my notes.
“I just want to make sure you have
the right detail in your column.” Thanks, bro.
If Nevada was going to
make the run I thought they would, time was a-tickin’. Things weren’t getting
any prettier for the Pack. Burton essentially gave Story every indication
besides pointing up in the air for an alley-oop on the next break, so Story
obliged. Una problema - if Story is gonna lob one up to you, Deonte, you gotta
go up and get it (granted it was a pretty bad pass). That didn’t happen. What
did happen was the Nevada head honcho scratching his bald head in frustration.
Coach Carter’s Wolf Pack were looking a lot more like the Richmond Oilers at the
beginning of the 1998-99 season.
We had been through five mandatories,
and Stanford had increased its lead through each of ‘em. So I jot that nugget of
inflammation down in my notes. In parentheses I put next to it “(Kevo, you know
better than that)”.
You dumb bastard. How dare you jinx the flow of the
We hadn’t seen much of Olek Czyz yet, and in a way, that frustrated
the sub-sophomoric minds of David Lombardi, Chris Ebersole and Kevin Danna. We
had been waiting all game to say “oh, he just Czyzed on somebody!” The guy had
the skills for us to say that, for sure. He could take it to the rack from the
top of the key as a skilled big, had a nice touch, good spin move. He just
hadn’t seen the ball much.
And then, after a Josh Owens
get-the-hell-out-of-my-way-Mr.-Hunt and-1, it came. Czyz on the low block, gets
the feed, and absolutely Czyzes all over Josh Owens to exact a little revenge.
Lombardi, Ebersole and I made the joke as many times as possible in the span of
15 seconds, and our 15 year-old minds had all been placated.
desire to make a funny came at a cost - apparently that Czyz dunk gave his team
a little momentum and a few possessions later, Burton hit a helluva contested
three over Aaron Bright, and the lead was down to 15. Sprinkle in a couple of
WAC POTY free throws after the blow-by past Huestis, and the score was 56-43.
Still, thirteen is a sizable margin, but perhaps the Wolf
Pack smelled a little blood. Aaron Bright, however, sniffed a 2-3 Nevada
look out of the timeout, and his eyes were as wide as the basket has looked to
him in the last five halves and overtime he has played. Jarrett Mann did
well to recognize it with a little “I’m gonna hit Josh Huestis on the right wing
- just kidding, brah” fake, and instead throwing it Bellevue’s way. He might as
well have shot it from the 425, he was that deep. But like we discussed earlier,
it doesn’t matter where he pulls up from...
wasn’t done threatening yet, though. The Pack set up a three-quarters court
press off a made Czyz free throw - Bright walked right into the defense,
literally. Owens stole it right back, tried to slam it down…Burton fouled him,
and Owens couldn’t make the freebies. Sheezarino, hasn’t that happened enough
already this season?
The lead would hang at the 14-16 range for a little
bit, and Nevada had a chance to get it down to a dozen. But the ball went
haywire, and Chasson Randle came away with the loosey, stormed down the court
for a seemingly easy layup. Here comes Deonte, though, and he was going to make
Chasson earn it. The POTY had great closing speed, but the Rock Island Rookie
outsmarted him with a second-side lefty layup that perhaps only Tony Wroten and
Jared Cunningham could make in the Pac-12. Oh, what a guy!
three back, couldn’t get it. Huestis wanted three more, could get it thanks to
Bright going baseline and finding the open Montana native in the corner as if he
were passing to Shane Battier. Just like that, the Card were up
“Ballgame,” Lombardi said. I couldn’t disagree. When Burton came down
and launched a contested three without a pass in the possession, it was apparent
the Wolf Pack had been gunned down for good.
It only got worse for the
Pack. Clearly beaten, the Cardinal continued to out-hustle Nevada to every loose
ball, leading to extra possessions and extra pretty Chasson Randle layups.
Burton was especially frustrated, picking up a T after complaining about a
non-foul call. Just an excuse for Chasson to pad his stats. By the time Olek got
fouled and went to the line, Stanford had extended its lead to 29 thanks to a
“I’m done taking notes on this one,” I said as Czyz stepped to
All that remained now was a chance for the seniors to go out in
style and let the bench finish this one off. Then it came - Jarrett Mann stepped
in the Nevada passing lane and went off to the races, no one with a snowball’s
chance in hell of catching up to him.
With authority one final time!
Jarrett slammed it down with one hand so forcefully that the net got caught up
on the rim while he gave a salute to the 6th Man and the rest of Maples Pavilion
that signified “I’m out, y’all!”
And with the ensuing whistle because of
the net hang-up, he was. As were the other three seniors - Josh Owens, Jack
Trotter and Andrew Zimmermann, getting one last standing ovation from The Farm
Faithful and a huge hug from Dawkins and Staff on the way out of the
84-56 was the score at the conclusion of 40 minutes - John Gage
didn’t even let Nevada get the last tally with a corner three of his own - and
the Stanford Cardinal had just booked themselves a couple dozen tickets to
Wow. In the final game at Maples this season, the Card put forth
perhaps their best effort of the season. For as maligned as this team was during
the 1-5 stretch in late January-early February and a couple of ugly losses to
Washington State and Utah, the Farm Boys made sure they didn’t end their season
like 2010-11. Not a chance.
So much for that mythical slump to
supposedly end every season under Johnny Dawkins. The Mid-Major Slayers added
another college basketball 99 percenter program to its victim list, as this game
was but another example that you can Occupy a setting all you want (like the
Nevada fans did), but superior resources will win out in the end. As The
Mid-Majority likes to say, it always ends in a loss.
Stanford-Cleveland State, Stanford-Illinois State, and Stanford-Nevada to that
And, with continued offensive execution, perhaps UMass will be an
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