Lombardi's Look: Oregon Déjà Vu
Huestis dunks; football's Williamson, Wilkes watch
Huestis dunks; football's Williamson, Wilkes watch
Stanford Insider
Posted Jan 31, 2013


Stanford basketball's talent is undeniable. The team's inconsistency, though, has been the cause of greatest frustration. On Wednesday, Farm Boys football rubbed off on Johnny Dawkins' basketball team. Oregon was again the victim.

The Football Fuel
Jordan Williamson, the man who kicked a knife through Chip Kelly's heart, was watching from the front row. So was Khalil Wilkes, the big lineman whose immaculate fumble recovery saved Stanford football in its upset bid at Autzen Stadium.

Andrew Luck, another fellow who had once beaten Oregon on the gridiron, was also in attendance -- at least in spirit, in the form of a gigantic, smiling fathead bouncing giddily up and down the Sixth Man section.

So it was only fitting when the Cardinal's basketball team scored a touchdown to knock the Ducks out, too. Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright drilled consecutive three pointers to sandwich an Oregon loose ball foul, spearheading a six-point Stanford possession that consummated ultimate football deja vu. It also put the Farm Boys up three scores and a two-point conversion -- er, 22 points -- in the second half, all but sealing Wednesday's 76-52 throttling of the No. 10 team in the country.

Oregon basketball's Pac-12 record has a blemish on it now, but this demolition was more about Stanford finally infusing energy back into its own program. The Cardinal were mired at 3-4 in conference play heading in, a loss away from being knocked down as low as ninth or tenth place in the standings. In a matter of only about five years, basketball had completely traded places with Stanford football in the fans' mindset: it had become a chore to watch a team run a treadmill on the hardwood, while it was exciting to see another one maximize its potential at Stanford Stadium.

Maples Pavilion, a place that once rocked so hard that visitors' free throws occasionally rattled off the rim, was pure faded glory at Wednesday's tip: hundreds of empty seats and a handful of barren sections greeted the most important game of the Johnny Dawkins era.

A Timely Awakening
What happened next, though, lifted the dark clouds of frustration -- at least temporarily (removing them permanently is the next task). Oregon entered the game as the Pac-12's most physical team, leading the conference by hauling in nearly 40 boards per game. The Ducks left Maples Pavilion as victims of a two-man wrecking crew. The Cardinal, armed with a physical resume of consistent inconsistency because of their lack of a true center presence, made up for that deficiency through a pair of monstrous 13-rebound efforts from Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis. The duo's 26 combined boards came up only five shy of the Ducks' team total.

On the scoreboard, Stanford's core annihilated Oregon's. The Cardinal starters plastered the Quack Attack 64-24, riding offensive cohesion that saw the first five net over 84 percent of the team's total points. For a club that's sputtered offensively behind an extensive player rotation, that amount of concentrated production suggests the discovery of an effective formula.

"I think we've finally crossed that bridge, I really do," freshman Grant Verhoeven told me after he put an exclamation mark on the effort with his pretty developing weapon, a step-back jumper from the baseline.

Of course, shooting 57 percent from downtown and 52 percent from the field is conducive to effective scoring efforts. But shooting percentage isn't dependent on random luck. Crisp offensive execution, proper spacing, and necessary calculated aggression all dictate quality shots. On Wednesday, those attributes fueled an early 18-2 Stanford run that set a permanent tone.

Now, it's time for those attributes to truly remain permanent themselves.

In another football parallel, smothering defense also played a major role. The Quack Attack compiled only four assists on the night, an average of one every 10 minutes. The Farm Boys held Oregon 24 points below their season scoring average, a number that also happened to represent the margin of victory. Andy Brown fortified his growing defensive reputation: two weeks after suffocating Cal star Allen Crabbe, he limited the Ducks' EJ Singler to a 2-for-9 performance Wednesday.

"We wanted to throw the first punch," Randle said after pouring in a game-high 17 points. "And then we wanting to keep throwing punches."

Fitting -- because that sounds like a formula taken straight out of Stanford football's game plans, which preach never-ending body blows. Perhaps football's mentality rubbed off on basketball for good on Wednesday. After all, the heroes who took down Oregon on the gridiron were courtside, and Dawkins' boys did oblige them by scoring a touchdown on top of their downtown and putback dunk barrage.

NCAA Tournament Hopes
Stanford has improved to 4-4 in Pac-12 play. Theoretically, the team is still alive for a 12-6 conference mark that would put it in excellent position to qualify for the Big Dance for the first time since 2008. The most reasonable path to that record involves the Cardinal winning the rest of their home games (highlighted by UCLA's February 16 visit) and splitting road trips to Arizona and Oregon.

Before Wednesday's dominant win, that task seemed to be a longshot. Now, it's still an uphill battle -- but a possible one to win. The talent is undeniably present. Now consistency must join it. At the very least, at least TV analyst Bill Walton didn't have to suggest that Stanford fans would go drink their sorrows away at The Oasis this time around. That already happened once in the past, but it was a far cry from Wednesday night's smiles.



David Lombardi is the Stanford Football Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMLombardi.


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