A look at Saturday's top 25 scoreboard is enough to make you
dizzy. #4 Louisville picked up just their second loss of the
year, at home against Marquette. #5 Kentucky dropped to
Vanderbilt, an unheard of result in SEC basketball. #7 Cincinnati
lost to UNC-Charlotte. #12 Kansas bowed out at Iowa State; #15
North Carolina was bombed by Clemson. And it goes on and on.
While Matt Lottich's opening jumper in the first possession of
the ballgame temporarily lifted your spirits (the slumping senior
shooter did not make his first jumper until late in the second
half Thursday), spirits went south in a hurry. In the second
minute of the game, Lottich threw an inbound pass play over the
defense toward the backcourt, which Oregon's All-American
candidate Luke Jackson snagged and took the distance for a
lay-in. Rob Little picked up the ball and attempted to inbound
the ball under that same basket, but he somehow tossed it meekly
right to Jackson a few feet away, who was quickly fouled by
Little as he tried to score. Jackson made just one of two free
throws, but those quick scores accelerated the pace of the game
to a style that the Ducks absolutely relish at home, and the
9,000+ strong at McArthur Court were already ignited, loud and on
Mike Montgomery was furious with Little and substituted him
immediately out of the game, and Joe Kirchofer made good in his
first possession with a little lay-in off the glass in the low
post on the other end. Stanford trailed just 5-4, but the Oregon
run was just getting under way. It came hard and fast as the
fast-paced Ducks seized Cardinal misses and pushed the ball up
the floor for quick scores. Oregon was the most dangerous
three-point shooting team in the conference coming into the game,
and they lived up to that billing with pull-up bombs in
transition. Andre Joseph hit a pair of treys to lift Oregon to a
On the offensive end, the one sniff of good news was that
Lottich was producing. Thursday's game in Corvallis was an
absolute nightmare for the senior shooting guard, but he scored
seven of Stanford's first nine points this afternoon. He drove
baseline and used a fake to draw a foul and two points at the
stripe, followed the next possession by a three-pointer off a
high screen. The bad news was that Lottich would not score in the
final 15:50 of the half, and his seven points would be the high
for a very offensively challenged Stanford squad.
After hitting three of their first five shots, the #2 ranked
Cardinal would make just five of their final 24 in the half. They
turned the ball over six times in the half, did not rebound all
that well, and many jumpers rattled in and out. On the other end
of the floor, Oregon was out and running with each failed
Stanford possession. Joseph hit their first pair of bombs, but
James Davis took over and really pulled the game away. He nailed
two three-pointers in the span of 30 seconds that stretched the
lead to 13 points, at 24-11. The second of those treys was a
quick pull-up on the break that was completely indefensible, and
once again it ratched up the noise level even higher at Mac
The Stanford offensive machine was grinding gears and in need
of a major tune-up. The Cardinal were without the services of
their primary frontcourt force in Justin Davis, who injured his
knee in the second half of the Oregon State game. They
essentially were also without center Rob Little, who subbed back
into the game but picked up his second and third fouls, sending
him to the bench for the remainder of the half. When he came back
on the floor to start the second half, he was tagged with his
fourth personal foul, and never left the bench again.
In the backcourt, Lottich went cold and point guard Chris Hernandez mustered nary a point in the half. Montgomery shook
things up by subbing Jason Haas in for him at the 8:30 mark, but
the Ducks kept on rolling. They pushed the lead to 14 points when
Joseph got out and ran in transition after a missed Josh Childress three-pointer, and the Oregon guard blew by Matt
Lottich for a lay-up and foul. The old-fashioned three point play
put the Ducks ahead 32-18, which grew to 34-18 off a Mitch Platt
turnaround short jumper.
Stanford couldn't hit anything from outside, so they tried to
work the ball into the paint to Matt Haryasz and Joe Kirchofer. There was
sporadic success, but Haryasz was feeling a little nerves as he
pushed two jumpers in a row long off the back iron. But after
that Platt two-pointer, the Card went right back to Haryasz and
he mechanically answered with a short turnaround of his own to
temporarily stop the bleeding. The defense still could not stop
James Davis, though, as he found himself with a wide-open jumper
inside the free throw line to push the margin again to 16 points.
The Card went again to the paint, this time with Kirchofer
employing his patented hook shoot from six feet.
Davis finally missed a three-pointer on the next possession,
and Stanford had a glimmer of hope to bring the game to single
digits by the half, but Hernandez had himself a wide-open trey
that he too missed. Haryasz went up for a spectacular one-handed
rebound and then stepped out on the baseline for a turnaround
10-foot jumper that gently stroked the string. It was a 12-point
game, and Haryasz had six points in a stretch of four and a half
minutes. But James Davis again shot a dagger through Stanford's
heart with a three-pointer off a screen that opened the lead back
Shooting 27% in the first half and getting bombed by the
Davis-Joseph Oregon tandem, this finally looked like the end of
the undefeated run for Stanford. They trailed 39-24 at the half,
easily their largest deficit of the year and just third halftime
gap of the season. Haryasz picked up the pace late in the half,
but Stanford's scoring from the other four spots on the floor was
extinct. Lottich shot just three times the last 16 minutes of the
game, and all three were long-range misses. Hernandez was
scoreless. Nick Robinson had nary a hint of offense, and just two
points on free throws. The one guy you would hope could take over
a game in an offensive funk like this was Josh Childress, but he
was unable to drive into Oregon's disciplined man defense to
create anything. He missed all four of his attempts in the first
half, and just had two points on free throws.
The extra pit in your stomach was the fact that Luke Jackson
had not yet really done any damage. After his quick three points
in the opening two minutes, he never scored in the first half. He
only shot the ball three times after that, but as soon as he
would catch fire in the second half, the Card would be in even
The Stanford coaching staff had no brilliant answers at
halftime for the slumping squad. They could not very well shake
up the defense with zone looks when the offense couldn't make a
basket to save their lives. The personnel rotations were limited
with Davis out of action and Little in huge foul trouble.
"Everybody in general was pissed at how we were
playing," Hernandez describes of the locker room atmosphere.
"We knew we were getting our asses kicked. We had nothing to
lose. Let's go out there and play."
Hernandez in particular decided that he had to grab the reins
on offense and start scoring if there was going to be any chance
of a comeback, or even a salvation of self-respect.
"My role on this team is not to go out and put up big
scoring numbers," the redshirt sophomore explains. "But
in the first half, the scoring we were getting just wasn't
getting it done. In the second half, I realized I had to get it
He did just that, with Stanford running its motion offense on
their first possession. A nice Rob Little clear-out gave
Hernandez some space and he hit a midrange jumper to pull the
Card within 13. But then the offense went cold again and did not
score for another three minutes. Little quickly picked up his
fourth foul and sat the last 18+ minutes of the game. Hernandez,
Lottich and Childress all missed three-point attempts while
Oregon went on a 6-0 run. James Davis hit a trey in that stretch
on a ridiculously wide-open shot in the corner. There was not a
Stanford defender within 10 feet of him. Davis then hit a
16-footer in transition to give the Ducks their biggest lead of
the game at 19 points: 45-26.
Montgomery called a timeout to quell the unrelenting crowd and
to bandage the bleeding. Out of the break, Stanford went to
Haryasz in the low block, and his turnaround jumper put Stanford
back on the board. They made a steal on the other end and found
Nick Robinson on the break, as he was fouled and added two points
from the free throw line. Next possession Childress drove into
traffic and drew the defense, then dishing to Haryasz for a
lay-in. Stanford's own 6-0 run quickly brought the margin back to
13 points, with more than 15 minutes left in the game.
The made baskets also gave Stanford a chance to put their zone
defense on the floor, which appeared to slow down Oregon's
offensive threat in the half court. But then Luke Jackson caught
fire and hit an open three-pointer that was the first three of
his 22 second half points. Haryasz answered immediately with a
four-foot turnaround jumper, and the Ducks would miss a pair of
long-range attempts against the zone. Haryasz hustled for a loose
long rebound on the second miss, which he tossed ahead to a
streaking Lottich for an uncontested lay-in. The score was now
48-36, and Stanford had the game close to single digits once
But the Card could not get enough stops on defense to ignite a
true run. The Ducks ended up badly outscored in the second half,
but they actually shot pretty well. Luke Jackson was firing bombs
from outside, while Mitch Platt was having a career day inside
converting turnaround shots on the low block with great
efficiency. Platt put the game back at 14 points, 50-36, answered
on the other end by a driving Hernandez and his two free throw
conversions. Then Jackson launched a 25-foot bomb over the zone,
that splintered Stanford's hopes. He was catching fire, and the
Card could not get to single digits.
With a 15-point deficit, Hernandez again attacked Oregon's
defense, which interestingly was also dabbling in a zone. The
Stanford point guard got to the basket for a tough lay-up while
getting hacked by Jackson, and the three-point play put the game
back at 12. Platt answered with a deuce down low on the other
end, but then Hernandez found his stroke with a three-pointer at
the top of the key to close the margin to 11, at 55-44. There was
plenty of time left, and Stanford's offense was starting to
"I was getting penetration, and some were scores but we
also got some good kicks," Hernandez explains. "As
people started making plays, then we started making [defensive]
stops. In the first half, it seemed like we didn't make any stops
at all. I don't even think it was our zone that did it in the
second half, because Jackson killed us twice with three's. They
kept hitting. We got back into our man-to-man."
"We had struggled on the boards in the first half,"
adds Childress. "But we started rebounding better in the
second half, and that got us more possessions. We also got out on
the break, which gave us some easier offense."
The 11-point lead temporarily faded with a Jackson free throw
and then a 23-foot three-pointer. Stanford trailed 59-44, but
Hernandez did not let up on offense. He drove the lane again and
drew a foul, this time hitting one of two attempts. The next
possession he found himself open at the top of the key as Oregon
failed on a defensive switch, and that bomb put the game back at
Jackson would hit yet another trey to push the margin again to
14 points, feeling it on his every stroke. Joe Kirchofer made an
offensive rebound tip-in to answer, but then the big blow was
struck by Josh Childress, who found himself open on the wing with
some nice ball movement by Stanford. He stroked his first field
goal of the game inside eight minutes to go, and the
three-pointer sliced the lead to nine. Haryasz stroked a sweet
10-foot jumper to cut the margin to seven, and then Oregon turned
the ball over to give Stanford more chances. Matt Lottich broke
his slump and hit a tough turnaround three-pointer to bring the
Card within four, 64-60.
Jackson took the ball to the hole and drew an absolutely
horrible call as he was pushing off with his forearm, but
Childress drew the whistle. The three-point play ended Stanford's
10-0 run, but the Card kept on coming. They engineered a new
seven-point run. Childress hit two free throws in the one-and-one
bonus, followed by a nifty move by Haryasz to score in the low
post. Hernandez got out on the break and scored by himself, again
drawing a foul and setting himself for a three-point play.
I have to admit that when I turned by head to look at the
scoreboard with the fiery Stanford sophomore at the line, I was
shocked that the Card trailed by a single point. The 93% free
throw shooter was about to tie the game with four and a half
minutes left in the game, and the comeback had come in the blink
of an eye.
His stroke was true, and the game stood tied at 67.
The Ducks got back on their webbed toes as Jackson drove the
lane, and an off-balance Lottich hacked at him. The pair of free
throws quickly returned the lead to Oregon, but then Josh Childress answered with a three-point bomb on a skip pass over
the Duck defense. Stanford led 70-69 and had an advantage for the
first time since their 2-0 start in the opening minute. The
one-point lead switched back and forth the next few possessions,
giving Oregon a lead again at 73-72. Stanford's ensuing
possession was unable to find any good looks, and with the ball
on Matt Lottich's hands as the shot clock ticked down, the senior
gunner went up to launch a three-point shot before the buzzer.
Jackson had him well defended and put a hand right over his face.
Lottich adjusted and pulled the ball back even higher over his
head and gave it a heave. The buzzer sounded with the ball in the
air, and somehow the shot banked in off the backboard.
In such an incredible comeback as this game, you need a couple
jolts of good luck, and that was the key lucky bounce for the
Cardinal. Now leading 75-73, Stanford never again trailed in the
game. Ian Crosswhite would make a lay-in off a sweet dish by
Jackson to tie the game at 75 with just 90 seconds left in
regulation, but Hernandez answered with a drive to the basket
that drew two more free throws. Stanford led 77-75 and held on
the remainder. The Ducks' luck had surely run out on their
ridiculously long three-pointers when Jackson chucked up a
30-point attempt that came off the iron, and Lottich secured the
With less than a minute to go, Stanford needed one more score
to put this game away. Of all people, Matt Haryasz held the ball
at the top of the key and put it on the floor. He took a
dribble-drive to the basket on the right side and drew a double
team. The agile and skilled big man gave a little fake and then
threw an exquisite wrap-around bounce pass under the basket to a
wide-open Nick Robinson. That gave an easy lay-in, and Stanford
had their biggest lead of the game at 79-75. A four-point lead
with 21.8 seconds to go was not a lock, but it was managable. The
Card held on with late free throws for the 83-80 win.
"We're all just excited," a glowing Hernandez said
after the game. "We proved something to ourselves, and we're
all just so happy."
The Stanford point guard scored all 22 of his points in the
second half, while also recording three steals and four assists
versus zero turnovers. He did it from outside, and he also pushed
the ball hard to the rack. Hernandez earned his way to the free
throw line for a game-high 12 attempts, and he nailed 10 of them.
But what will go unnoticed is the job he did on James Davis in
the second half. Davis was the leading offensive bugaboo in the
first half, but was a shadow of himself in the second stanza.
"I just decided I was going to deny him the ball,"
Hernandez comments. "He was the only thing I was going to do
in the second half."
More than an inspiring second half comeback, and more than a
continuation of the undefeated record, this game was a statement
for the offensive abilities of Chris Hernandez and Matt Haryasz.
The fomer has been unfairly labelled as a pass-only distribution
point guard who lacks offensive punch. While that is not his
first priority, he has shown all year that he can hit the big
three-pointer. More importantly, he did something that critics
never imagined he could do: take over a game offensively when all
other options were failing.
Haryasz was in the most uncomfortable of positions, making his
first start on the road at arguably the most intimidating arena
in the Pac-10. He had the displeasure of playing a career-high 33
minutes in this environment while he had no threatening
frontcourt mate, and against a very solid defenisve effort.
Haryasz did much more than hit soft jumpers and score with savvy
moves down low - he showed that he could shake off early problems
individually and as a team to emerge a confident scorer. Haryasz
made his best shots when the team was at their nadir, and he
never showed even a hint of wavering confidence. I saw a little
youth in his reaction to some whistles from the officiating crew,
but nothing about the offense or defense appeared to phase him.
Matt Haryasz came of age in this game, and while Stanford cannot
get Justin Davis back soon enough, they discovered a future star
today, battle-tested and ready for war. Scoring a career-high 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting, plus seven rebounds, is pretty nice as well.
Complete game box score
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