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Thank goodness Brook Lopez will be in the NBA next year

Posted by Jeff Nusser on March 3, 2008

I tried to be upset about Saturday. I really did. And it worked for a while, as I thought about how our chance for a signature win had disintegrated before my very eyes under an avalanche of Brook Lopez and stunningly ineffective offense.

But then I remembered I was at my son’s first birthday party. It was awful tough to be mad when this was staring me in the face all day:

So it was that I didn’t get a chance to put up a game thread — I could not get to a computer at all from the time I left Wenatchee on Friday until last night when I got back to Wenatchee last night. I apologize for that, and can truthfully tell you that it won’t happen again this year.

Back to Saturday’s game. It’s not tough to figure out where this one went wrong.

The first half might have been our best half of the year, given the situation and the opponent. I had talked to Jo-Jo in the morning and we both agreed that we sincerely thought the Cougs were going to win the game, and that first half certainly did nothing whatsoever to make me think otherwise. I wasn’t naive enough to think that Stanford wasn’t going to come back, but let’s be real: We built a 13-point lead with Kyle Weaver on the bench. How could we not like our chances?

But then, Brook Lopez asserted himself on the offensive end in what has to be one of the most impressive individual performances I’ve seen this year, and the Cardinal as a unit asserted themselves defensively. The result was domination by Lopez, whose length and touch make him virtually unstoppable with our personnel. It doesn’t hurt that every time he got doubleteamed, he either found a cutter diving to the basket — which I still don’t really understand what’s so hard to stop about that, since a third guy defensive just needs to rotate to the guy the doubleteamer was guarding, but it’s happened for two games now, so I guess it must be hard — or drew a foul with that silly split-of-the-double-team-and-flail-with-your-hands-in-the-air move that gets him and his brother to the line almost every time. But still, he’s pretty good.

If you’re going to beat Stanford, in general, you’ve got to be able to stop Lopez. Look at the teams that have beaten the Cardinal: Siena (OK, we’ll throw that one out), UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State. UCLA has long and active big men who can guard Lopez one-on-one, plus the depth to withstand foul trouble. Arizona State runs the only zone in the conference, making conventional post play nearly impossible, something Stanford adjusted to the second time around. Against Oregon early in the Pac-10 season, Lopez just got no help and Tajuan Porter shot the Ducks to a win.

The point is, I think we can beat Stanford but it needs to be a game that is loosely officiated, something that didn’t happen in either contest. On Saturday, the Cougs had seven fouls before Stanford even had one, and the precedent was set. How big are the fouls when the Cougs play Stanford? Consider this: Only three times this year has WSU allowed an opponent to exceed 50 in free throw rate, meaning they had a ratio of greater than one free throw made to every two field goals attempted. Stanford has done it twice. (Arizona was the other, in the first matchup.) That’s a huge number, one that’s awful tough to contend with when most of those fouls are being committed by big men who are part of an already thin front line.

The other aspect to Saturday’s loss, of course, was the absolute disappearance of the offense in the second half. You can trace that one back to Lopez and his brother, Robin, too. Stanford has a very, very good defense which is almost completely predicated on pressuring the ball on the perimeter because just about anything that gets near the basket gets erased.

Here is why it’s so hard. It’s not all that tough to figure out a way to beat a team with one shot blocker, where draw and dish can work really well. But when you drive the lane, draw one shot blocker, and there’s still another one lurking in the shadows for any potential dump off … well, that can get quite discouraging for an offense — so discouraging that an offense will defeat itself by more or less completely give up trying to get to the rim. That’s what I saw in the Cougs on Saturday. Forget about the fact that Stanford “only” had six blocks; it would have been twice that many had we even tried to get to the basket in the second half. But we quit trying and settled for contested jumpers. Not a good strategy.

Am I disappointed by Saturday? Sure, especially when it seemed there was an opportunity there. But I’m not going to sweat it too much. A win would have been nice, but it hardly kills us. I think it just validates that Stanford is awful good and we have an exceptionally difficult time matching up with the Cardinal.


4 Responses to “Thank goodness Brook Lopez will be in the NBA next year”

  1. Longball said

    Lopez was only dominant because he was allowed to be by the refs. When Baynes was in the game, Lopez was nothing special, in fact Baynes outplayed him for long sgtretches (like the entire 1st half) when he was in there. But i dont care how good you are, if the other team is literally not allowed to defend you, you will look dominant. period. So can we all get off this guys jock already?

    Given that the refs had taken our big man out of the game and were allowing theirs free reign, it was time for any one of our glut of veterans to step up. Lets face it, with an 11 point lead at the half, all we have to do to win is not get completely and utterly dominated. This is not a lot to ask of even a halway decent team by any stretch. But again we were left asking “where the heck are you Derek Low?” The big difference i saw with 1st half Low and 2nd half Low, was that he was using dribble penetration very agressively and effectively in the 1st half, and competely abndoned it in the 2nd half. This just baffles me because in the first half he was on fire from 3, and in the 2nd half he couldnt hit water if he fell out of a boat (are you kidding me on that air ball?). So why not go to what worked so well in the first half? Rochestie was still having some success on dribble penetration, but Low became completely one dimensional, and was really just a waste of space on the floor for us the whole half.

    I just dont think this is the built tough for tourney time team we all have hoped it was. WE cant beat elite teams, and our psyche on offense is just way to fragile. This loss was just as bad as the eggs we laid at home against Cal and Zona.

  2. Grady said

    You can also throw out Siena because Brook Lopez didn’t play in that one. That might have been what you meant.

    Interesting points about the offense; it amazes me how just the presence of Brook and Robin changes what we do on that end of the floor. Poor Caleb Forrest had a chance to drive to the basket for a shot and/or a foul, but was too shy and pulled back from the basket. That possession summed up part of the difference in the second half – normally we are better at getting to the basket and at least getting the guards or Baynes to the foul line. Against Stanford the Cougs rarely even tried attacking the basket, and when they did the results weren’t there.

    Brook Lopez’s presence in particular has been a problem; Taylor Rochestie doesn’t usually miss layups, and yet on the last possession in OT of the home game against the Cardinal he sailed the ball an inch to high and it came off the rim. I have to believe that it was Brook’s appearance in the lane that caused that miss.

    I’m looking forward to B. Lopez in the NBA. Let’s see how LeBron, Kobe, etc. respond to Brook’s chest bumps and random screaming at the crowd.

  3. SeaBass said

    -Man all I keep hearing from our fans is that Brook Lopez is an ass for bumping his chest and being happy for his team’s comeback. This is usually followed by I hope someone in the tourney or at the next level takes him out for this etc… whats wrong with you people. WE lost He had a huge night probobly his last night in front of his home fans players do what he did all the time in far less emotional circumstances NBA and NCAA. He plays with heart and emotion I wish our players showed half of th emotion that he and his team played with if so we most likely would have won the game. If he did the same thing and was on our squad he’d be hailed we’d all love him so we as fans need to get over ourselves cuz honestly would any of you watch an sport if athletes were deadpan and played with no emotions… I think not. I’m just glad I got the chance to see he and his bro play live at non NBA rates 🙂

  4. …and UCLA gets the last laugh, as the rest of the country shakes their head, befuddled, and marvels at just how bad the officiating in the Pac-10 has been this year.

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