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Stanford shakes off Cougs yet again

Posted by Jo-Jo on March 16, 2008

Okay, I know that this is a day late, but I couldn’t hash through the thaughts in my head well enough until after the Pac-10 Title was completed by UCLA. Now that the tournament is over, and all that is left is the seedings, I can turn to some clear vision as to what went down on Friday night.

As Tony Bennett said, “They beat us three times this year. We obviously couldn’t crack the code. Tonight was the least impressive of the three.”

I couldn’t agree more. I believe that losing to this team, as well as Arizona and UCLA, comes down to the battle in the minds of the Cougar players. As the old saying goes; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me.” Well, shame on the Cougs for losing twice to a beat up Arizona team, and shame of the Cougs for losing to UCLA twice (even though pretty much so did everyone else, but seriously, USC and Washington beat them). But where to you fit a third lose to a team like Stanford? There was nothing new in this game that wasn’t in the first two. That loss Friday night was entirely mental. I just don’t think that the Cougs believe they can beat this team. They looked like they were playing scared.

Exhibit A: weak takes to the basket.
Look, I know what having a 7 footer under the basket (let alone his clone joining him) does to a game. We can throw cliches all over the place here; It’s not just the shots they block, but the shots they alter, You can’t draw both of them away from the basket at the same time, You can’t allow them second chance points, blah blah blah . . . BUT IT IS ALL SO TRUE! Figure it out.

When you know that you are going up against a defensive pressence such as the Lopez twins, you need to make a decision. If you are going to go to the basket, you need to go with reckless abandon right at them, STRONG. Maybe they block your shot, maybe you get called for offensive. But what doesn’t happen is you don’t get up in the air with out at purpose and end up throwing up some weak floaty prayer that, if it doesn’t get swatted, is about as low a percentage a shot as shooting from half court. Time after time the Cougar guards would penetrate into the paint and hesitate on their take off, paying more attention to the potential desaster in front of them instead of the basket they were trying to put the ball in. Brook Lopez collected is second foul half way through the second half. 30 MINUTES INTO THE GAME HE GETS HIS SECOND FOUL! I would bet a weeks wages that if the Cougs had taken the ball strong to the basket, and not bail out after they were in the air, Brook Lopez would have fouled out of that game. Officials are less likely to reward a shooter getting fouled when they are flinching and flipping up a prayer before the contact has even happened. Just take the ball to the rim and you will get fouled. Brook Lopez can testify to that.

Exhibit B: No confidence in the jump shot.
Somewhere along the line the Cougar guards have forgotten that you are allowed to take jump shots from inside the arc. If you can’t beat the defense in the paint, then you better start getting good looks on the perimeter. That doesn’t mean that they have to be 3’s though. I watched a lot of basketball yesterday while sifting through these thoughts and I noticed something that every other team in the country does that the Cougs don’t; every team has quick little shifty guards like Low and Rochestie, but what every other team does that I didn’t see the Cougs even attempt is that after you beat your perimeter defender off the dribble, instead of feeding the beast in the paint, you pull up and shoot a 12 to 15 footer. If you can beat your defender and get penetration, but don’t have the confidence to finish at the basket, then increase you chances by pulling up at the free-throw line and wacking a jumper. Eventually the post defender will start leaving his man to cheat on you and bang, one more pass and Cowgill is hanging off the rim. A pull up jumper from the stripe should be in every guards arsenal, its elememtary. These guys don’t do it.

Exhibit C: Post Defense
I will show a bit of mercy on the guys here, to some extent. I know that Brook Lopez has tormented everyone this year, maybe he is the greatest player in the history of basket ball. I have a hard time, however, believing that a 6’10” 270 lbs Aussie with a mean streak can’t keep that relative stick figure out of the paint. Post defense on a guy like that has nothing to do with defense played on the ball, it has everything to do with what is done when he doesn’t have the ball. You cannot allow him to continually recieve the ball within eight feet of the basket and rely on a double team. Get behind him early and keep him out of the paint. Okay, so Cowgill and Forrest might not be strong enough, but I don’t believe that Baynes can’t handle that assignment.

Exhibit D: Lack of faith in system
This one is very faint because many would believe that the Cougs did that all game long. I noticed something different. It was obvious that the three point shot kept the Cougs in the game in the first half. I know that most people don’t want to live and die by the three but in a game like this, when it was the only thing working for them, I actually believe that they should have started letting them fly. It has been a while since they were going to for them like they were on Friday night, I say let it ride. Nothing else was working and we’ve seen teams beat the Cougs with a hot night (Arizona). The biggest example was not trying to get Daven Harmeling some shots. Truly, he has been awful as of late, but when he does get going he is an atomic bomb to the opponent. From the moment he hit is first three point attempt it should have been on like donkey kong. The dude was 4-4 from behind the arc. He hit his first one with just under 5 to go in the first half and I honestly don’t think he touched the ball again on offense the rest of the half. He hit his second about half way through the second half and then didn’t get a shot off again until the last 3 minutes when it got desperate. He was primed, he was ready, and he was hitting; LET IT RAIN. I think that it is obvious, now that we are all the way through the season, that the Cougs can’t go toe-to-toe with the best teams of the country, so they need to rely on some of their strengths, a hot shooting Harmeling is one of them.

That is all I’ve got for now, but I will be back for more tonight.

Here’s to looking forward.

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3 Responses to “Stanford shakes off Cougs yet again”

  1. Longball said

    Our bracket is brutal, but i am happy with the 4 seed and our first round matchup with Winthrop. I think K State is a brutal 1st round draw for USC.

  2. Alan said

    Just some thoughts…
    I think there is a reason Tony didn’t let the 3’s fly. The cougs also showed excellent zone defense allowing Stanford only 1 point in a 3.5+ min span (i imagine Dick had a heart flutter over it). However, there are some things that you just keep in the back of the playbook until the time dictates its necessity (like second or third round of the ncaa tourny when you get matched up against a ND, NC, or a hot indy team).
    Also, cut some slack to Harmeling. The guy sprained his ankle in practice a few weeks back. I would imagine he isn’t 100% and the longer you keep him under the radar, the more he will be overlooked as a serious threat from 3point-land.

  3. Jo-Jo said

    I’m not hammering on Harmeling, I’m stating a fact – He’s shot the ball poorly for a long time now. And I’m not sure, with the opportunity to finally put a signature win on your resume, that holding things back in the Pac-10 tourney semifinal is all that smart. Those are games that the program wants to win. You’re not hiding anything keeping Harmeling quiet, he’s a one demensional player, his three point shooting isn’t going to sneak up on anyone. If he is hitting his shots you need to look for him. He was 4-4, if he goes 7-9 the Cougs win that game.

    And as far as the zone goes, I’ve been calling for that move all season. Hiding that isn’t smart either because, while it was effective for that stretch against Stanford, the Cougs looked like a team who hadn’t used a zone very often. It didn’t bite them, but you could see they weren’t totally comfortable in it either. If the zone is something they want to break out in the post season then TB should have gotten it some game experience earlier in the year.

    It’s March bro. The Pac-10 in the best conference in the country and the Cougs were one game away from play for the title. What exactly are you expecting them to wait for. Beating Stanford friday helps in the tournament seeding (possibly avoiding a second round against ND) and in recruiting. Unless you are a team like Tennessee who obviously didn’t care about their conference tournament because it wasn’t really going to effect them one way or the other, you need to be all in by now.

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