If anyone here is feeling too confident about Stanford let's start with this reminder: Bruins haven't won on Saturdays for two weekends in a row. During last two weeks Ben Ball warriors pulled off good Thursday night wins against Arizona and Washington State, only to have the positive vibes quashed the following Saturday. After putting together perhaps their best all around performance of the season on Thursday night Bruins now need to follow up with another consistent and all around performance today to put themselves in a good spot at the half way mark of 2008-09 season.
So Stanford comes into Pauley looking to regroup after suffering a heartbreaking loss against Southern Cal (a game which they probably were gunning as the "winnable" one in their LA trip). Again it reminds me too much of the situation with ASU/Arizona two weeks ago. The Cardinal now have a new boss in John Dawkins, the former Dukee and lead assistant for Mike Krzyzewski. They are a little different team this year without the Lopez twins. Dawkins is trying to get them to play in an up tempo style ala Blue Devils. Here are the toplines from the LA Times:
The Cardinal is playing more up-tempo under first-year Coach Johnny Dawkins. Along with a pair of senior guards in Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods, Stanford has 6-8 Lawrence Hill and 6-7 Landry Fields, big men with small forward skills.
"They're a difficult team to match up with," Howland said.
The Bruins expect Stanford, which lost to USC by a point Thursday, to play mostly man-to-man defense with an occasional zone.
And the Sports Network:
There are three double-digit scorers on the roster for Stanford, and all three must play well this evening to avoid defeat against UCLA. Anthony Goods is posting 17.1 ppg, and Lawrence Hill checks in with 14.2 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Landry Fields adds 12.1 ppg to the mix for the Cardinal, which is generating 74.9 ppg. Hill had a chance to win the game against USC on Thursday, but his buzzer-beating attempt rimmed out. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds, while Fields posted 18 points. Goods pitched in 13 points for the Cardinal, which permitted USC to connect on 53.7 percent of its field goal attempts. Stanford earned a 31-26 rebounding advantage and forced the Trojans into only eight turnovers.
The key matchups here will be how the Bruins stack up against Lawrence Hill and Anthony Goods. Rob Carpentier from Bruin Report Online writes in his game preview (free at the time of this post) on taking on Stanford's "option 1":
Option 1 has recently become senior Lawrence Hill (6’8" 220 lbs). It’s not surprising that Hill has begun to assert himself; two seasons ago he was one of the best players in the conference. However, last season Hill regressed in all facets of his game like no college player I have seen in a decade. Although Hill is now stepping up (he is averaging 14.2 PPG), he still has two weaknesses: first, his three point shooting continues to be abysmal (28%), something that started last year; and, more importantly, he only rebounds at a 5.9 RPG clip. That may seem fine, especially in Stanford’s "rebound as a team" system (much like UCLA this season), but Hill has shown in the past that he can and should be averaging close to a double-double. In short he still isn’t doing the kind of physical dirty work it would take to move his game to the next level. It will be interesting to see if Coach Ben Howland starts Josh Shipp on Hill or goes with Nikola Dragovic.
As for guarding Anthony Goods, looks like it will be up to JH take on one of the better 2 guards in the conference (from Rob's BRO preview):
Although Stanford was tapped by the Pac-10 writers to finish in 9th place in the conference, they do have a nice trio of players who could play for any team in the conference, starting with senior guard Anthony Goods (6’3" 200 lbs.), who is leading the Cardinal in scoring at 17.1 PPG. He leads the team in shot attempts (221), three point attempts (109) and free throw attempts (110). The offense, for all its spread options and other players, clearly runs through Goods. His weakness is that he is shooting only 40% from the floor and 30% from behind the arc. He is, however, shooting 79% from the free throw line. Goods is strong and will use that strength to offset his relative lack of quickness, especially on the defensive end. In fact, except for James Harden, Goods has won his individual match-up with every ‘2’ guard in the Pac-10 games. Jrue Holiday certainly has his work cut out for him. The one thing about Goods is that he has become more of the second option in the past few games for the Cardinal as other teams look to limit his touches and he tends to play worse in bigger games.
Mitch Johnson is the last part of Stanford's trio, who will be guarded by DC. Johnson is a quick guard and we saw in Washington how DC often has problems with speedy pgs. It will be a challenge for DC to keep Johnson from penetrating and breaking down our defense.
On the offensive side Howland and our guys are going to look for another Cal like performance from JH. From Brian Dohn:
At this juncture of UCLA's season, which hits the halfway mark of the Pacific-10 Conference schedule today when Stanford visits Pauley Pavilion, Holiday's teammates are pressing him to shoot more.
"We need that," Bruins point guard Darren Collison said. "Jrue can be unselfish to a fault. That's a great player. Not a good player, but a great player right there, but sometimes you have tell Jrue to look for your own shot, not necessarily look for everybody else."
Holiday is third on the Bruins in scoring at 9.6points per game, but his shot frequency is fifth on the team. He shoots the ball once every 3.64 minutes he is on the court, falling behind Josh Shipp (2.95), Nikola Dragovic (2.98), Collison (3.27), and Michael Roll (3.52).
Since Pac-10 play commenced, Holiday has not attempted more than nine shots in a game. In the past five games he is attempting 5.4 shots per game from the field.
"That's just his nature," Howland said. "He's a play maker for others, probably first and foremost."
If the 6-foot-3 Holiday wasn't so physically gifted, if he wasn't quick off the dribble, didn't possess a pretty, effortless shot, and wasn't hitting 49.7 percent of his shots from the field, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
However, on a team looking for a consistent second scorer to complement Collison, getting more points from Holiday is important to the Bruins' long-term success.
"There's nothing wrong with creating for others because we do need someone other than me creating for others, but sometimes you do need to tell him to attack a little bit more," Collison said. "He understands that. He's going to do it more."
Hopefully JH can replicate Thursday night's performance this afternoon. He is going to have a challenge against a player like Goods but now is the time for he and his team-mates to step up. This will be another huge game for the Bruin bench. No doubt the Bruins have the talent advantage against the Card but they need to make themselves productive not by worrying about getting their points but maintaining the same defensive intensity Coach Howland is expecting from their starters. During Cal game JK, MR and freshmen like JA, ML and DG took up their defensive intensity few notches. If they can give us that same kind of energy it will go a long way to prevent the kind of funk we have experienced on Saturdays last two weeks.
The game tips off at 12:30 pm EST on ABC (regional coverage). We will have the game thread up about and hour before the tip off.
Again as mentioned above Bruins are going to need to come out with the same intensity they showed on Thursday night and sustain their focus on defense for entire 40 mins. if they can put together another all around performance in back to back games, it will set them up well heading into second half of this conference season. So here is to a repeat of Thursday night.