The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Stanford 60, Washington State 53

What can I say about that second half that hasn’t already been said about the Bay of Pigs. It was your classic college basketball meltdown, and yet, after ten minutes to cool down, I don’t feel so bad. Why?

Well, for starters, the Cougs are in the tournament. They lost to a legitimate top 10 team. They should be a heck of a lot more motivated to beat the huskies next week. The loss raised our somewhat maligned SOS, and in the end it’s only one game. The season’s not over. Far from it.

The frustration from the Stanford game is that it was a two-faced performance on all fronts. The cougs were magnificent in the first half, awful in the second. They held Stanford to 22 points in the first, and then got held to 20 points in the second. Depending on how you look at it, Brook Lopez was absolutely dominant, or babied by the officials (realistically it was a mix of the two). Low couldn’t miss in the first half, and could hardly make anything in the second. Stanford’s defense tightened up late, and the only offense they needed was Brook Lopez, who put up a line of 11 of 16 from the floor, leading to 25 of Stanford’s 60 points and far too many chest bumps along the way.

You could say the Cougs “blew it”, but that would be an insult to the opponent. Stanford did everything they needed and had the benefit of every bounce going their way when the Cougars desperately needed some luck. Great teams create their own luck, get their own calls, and find ways to win games they have no business of winning. Stanford is a great team. In part it is why I don’t feel so bad – the Cougs need experiences like this for the postseason. A loss teaches you more about your team than a win, and there is no possible way the 06-07 and 07-08 cougs would be as poised without the seasons of losses that preceded them. Two years ago we still had Weaver, Low, Cowgill, Baynes, etc., etc. The reason these same players lost games then and win games now is that they’ve had the experience. They survived the losses and they grew. It was the same players on the court in both halves. The difference was the performance, and the Cougs sure got a learning experience in the last half of this one.

Player of the game: Have to go with Baynes. He gutted it out, shot 4 or 7 from the field (one of the misses was a desperation 3 that he had to take) , scored 10 points and did what he could in the low post on defense. His fifth foul was a joke of a call. Baynes was the microcosm of the evening for the Cougars – he brought the effort, the intensity, the first-half shooting and defense, only to get plowed over in the second half by a 7-foot NBA prospect and that whole “momentum” concept that the media loves but may not really exist.

Also, the glare he shot Robin Lopez after his final dunk was one of my favorite moments of the night.

My advice to the team: watch the second half game tape, learn everything you can, then smash the thing with a sledgehammer.

Tonight’s rooting interests:

USC at Arizona State – The Devils are desperate; the Cougs need a USC loss to remain in the driver’s seat for third place.

Washington at California – remember that Cal team that swept the Washington schools on the road? Would be nice to see them tonight.

St. Mary’s at Gonzaga – Even if you dislike the zags (which I don’t), you have to like the prospect of them improving WSU’s strength of schedule.

Tomorrow:
Oregon at Oregon State – Beaver nation has suffered long enough.

UCLA at Arizona – After today’s game you have to like the Bruins over Stanford for the conference title. Could a .500 or worse (in conference) Arizona team still make the tourney?

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