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Stanford vs Arizona

January 12, 2004 Columns No Comments



While the Wildcats Slept – Stanford at Arizona

by Scott Allen

TUCSON, ARIZONA — As a typical sleep-starved college student, there are a precious few reasons I’d forego the standard weekend recovery-REM and wake up at 4 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

But a chance to sit courtside and broadcast a game between two top-five college basketball teams is one of them. That’s exactly what I did Saturday afternoon in Tucson, as No. 4 Stanford defeated No. 6 Arizona for the fourth consecutive time at the McKale Center, 82-72.

The opportunity fell into my lap Wednesday morning, when the regular men’s basketball play-by-play voice for Stanford’s student radio station called me, the station’s Sports Director, with some “bad” news.

“Something’s come up and I’m not going to be able to make the Arizona trip,” he said. “Sorry for the late notice, but hopefully you can get someone else to go.”

Find someone else to go? Are you kidding me? The annual trip to the desert is by far the most-rewarding perk of the non-paying job. I’ve done play-by-play and color commentary for the Stanford women’s team for the past two seasons and the men’s trip to Tucson is one of the few reasons I’m envious of the men’s gig.

“Yeah, don’t worry about it, I’ll find someone to go,” I said, as I hung up the phone.

Me.

I couldn’t sleep the night before, lying awake in bed for fear that I’d fail to hear the alarm – or it would inexplicably malfunction (read: I set it for 4:00 p.m.) – and ultimately miss my 6:15 flight.

I made it to San Jose airport, though, sleepy-eyed with stats and equipment cases in hand. Let me tell you, airport security’s eyes light up like LeBron (whoops, try Georgia Tech’s Isma’il Muhammad) with a clear path to the hoop, at the sight of radio equipment.

After a two-hour layover in LAX where, what seemed like a two-mile walk from one terminal to the other provided some early-morning exercise, I boarded the jet to Tucson, pushing 24-straight hours of wakefulness. Nothing a few cans of Coke couldn’t cure. I arrived in Tucson around noon, and with the game still four hours from tip-off, decided to get some lunch at the airport.

My first mistake was dining at a restaurant in the airport. It’s not so much the jacked-up prices (Note to self: never buy batteries in an airport), as the fact that air travel, whether aboard a plane or on the ground, and quality food just don’t mix. My second mistake was the false notion I could stomach food with the fast-approaching Pac-10 game of the year to this point already on my plate.

Once inside the McKale Center following a short taxi ride, I set up shop on press row of Lute and Bobbi Olson court, directly across from the Arizona bench. What struck me most as I went over my notes during pregame warmups, fans filing in by the thousands, was the build of guys like Justin Davis and Andre Igoudala. Somewhere along the way to 20 I missed the memo about the growth spurt. I suppose most of us did. I walk past Stanford’s Rob Little and Josh Childress all the time in my dorm and have had classes with both, but somehow seeing these guys up close and on the court in uniform was different.

Fully awake as I went on the air, or at least no longer conscious of my sleepiness, I welcomed listeners with the tease that if recent history were any indication, the game would be nothing short of thrilling. Eight of the past 10 games between the two schools were decided by six points or less, including the last five, with the road team winning each of the past seven.

That interesting tidbit is now in the trash, as Stanford jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, controlling the game throughout as they did in an upset of then-No.1 Kansas in early December.

Five minutes into the game, Davis, who finished with 10 points and boards, gave Stanford an 11-5 with a dunk. The Cardinal stretched the lead to 33-20 at the half, in large part due to a dreadful 19 percent shooting display by the ‘Cats. Arizona had more turnovers (8) than field goals made (6) at the break.

Coming in, I was excited to get my first look at Arizona’s 6-10 Serbian-import Ivan Radenovich, who had meshed extremely well into the offense since joining the team three games ago, but while he didn’t physically resemble a 19-year old Saturday, his shot selection screamed inexperience. He took several long threes in the first half alone, missing every one of them, as Arizona shot 0-for-10 from long range in the first 20 minutes as a team.

Salim Stoudamire, who came into the game having hit 16-of-22 field goals in his past two games, including 10-for-14 from beyond the arc, was held scoreless in the first half before rebounding to post 11 points after the break.

Stanford pushed the lead to 18 early in the second half, before an 8-0 Arizona run capped by an Igoudala layup pulled the ‘Cats to within 10 with 15 minutes to play.

Senior guard Matt Lottich, who finished with 17 points, caught fire in the second half and quieted the capacity crowd with a three-pointer from the left corner seconds after Stoudamire drilled his only trey of the game to get Arizona back to within 13.

Stanford led by 20 with 4:20 to play before a late Arizona run fueled by back-to-back baskets by Mustafa Shakur (game-high 20 points) made the score respectable, as Stanford struggled with Arizona’s full-court press. The Cardinal hit their free throws down the stretch, however, and it was too little too late for the Wildcats.

It was a game short on drama, but not statements for the Cardinal. As a team, Stanford asserted its claim to the title “Best in the West,” and the victory should quiet anyone still doubting their legitimacy after a 13-0 start. Two days after tipping in the game-winner with nine seconds left against Arizona State, Childress had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a season-high 30 minutes off the bench and appears to be back to his old, healthy self. The only mention of a stress reaction surrounding the spindly All-American candidate the rest of the season should be when used to describe the condition of opposing Pac-10 coaches who have to face him twice a year.

Arizona, meanwhile, is clearly a much better team than the way they played Saturday. Leading scorer Hassan Adams, who came in averaging 17.7 points per game, was limited to 24 minutes due to foul trouble and scored just four points on 1-for-5 shooting. Iguodala, who is the second best player in the Pac-10 behind Ike Diogu in my mind, failed to take control of the game with his teammates struggling in the first half, but finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Consistency, along with depth, remains a main issue for Olson to resolve heading into the heart of the conference season. On an average day, the Wildcats can blow opponents out of the water. On a bad day, this squad can beat just about any team in the nation. Stanford, however, is not one of those teams.

After the game, I bolted back to the airport in a cab intended for someone else (sorry, Mrs. Davis) and arrived just in time for my flight, security screening tests and all. One extremely long, but exciting, day was just about over.

And then, like the Arizona offense most of the day, I slept.

     

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