Missing an opportunity for a rare Pac-10 road sweep last weekend, the Stanford men's basketball team hopes to reclaim its home court dominance when Arizona arrives for a late night special (8 p.m.) on Thursday night.
At the same time, Arizona (1-2, 11-5) is no longer an assumed loss. In any scenario, though, the Cardinal (2-2, 13-3) is looking for a home sweep. A split just won't do at this point in the conference season. There are just too many good teams in the Pac-10 and losing ground at home would cause an adverse effect on Stanford's postseason dreams.
The Cardinal found peace and frustration during its swing through Oregon.
Peace came in the form of a nearly flawless performance in Corvallis that led to a 66-46 victory over Oregon State on Thursday.
Frustration reared its ugly side on Sunday in a painful, 71-66, setback to Oregon. The Ducks finally beat Stanford at MacArthur Court two years running for the first time in five years and the second time in 12 years. The Cardinal, however, let that one slip away.
"We need to keep working on getting the ball inside," Stanford forward Taj Finger said. "If Brook (Lopez) is double- or triple-teamed we have to kick it out and hope our 3's are going in. We got away from that a little bit."
This week, Arizona State and the Wildcats represent the oddity that is the Pac-10. The Sun Devils are 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 1988, and are riding a nine-game winning streak as they approach the Bears' lair on Thursday. It's Arizona State's longest winning streak since an 11-game streak in 1981.
Arizona, on the other hand, has won at least 20 games in each of the past 20 years. The last time the Wildcats started 1-2 in the conference was in 2002.
Arizona, which has beaten Stanford in their past six meetings, has never finished lower than Arizona State in the Pac-10 since Lute Olson took over as coach in 1983. It won't happen this year either, as Olson has taken a leave of absence for the rest of the season. Kevin O'Neill is on the hook.
Wildcats' freshman point guard Jerryd Bayless (check out his website at www. jerrydbayless.org) returned to action in Arizona's win over Houston on Saturday. He missed four games with a knee injury and the Wildcats lost three of them. He's scored in double figures in 11 of his 12 games and came close to a triple-double (20 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) against Missouri-Kansas City in his third collegiate contest.
Chase Budinger (17.1) and Jordan Hill (14.4) are also big-time scorers. Hill is among the Pac-10 leaders in rebounding (8.1).
Brook Lopez nearly hoisted Stanford on his seven-foot shoulders and carried it to victory against the Ducks. He matched his career high with 26 points in addition to blocking three shots. He made 10 of his first 12 shots but then missed four straight.
Robin Lopez and Taj Finger each scored nine points as the Cardinal could not get enough scoring from the rest of the team to challenge the Ducks.
"This is two games now that we've lost in a tough conference where it was more about what we didn't do than what our opponent did do," Stanford coach Trent Johnson said.
Stanford shot a respectable 44 percent for the game, but Brook Lopez provided the majority of that, shooting just under 63 percent on 10-of-16 shooting. The rest of the team combined to shoot 36 percent.
Brook and Finger also combined to make 11 of 12 free throws, while their teammates were 2-of-13.
Mitch Johnson led the Cardinal with nine rebounds while Robin Lopez added eight. Fred Washington recorded six assists, grabbed five rebounds, made his only field goal attempt, but suffered a 0-for-6 day at the foul line.
Lawrence Hill scored 13 points in the win over Oregon State. Anthony Goods and Brook Lopez each added 12.
It's an interesting week for Stanford (4-2, 14-3) when it takes to the road for a trip to the desert and games against Arizona on Thursday at 7 p.m., followed by a Sunday matinee at Arizona State at 1 p.m.
If the Cardinal has any designs on winning an eighth straight Pac-10 title, then this is a big weekend. While Arizona (0-5, 6-10) has struggled, the Sun Devils (5-0, 11-5) have sparkled since conference play opened.
Arizona State can't afford to overlook California (6-0, 13-2) but Sun Devils' coach Charli Turner Thorne always loves to beat her former coach.
Stanford swept the Oregon schools at home last weekend, responding to its lost weekend in Los Angeles with a pair of lop-sided victories. The Cardinal beat Oregon State, 81-45, on Thursday and handled the Ducks, 83-49, on Saturday. Stanford never trailed in either game.
Stanford, Arizona State and California are all looking at the next few games as a possible turning point in the season. After wandering the desert, the Bay Area schools meet head-to-head at Stanford the following Saturday.
Stay tuned to this space for further updates as things are likely to heat up.
Candice Wiggins and Jayne Appel took turns as the offensive leaders last weekend.
Wiggins, who will soon become the all-time scoring leader in school history, scored 20 points in the win over Oregon, two days after scoring a season-low four points against Oregon State.
"I didn't think about the four points," Wiggins said. "To me it's how I feel after the game. We needed to rebound from last weekend as a team. Points are not necessarily a measure of the quality of your game. We had a great weekend and that's what is important."
Falling twice the previous weekend shook the Cardinal and the team has since responded by extending its home winning streak to 12 games.
"We were upset about losing but we know how great we can be," Wiggins said. "This is a special team and there was no pointing the finger. We definitely learned a tough lesson. One would have been good enough but we had to learn twice."
Jillian Harmon contributed 15 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinal, which beat the Ducks for the sixth straight time.
Appel, who scored 25 points on 12-of-13 shooting against Oregon State on Thursday, recorded two blocked shots, a steal and an assist before attempting her first shot midway through the first half. Appel, in foul trouble for much of the game, finished with a season-low four points, making both of her shot attempts.
No one had to tell Appel how much those two losses hurt in Southern California. Even though she gave Stanford the lead in the final minute against USC, it was the free throw she missed that stayed with her.
"Yeah I took it personally," Appel said. "We needed to prove ourselves again. We needed to show how hard we do work and to make up for last game."
The 25 points -- she also had eight rebounds -- were Appel's second best of the season to the 30 she scored at Utah in a double overtime win. Her .932 shooting percentage was a career best and the fourth best in school history. She was 9-of-10 in a game last year.
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