Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 11, 2011

Stanford men shoot themselves out of the Pac-10 tournament

by Rick Eymer

The good news for the Stanford men's basketball team that everyone returns for the 2011-12 season. The bad news, however, is that the Cardinal has only that to look forward to at this point in the season.

With a 15-16 record following a 69-67 loss to Oregon State in the opening round of the Pac-10 Conference Tournament at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, the Cardinal effectively is done for the season.

There will be no NCAA Tournament bid. No invite to the National Invitation Tournament. And, don't even expect College Basketball Invitational to come calling.

That's the reality of a second straight losing season since the 1970s, a third consecutive losing campaign in the Pac-10, and losing six of your final eight games.

Stanford had its chances, despite a woeful start, thanks to junior Jeremy Green. He scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, but he wasn't able to get one more shot that might have made the difference as Oregon State double-teamed him in the final seconds and prevented him from getting off a potential game-winning shot.

"I thought my guys gave an amazing effort in the second half, especially after the way they started," said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. "It's difficult to win any game when you shoot 4-for-34 from the field in the first half."

While this year's hopes of a postseason tournament were dashed, there's plenty of hope for next season and beyond.

Stanford heads into next season with a full head of steam. Every current player is eligible to return, including Andy Brown, who sat out his third year with a torn ACL.

Only Chasson Randle, currently a senior point guard at Rock Island (Ill.) High who signed a letter-of-intent with Stanford, will need to play catch-up with Dawkins' system. The rest of the group will be taking the advanced course.

Green will remain the feature attraction and his supporting cast should be stronger just from the experience of getting through a rough season together.

Green watched and learned from Landry Fields' brilliant senior season a year ago and there's every chance Green will put that to good use.

The combination of Jarrett Mann and Aaron Bright gives Stanford some depth at point guard, the most important position on the court. Mann improved his free-throw percentage over the course of the season, even though he missed two crucial charity tosses that could have tied Wednesday's game at 67, and could be the Pac-10's top defensive guard. Bright is a terrific shooter and learned through success and adversity.

Josh Owens was going to be a good player until a medical condition forced him to miss the 2009-10 season. He'll return next year with the experience of a senior and gives the Cardinal a solid presence in the middle.

Bright is one of many freshmen who were thrown into the fray a bit prematurely and all of them will be a force next year.

Freshman Anthony Brown added 11 points and nine rebounds in the loss to the Beavers. Freshman Dwight Powell had 11 points and seven rebounds. Two more freshmen, John Gage and Josh Huestis, also figure to be part of the grand scheme of things next year.

The Cardinal, meanwhile, had its season come to an end in the Play-In game of the Pac-10 tournament. It was a game that was ripe for the picking. Stanford was effective with its defense, but early shooting woes were difficult to overcome.

Green, 1-of-8 in the first half, was 7-of-10 in the second half, and finished 7-of-15 from 3-point range. Stanford shot 12 percent in the first half and 33 percent for the game. The Cardinal was 16-of-27 from the field over the final 20 minutes, only to come up short.

Stanford connected on six of its first seven shots of the second half to draw even with Oregon State less than five minutes in. Green hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 34-all with 15:43 remaining to play.

The Beavers responded with an 11-3 run to pull ahead, 45-37, with 11:49 left.

Stanford never tied or grabbed the lead the rest of the way, although Green made it interesting. He hit a 3-pointer to bring the Cardinal within a point with 12 seconds left and then hit a pair of free throws to bring it within 68-67 with seven seconds left.

After Jared Cunningham made one of two free throws, Stanford inbounded the ball to Green, who tried to work his way to the basket but found himself in a double-team and was unable to get a clear shot off as the buzzer sounded.

Stanford went without a field goal for over 10 minutes and was 3-of-30 at one point in the first half. The Cardinal still made just four shots in the half.

Green, Powell and Jack Trotter were a combined 4-of-17. Everybody else went 0-for-16.

The Beavers were having their own shooting problems, making just 33 percent of their attempts but were able to carve out a 26-18 halftime advantage.

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