By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Jeremy Green, Stanford's leader in points, is scoring again and that's good news for the Cardinal (6-7, 13-11) as it begins the final push toward an upper half finish in the Pac-10 Conference.
It won't be easy, as UCLA (9-3, 18-7) visits Thursday for a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Maples Pavilion. The Bruins are in second place, a game behind Arizona and a half-game ahead of Washington. They are, perhaps, the hottest team in the conference.
The Bruins have won nine of their past 10 games, and the only loss was by 11 points at Arizona. After its Bay Area swing, UCLA returns home to face Arizona State and Arizona before going to Washington and Washington State.
The Bruins clearly have their sights set on the regular season championship and the top seed in the Pac-10 tournament, which will be held again at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Stanford remains in contention for some kind of postseason appearance, though the Cardinal would have to win out and reach the conference championship game to be considered for the NCAA tournament.
Green was in the midst of a shooting slump the last time the teams met at Pauley Pavilion. He was 4-of-15 from the field and finished with 12 points in a 68-57 loss to the Bruins.
During an eight-game stretch Green was 27-of-87 (31 percent) and never scored more than 15 points in any one game.
Over the past four game Green is shooting 53 percent (29-of-55) from the field, including a streak of 12 consecutive 3-pointers, and has scored at least 21 points in each contest.
"You can learn through adversity more than at any other time," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "He was always being defended by the other team's best and he had to learn how to create more offense for himself."
When things weren't going so well it seems Green studied and practiced that much harder.
"He's dedicated to the game and studies the game," Dawkins said. "He learned a lot about himself as a player. We never wanted him to stop taking shots when he got his looks. He went over game films and had a heightened sense of things while he was struggling."
Green also muscled up on the boards and pulled down a career best 12 rebounds in Stanford's loss at Washington last Saturday, doubling his previous season high. He helped the Cardinal open its last road trip with a victory at Washington State, the team which gave Stanford its first home loss of the year.
He's had to be his own role model through it all. Last year he could rely on Landry Fields, but there are no seniors on the roster this season. He's both leader and follower and he's back in a groove.
It comes at a good time. Stanford ended Washington's bid for an undefeated conference season and could stunt UCLA's application for a conference title as well. A win over the Bruins would give the Cardinal some cache.
Of Stanford's final five opponents, only UCLA is ahead in the standings. After the Bruins, it's USC (5-7, 13-12) at home and three on the road: at Oregon (6-7, 13-12), Oregon State (4-9, 9-15) and California (6-7, 13-12).
Third-ranked Stanford travels to USC for a 7 p.m. game Friday and to UCLA for a noon game Sunday.
The Cardinal (13-0, 22-2) brings a 16-game winning streak on its toughest road trip of the season. The ninth-ranked Bruins' (11-1, 21-2) only conference loss was at Stanford earlier in the season. A victory over the Cardinal would give UCLA a chance to win the Pac-10 regular season title, something that has been Stanford's private domain for more than a decade.
Stanford can't afford to look ahead with third-place USC (7-5, 15-8) standing in the way Thursday.
The Cardinal comes off its closest game of the season since losing in overtime at Tennessee. Stanford needed every bit of toil to escape with a 62-52 win over Washington last Saturday.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer thought the game against the Huskies would prove beneficial the rest of the way. Washington reminded the Cardinal the conference is nothing like playing 'horse' with a nerf ball.
Menlo gears up for its showdown
Menlo College has a chance to clinch at least a tie for the Cal Pac Conference men's basketball title when the Oaks (8-2, 12-12) travel to co-leader William Jessup (8-2, 11-14) for a 7:30 p.m. contest Thursday.
Menlo hosts Simpson (1-9, 2-26) in the regular season finale Saturday.
Reigning Player of the Week Julian Harris is second in the Cal Pac with his 18.4 scoring average for the Oaks, who have won eight of their last nine games. They beat William Jessup at home, 72-63, last month.
The Warriors have one of the top 3-point shooters in the conference in Anthony Anderson, who makes 2.36 per game. Harris makes an average of 2.38.
The Menlo women's basketball team is currently tied with William Jessup for second-place in the Cal Pac, two games behind leader Holy Names with two games to play.
The Lady Oaks (8-2, 16-11) beat the Warriors, 77-51, when the teams met in Atherton earlier in the season. They[re scheduled for a a 5:30 p.m. tip.
William Jessup's Ashley Rose leads the Cal Pac with 432 points (16.6) while Menlo's Erika Garcia (316, 11.7) and Monique Ayers-Calvello (294 13.4) are ranked fourth and fifth.
Menlo's Elisa Ayala leads the conference in rebounds while Ayers-Calvello is second.
Both games will be webcast through the Menlo Athletics web site. Here's a direct link: Menlo webcast.