Stanford never had a chance. They are a tree. This is what we do to trees:
Having spent some time in the Bay area, I developed an affinity for the Cal Golden Bears, and naturally a corresponding disdain for Stanford, so this win was especially enjoyable. It was arguably the most complete game we have played all year.
Stanford had no answers for the Tide's tenacious defense. They scored 3 points in the first 5 minutes of the game and never got their inside game going. Bama's offense was very solid throughout. We avoided the long scoring droughts that have plagued us most of the year and managed to maintain the 10 point lead throughout. Stanford would cut it to 4 or 5, but we were always able to answer and extend the lead back to double digits. We did a much better job of adjusting to Stanford's changing defenses, whereas we've struggled in the past when teams would switch from a man to a zone out of a timeout.
The game plan was clearly to attack the basket with the dribble drive, and it worked very well. While Stanford has some skilled big men, they aren't particularly strong. We were able to get position on them and get them in foul trouble. Powell picking up his 4th foul early in the second half was big and took them out of what they wanted to offensively. I doubt their game plan coming in was to take half of their shots from 3 point range.
Coach Grant seemed to get aggravated with our guards, particularly Lacey and at times Releford early in the 2nd half, for not immediately pressing after made baskets. He was very vocal in stating that he wanted immediate pressure on the ball and did not appreciate them taking their first couple of steps back down the court after made baskets. When we executed the press as designed, it was very effective in producing turnovers and disrupting Stanford's offensive flow.
Driving to the basket and drawing fouls also allowed us to score some points from the free throw line, going 22 for 26. When Stanford tried to switch to a zone, Levi knocked down a couple of 3s to get them out of it. They couldn't focus their defense on any one guy, as we had 4 different players score in double figures. Retin Obasohan was the player of the game with 14 points, and he stepped up big time in the second half after Lacey was called for his 4th foul. I am really excited about Retin coming back next year. He continues to improve, and shows an incredible amount of athletic ability. His speed and quickness is obvious, but his jumping ability is particularly impressive to me. He gets up and in a hurry, as evidenced by his 6 rebounds and his one authoritative blocked shot. That's a trait you don't find in many "undersized" point guards. He's also shown the ability to throw down some alley oops.
If you were watching on TV, you may have seen me sitting right behind the scorer's table, getting onto the officials during a review of a Moussa Gueye foul in the first half. I'm all for instant replay and getting the calls right, but sometimes I think the officials spend too much time looking at these replays. In that instance, if Gueye's foul were intentional, it should be obvious after the first or second viewing. They correctly ruled it was not a flagrant foul, but I think if after reviewing a play for 30 seconds or so, if it were flagrant, it would be fairly obvious by that point. These long reviews disrupt the flow of the game. On a somewhat related point, I also think officials spend too much time trying to get the clock down to the right tenth of a second late in games. I've seen a lot of teams with no timeouts, essentially get a free timeout while the officials spend 3 minutes deciding if there is 2.4 or 2.5 seconds remaining. That unfairly punishes the team that efficiently managed their timeouts throughout the game in my opinion, but I digress.
The crowd was much better than for the Northeastern game, I would estimate close to 7,000 people were there, and they were more into the game than any other crowd we've had this year. I wish there was some way we could get these types of smaller but more passionate crowds for the pre conference games. I really believe it might have made a difference against Mercer or Tulane. Every time Stanford would cut into our lead, the crowd would get into the game and the team seemed to respond.
Up next, we face the Maryland Terrapins in the Great Eight of the NIT Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum with a trip to New York on the line. Maryland is a big time program with 2 wins over Duke this season, so it won't be an easy task. General Admission tickets are on sale now for only $9 each, and they have a limited number of "complimentary youth" tickets, so it should be an inexpensive fun game to take the whole family to for those of you so inclined. If you can't make it to Tuscaloosa, it will be televised on ESPN.