Stanford entered tonight’s game on a roll, winners of five of their last six, while watching their national ranking soar to 14th in both national polls. If recent history was to be a guide, the visitors were going to need all of the momentum they could muster. Despite fielding quality teams over the last few seasons, the Cardinal have struggled mightily against Washington at Hec Ed, dropping five in a row dating back to 2002 when the Huskies ended a Cardinal five-game winning streak.
The Cardinal have surged of late, helped mostly by the return of 7-foot sophomore Brook Lopez, who is averaging 17.8 points and eight rebounds a game since returning to the team December 19th. Brook and twin brother Robin expected to have their hands full matching up against Washington forward Jon Brockman, who terrorized the twins in two games against Stanford last season, including a 23-point, 10-rebound performance at Stanford last year.
Tonight it was Brook's turn to shine. Lopez was dominating as he blitzed the Washington post defenders to the tune of 31 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Though no other Cardinal managed to score in double figures, Lopez' play alone was enough to silence a Washington team that could never answer.
“Obviously we couldn’t contain Brook Lopez,” explained Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar after the game. “He impacted the game as much as any player we’ve played against since we’ve been here. Offensively, it’s difficult to contain him and defensively, he and Robin allow their guards to really get physical with you.”
Husky forward Jon Brockman echoed his coach’s sentiments. “Brook had a great night and so did Robin,” shared Brockman. “They’re not ever going to play a game where they’re not going to block shots. They were monsters tonight.”
The game also featured a number of intriguing storylines, even if they had little to do with the outcome on the floor. UW senior co-captain Tim Morris began his career at Stanford before transferring after his sophomore campaign. Much-maligned Stanford point guard and Seattle native Mitch Johnson of O'dea High School, looked to end his string of disappointing performance against the Huskies and Husky forward Quincy Pondexter was looking to make his presence felt against his former high school teammates, the Lopez twins.
But it was the twins who made their presence felt early, scoring 11 of the first 17 points for the Cardinal, while rejecting three shots in the early going as Stanford moved out to an 11-point bulge.
“That’s what you expect from an experienced team,” expressed Stanford Coach Trent Johnson afterwards. “We’re going to play off emotion. We’ve got a purpose for when we play and how we play.”
“They’re good, especially when their big guys are doing what they did. Brook’s a great NBA lottery type of guy,” added Brockman.
Shooting only 34.8 percent from the field in the first half, the Huskies could get nothing going with the Cardinal giants camped underneath the hoop. Worse, their shooting woes continued from the free throw stripe, as they hit just 3 of 9 from the line. Washington ended up on the losing end of the battle in nearly every way. For the game they were out-rebounded 41-36, and managed just four assists to the Cardinal's 18 while losing the turnover battle by one.
“If we come come out like that, we’re not going to win a single game the rest of the season,” expressed the disappointed Brockman, who finished with 13 poinrts and 13 rebounds despite a slight groin pull. He wasn't in the mood to make excuses, though.
“It’s pretty sore,” he added. “It definitely limits everything that I’m doing, but that’s the season. You’ve got to play through stuff.”
Things didn’t get any prettier as the second half opened as the Cardinal surged to a 20 lead as any hope that the poor first half play being an anomaly withered away as Lopez continued to thwart comebacks by the home team.
“Their size bothered us obviously, but when you talk about match ups, to me, there was just one match up- Brook Lopez,” suggested Romar.
A steady diet of interior passes overwhelmed the Huskies, who switched to a 2-3 zone defense in an effort to give their post defenders some help. Ultimately, there was little Washington could do to slow the bleeding. It wasn’t until late in the second half that Huskies finally showed signs of life. Pondexter, along with all three of the Husky freshmen managed to slice the lead to 11 with three-and-a-half minutes remaining before a torrent of UW fouls allowed the Cardinal to salt the game away at the free-throw line.
“We keep playing these teams in this league where I walk away saying, 'wow, that might be the best team in the league',” explained Romar. “I’m not saying Stanford’s the best team in the league, but they’re very good.
“I cant remember the last time somebody beat us this way at home,” he said.
With the loss, the Huskies fell to 12-9 overall, 3-5 in the Pac-10, while the Cardinal improved to 6-2 in conference play and 17-3 overall.
Points: Pondexter 15, Brockman 13, Appleby 10, Dentmon 5, Morris 4, Overton 3, Wolfinger 1
Minutes: Brockman 34, Appleby 33, Pondexter 28, Dentmon 25, Overton 16, Morris 16, Wolfinger 16, Bryan-Amaning 13, Holiday 8, Wallace 6, Smith 5
Rebounds: Brockman 13, Pondexter 8, Dentmon 4, TEAM 3, Wallace 2, Overton 1, Morris 1, Appleby 1, Smith 1, Bryan-Amaning 1, Holiday 1
Assists: Overton 2, Dentmon 1, Pondexter 1
Steals: Overton 2, Bryan-Amaning 2, Brockman 1, Morris 1, Dentmon 1
Blocks: Brockman 1, Morris 1, Holiday 1