Friday, January 26, 2007

Unrest in the West

Pac-10 produces not one, but two upsets

College basketball is probably as competitive as it has ever been. Not a single day goes by that there isn't an upset in the Top 25 ranks. while that could be due to poor choices by the poll voters, it's more likely that home courts rule and college players just aren't well-prepared for the rigors of the road.

Thursday night produced a couple of upsets, both in the Pac-10 and both against hostile home crowds.

Stanford 65 USC 50 - This one maybe wasn't as surprising as one might think. Stanford has a solid history of Pac-10 hoops play and this year's squad had already knocked off Washington St. and played Oregon close on the road.

7-foot freshman Brook Lopez and his twin brother Robin, were overpowering inside, boosting the Cardinal to an early lead which they would not give up. Brook Lopez scored 18 points, pulled down 11 rebounds, and blocked a school-record 12 shots. Brother Robin added 6, 4 and 3 blocks.

The #25 Trojans were apparently not well-prepared for the twins or the rest of the Stanford onslaught. They shot only 28% and were outrebounded 45-33.

Stanford hosts #3 UCLA this Sunday. Look out above!

Washington 89 Oregon 77 - Maybe the Huskies were just tired of losing. Maybe they were simply homesick. Whatever it was, the Huskies made #7 Oregon the unwitting victim.

Coming off a three straight road losses, Washington returned home on fire. They shot 53% (Oregon shot 55%) and made good at the foul line with regularity (19-26) to improve to 12-1 at home. Of their 7 losses, only a 96-87 defeat by Arizona occurred on their home floor.

The Huskies may be predominant at home, but they have another three-game road stretch late in the season - Feb. 17 at Pittsburgh, Feb. 22 at Oregon St. and Feb. 24 at Oregon - which could keep them out of the NCAA Tourney if they don't soon discover some secret to winning on the road.

UCLA 63 California 46 - With a little help from their Northern neighbors, the #3 Bruins took over sole control of first place in the contentious Pac-10. While Washington was waxing Oregon, the Bruins coolly disposed of Cal and built some confidence on the road. UCLA shot an even 50% from the floor while limiting the Golden Bears to just 37%. Arron Afflalo paced the Bruins with 25 points, including all 9 of UCLA's free throws (others were 0 for 6). It was Afflalo's 6th 20-or-better performance of the season.

Washington St. 70 Oregon St. 55 - The #20 Huskies improved to 6-2 in the Pac-10 and 17-3 overall with a ho-hum home win over hapless Oregon State (1-7 Pac-10). Washington State's only conference blemishes are a pair of 3-point road losses to UCLA and Stanford.

Duke 68 Clemson 66 - The #10 Blue Devils got a double-double from Josh McRoberts (17 points, 12 rebounds) and survived on a last second shot by soph David McClure to hand #19 Clemson their 3rd loss in their last 4 games. Duke nearly blew an 11-point halftime lead, and could not contain the Tigers' Vernon Hamilton, who finished with 21 points and had tied the game with 5 points in the final 6 seconds.

Duke has now won four straight ACC games after losing their first two in conference.

Butler 70 Chicago-Loyola 66 - A. J. Graves scored 26 as the #14 Butler Bulldogs got a key road win over a Horizon Conference foe. Butler is 6-1 in conference and 18-2 overall.

Nevada 84 Louisiana Tech 67 - Ramon Sessions threw down 21 points and Nick Fazekas added 13 as the #18 Wolf Pack blew by Louisiana Tech in the 2nd half. After playing to a 37-all tie at the half, Nevada outscored the Bulldogs 47-30 for their 18th win against just 2 losses.

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