Time of possession is overrated

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Time of possession is overrated

Steve Berman
CSNBayArea.com

The final scores look similar, but the way Oregon went out their 53-30 victory over Stanford was quite different from their 52-31 win over the Cardinal in Eugene last year.

A year ago Stanford jumped out to a 21-3 lead before getting crushed over the last three quarters. This time Oregon showed early on that they were the superior team, jumping out to an early lead they'd never relinquish.

It was almost like Stanford head coach David Shaw saw his team's fate coming, at least based on what he said earlier in the week.

"We got to get drives in the end zone, because (Oregon) might have a 3-play, 78-yard drive," Shaw said. "And if you're kicking field goals and they're scoring touchdowns there's no chance, regardless of what the time of possession is."

Stanford's offense gained more yards than Oregon's (400-387) and led in time of possession (34:25-25:35). After the game was over and the Ducks flew out of California with a vise grip on the Pac-12, those numbers didn't matter in the slightest.

This game was mostly about Oregon destroying Stanford with the same speed the Cardinal and everyone looking forward to this game obsessed over all week, particularly the running ability routinely displayed by LaMichael James. James looked like the Heisman Trophy favorite in this game, rushing 20 times for 146 yards and 3 touchdowns.

However, this game was also about how each team reacted when good fortune (translation: the football) fell into their laps.

Former Heisman favorite Andrew Luck threw a first quarter interception that Dewitt Stuckey took to Stanford's 20, and Darron Thomas threw a TD pass to Lavasier Tuinei five plays later.

Stanford's Delano Howell used the cast on his right hand to knock the ball out of De'Anthony Thomas' arms a little while later, and the Cardinal squandered good field position with a drive that sputtered in the red zone before Eric Whitaker kicked a 37-yard field goal.

The Ducks started the third quarter by once again displaying in full abundance what they possess that Stanford doesn't. Ducks receiver Josh Huff caught pass in the flat from Thomas while Cardinal corner Terrence Brown was picking himself up off the sloppy Stanford Stadium turf. One juke later and Brown was back on the turf again. A split second later, Cardinal safety Michael Thomas was on the ground as well as Huff sped into the end zone past everyone for a 59-yard TD reception.

After Stanford went three and out on their next possession they finally experienced a little good luck, as James dropped David Green's punt and Stanford recovered the ball at Oregon's 34.

With Oregon holding a 29-16 lead after Huff's touchdown, the Cardinal couldn't settle for a field goal. And they didn't, as Whitaker's 48-yard attempt was wide to the right by almost the same distance.

Talk about a gut punch.

From there, it was an exhibition of pass rushing brilliance from Oregon. The Ducks sacked Luck three times on the night and hit him on several other occasions, proving speed can be a useful quality even when you don't have the ball.

Oregon also displayed the kind of rushing dominance that sucks the life out of teams, which heading into this game was supposed to be Stanford's identity. In the second half the Ducks broke off five runs of 10 yards or longer, compared to none for the Cardinal. For the game Oregon averaged 5.0 yards per carry compared to 3. 7 for Stanford.

Stanford won't enjoy looking back on numerous dropped passes and missed tackles, or the three turnovers they committed in less than 4 minutes at the end of the game. But just like last year, the Ducks proved again to be the superior team.

The Ducks took advantage of Cardinal turnovers, Stanford didn't take advantage of turnovers by Oregon, and at the end of the game the Cardinal couldn't stop turning the ball over. Different game than last year, same result: Oregon rules the Pac-12.
Steve Berman is the Bay Area Sports Guy and a contributor to CSNBayArea.com. Check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @BASportsGuy

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

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USATSI

No. 20 Saint Mary's holds off Santa Clara in WCC finale

BOX SCORE

MORAGA — Jock Landale scored 17 points and No. 20 Saint Mary's beat Santa Clara 70-56 on Saturday night in the West Coast Conference regular season finale for both teams.

Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson scored 13 points apiece and Dane Pineau added 10 points to help the Gaels (26-3, 15-3) complete a season sweep of the Broncos.

Saint Mary's will get a week off before playing in the WCC tournament as the No. 2 seed in Las Vegas next week.

The Gaels will go in at full strength after suffering a brief scare midway through the second half. Joe Rahon, the team's emotional leader and workhorse in the backcourt, limped off the court with an apparent knee injury and was taken into a tunnel to be examined. He returned to the court a few minutes later wearing tape around his right leg below the knee. He then later got his entire knee wrapped.

Saint Mary's led by as many as 20 in the second half despite coming out of halftime missing six of seven shots with two turnovers.

Landale, as he has much of the season, got the Gaels back on track with a short hook over Henrik Jadersten to start a 10-0 run. Landale later scored on consecutive trips down the floor to push Saint Mary's lead to 66-47.

Jared Brownridge and Matt Hauser scored 15 points apiece for Santa Clara. The Broncos (16-15, 10-8 WCC) lost for only the second time in the last five games.

The Gaels led nearly the entire way.

Saint Mary's came out strong from the perimeter, making five of seven shots beyond the arc in the first half. Naar had two of the 3s and was one of six Gaels players to score as part of an 11-2 run that pushed their lead to 41-29 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Santa Clara: Another tough night for the Broncos, who couldn't get much going despite Saint Mary's going through a pair of lulls on offense. Brownridge scored nine of his team's first 11 points, a pattern that played out much of the game. Jadersten gave Santa Clara an early lift with two 3s but picked up three fouls over a span of 1:41 minutes during the first half.

Saint Mary's: With four straight wins the Gaels have regained some of the momentum they lost after falling to No. 1 Gonzaga on Feb. 11 for the second time this season. A third showdown between the conference's two best teams appears likely.

UP NEXT

Santa Clara: The Broncos are the fourth seed for the WCC tournament and will have a bye in the first round.

Saint Mary's: The Gaels also receive a first-round bye and won't play until March 4.

Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

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USATSI

Stanford falls short, can't complete upset against Oregon

BOX SCORE

STANFORD -- Oregon survived its Bay Area trip by the slimmest of margins.

Jordan Bell scored on a putback with 14 seconds left to give the sixth-ranked Ducks their second straight nail-biting victory in a rare Bay Area sweep as Oregon beat Stanford 75-73 on Saturday.

"It stresses Coach out," guard Dylan Ennis said. "It shows us that we can just get gritty, get down and get the win. ... Hopefully if we're down like that again we can fight back and do the same thing."

Bell's game-winner followed Dillon Brooks' last-second, tiebreaking 3-pointer three nights earlier at California to give Oregon (26-4, 15-2 Pac-12) its second sweep of its conference Bay Area rivals since 1976. The other came two years ago.

Tyler Dorsey scored 15 points to lead Oregon, while Brooks added 14.

"It's been a tough road trip for us, two close games," coach Dana Altman said. "That's life on the road. We found a way."

Reid Travis had 27 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for the Cardinal (14-14, 6-10), but committed a turnover on the final possession to end any comeback hopes on senior day that honored Christian Sanders, Marcus Allen and Grant Verhoeven.

"There's a little extra when you see guys like Christian, Marcus and Grant shedding tears when they're getting called up," Travis said. "It's the last time they get to compete on this court. ... Just looking at that, there's no choice but to be motivated."

Stanford trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half but battled back to tie the game five times in the second half. But it took until that fifth equalizer for the Cardinal to take their first lead since being up 9-8 early in the first half.

Travis' jumper in the lane made it 71-69 with less than 3 minutes left but the lead was short-lived as Brooks hit a jumper at the other end to tie it.

The game was tied at 73 when the Ducks managed four offensive rebounds on one possession before finally converting on Bell's shot with 14 seconds left. It capped a wild sequence that started when Ennis shot an airball on a 3-pointer. Payton Pritchard caught the ball in the air and shot it to the rim before the shot clock expired. Bell was there to put back the second miss for the game-winner.

"It was going so fast I don't even know what happened," Altman said.

Travis lost the ball in the paint at the other end to seal the victory for Oregon.

BIG PICTURE

Oregon: The Ducks capped a 7-1 February with just their second road sweep of the conference season as they peaking at the right time of year. Their only loss in that span came on a late 3-pointer by Lonzo Ball in an 82-79 loss at UCLA. Oregon has one more road game left to finish the regular season at last-place Oregon State, and remains in contention for a Pac-12 title and a top two seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Stanford: The Cardinal were unable to follow up home wins against California and Oregon State when faced by tougher competition from the Ducks. That has been an issue all season for Stanford, which fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents.

THEY SAID IT

"Something hit my elbow. It might have been the wind, but I don't shoot airballs on game-winners." - Ennis.

POUND THE BOARDS

Oregon had just eight rebounds for the entire first half before getting the four offensive boards on the final possession of the game. The Ducks were outrebounded 37-25 for the game but were outscored by only four points on second-chance opportunities.

CEREMONIAL DAY

Stanford also held a halftime ceremony for former coach Mike Montgomery, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame this past November. Montgomery is the winningest coach in school history with 393 of his 677 wins coming for the Cardinal.

UP NEXT

Oregon: Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Stanford: Visits Colorado on Thursday.