Stanford sophomore forward Brook Lopez is one of the top big men in the country and a Top 10 pick on most draft boards. On Saturday, he finished the Cardinal's 82-77 victory over archrival Cal with 23 points, giving his often offensively-challenged team a steady scorer inside. Just imagine what he'd do every game if he showed up in the first half.
For the second consecutive game, Lopez overcame a foul-ridden, almost nonexistent first half to dominate the second period. All of his points came in the second half, and his presence resulted in some pretty horrific foul trouble for the Bears. Cal's three best post defenders picked up a combined 10 fouls in the half, and two of them (DeVon Hardin and Harper Kamp) sat for the most of the period and eventually fouled out. Consider this game with Lopez's 17 points and 14 rebounds in the second half of last Saturday's comeback win against Arizona State, and we have the beginning of a possible trend.
This sort of play is exactly what has NBA front offices so excited about Lopez, but it also raises questions about his consistency and drive. Does it only take a half of riding the pine and frustration to get him going, or can he bring that type of focus on a nightly basis against the best post players in the world?
Then again, there are only so many players in the country that can score 23 impressive points -- against double-teams, no less -- after being confined to the sidelines for the final 15 minutes of the first half. I'm sure Trent Johnson and the rest of Stanford's staff would prefer it if Lopez were able to play this way for entire games, but it's hard to argue with his performance. The important thing isn't that Brook Lopez has only controlled the second half in Stanford's last two games -- it's that he dominates entire halves of Pac-10 games in the first place.