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January 23, 2008
If you're going to play in the post in the Pac-10 this season, you had better toughen up. There's a bully on pretty much every block, and if you go soft even for a second, someone is going to take your lunch money.
"I just remember clearly I wasn't playing too well," Brook Lopez said. "I came to the bench and my brother told me, 'You haven't had a good game. You need to start getting to the basket, getting to the line. Play hard. Do what you can for your teammates.' "
Not many people can talk to the 7-foot, 260-pound sophomore forward that way. His 7-foot, 255-pound brother is one who can.
"My brother, my mom and my coaches are the ones who can say that," Lopez said, laughing.
The Sun Devils, who had yet to lose a Pac-10 game, weren't laughing when Lopez went on a 10-0 run himself in a span of just 2? minutes to turn a two-point deficit into a 50-42 Stanford lead. The Cardinal cruised to a 67-52 victory from there, with Lopez totaling 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. That completed a sweep of the Arizona schools for Stanford and helped earn Lopez the honor as Rivals.com's National Player of the Week.
He also had 19 points and six rebounds in the Cardinal's 56-52 triumph over the Wildcats.
Stanford (15-3, 4-2) is 7-2 since Brook Lopez returned from academic suspension. He leads the Cardinal in scoring (17.2 points per game) and rebounding (8.3).
"You can't be soft in this league," Lopez said. "You go through so many different big men who are all good ? (Jeff) Pendergraph (of Arizona State), Jordan Hill (Arizona), Ryan Anderson (California), (Washington State's Aron) Baynes and (Washington's) Jon Brockman."
Lopez didn't mean to slight any other Pac-10 post powers. It just so happens Stanford's next three opponents, all on the road, are the Golden Bears, the Cougars and the Huskies. It's a stretch that will go a long way in determining not only the Cardinal's hopes of competing for the Pac-10 title but possibly their seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's definitely an important trip," Lopez said. "Winning road games is huge. You have to win at home and pick up a couple on the road. You want to win all three, but taking a couple is definitely good. We want to keep in the hunt for a Pac-10 title."
Lopez was forthcoming about which opposing Pac-10 big man is toughest for him.
"I guess Brockman gives you the most fits, honestly," Lopez said. "He uses his body really well. He's not that athletic, but he gets into you and draws fouls and he can finish. He's a competitor. He's tough as nails, and he thinks every rebound is his."
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.