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January 23, 2008

Lopez holding his own in loaded Pac-10

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.

Brook Lopez told Rivals.com that his twin brother, Robin, reminded him of as much on Saturday when their Stanford team fell behind visiting Arizona State 42-40 midway through the second half.

"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."

OTHER NOMINEES FOR PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
G Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State
Gordon scored 24 points in each of the Bulldogs' wins last week (over Kentucky and Alabama). He shot 60.7 percent (17 of 28) and averaged 6.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists as Mississippi State pushed its SEC record to 4-0.
F James Gist, Maryland
Gist recorded his fifth double-double of the season in the Terrapins' 82-80 upset of No. 1 North Carolina with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Earlier in the week, he had 10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks and three assists in a 71-64 win over Wake Forest.
G Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
He led the Wildcats to a 2-0 week by averaging 23 points and four rebounds. In Saturday's 81-71 victory at Syracuse, he scored a game-high 25 points, grabbed six rebounds and made four steals.

Jeremy Hazell,
G, Seton Hall
Even though Hazell had missed all nine of 3-point attempts against Marquette and Pittsburgh the week before, he kept on launching last week.

Good thing, too, because he shot himself right into Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week honors. Hazell (pronounced Huh-ZELL) hit 13-of-25 3-pointers and averaged 25.5 points in Big East victories over Louisville and USF.

Hazell had eight treys and scored a career-high 29 points in a 92-82 thriller over the Cardinals. Louisville coach Rick Pitino said afterward: "I'd have to say of their 13 '3s', I'd probably kill my guys if they took eight of them because they were NBA '3s' plus 2 feet. So you've got to give them all the credit in the world. They made shots from ranges we can't even reach the basket."

Hazell is averaging 12.2 points for the season and has had five games in which he sank at least five 3-pointers.

OTHER NOMINEES:
F James Johnson, Wake Forest
Johnson averaged 20 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as the Demon Deacons split two games. His best outing came in Sunday's 74-57 victory over Florida State in which he scored a career-high 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting, with nine rebounds and three steals.
F Bill Walker, Kansas State
Walker played a major role in the Wildcats' blowout of Texas A&M with 19 points, including a season-high five 3-pointers, four rebounds, three assists two steals and two blocks.

Donald Sims,
G, Appalachian State
Sims, a 6-1 freshman, scored a career-high 28 points in Appalachian State's 92-83 victory over Chattanooga on Thursday and followed up with 19 points in an 88-81 triumph over Georgia Southern on Saturday.

The Mountaineers (11-6, 6-2) are hot on the heels of Chattanooga (12-7, 7-2) in the Southern Conference North Division and can count a win in their first head-to-head matchup.

For the week, Sims averaged 23.5 points while shooting 50 percent from the floor. He was 11-of-18 (61.1 percent) from 3-point range and 6-for-8 (75 percent) from the free-throw line. The native of Gaffney, S.C., also averaged 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com.



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