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January 31, 2007

Brook Lopez leads Cardinal charge

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Stanford's Brook Lopez has been the Big Man on Campus this week, and we're not referring to his height.

The 7-footer celebrated his triple double – the first in Stanford history – in the student section at the Maples Arena after a 65-60 win over then-No. 25 USC on Thursday.

Lopez had 18 points, 11 rebounds and a school-record 12 blocks against the Trojans. The previous blocked shots record was six.

On Sunday, the crowd came to him as the Stanford faithful rushed the court after Lopez and his teammates upset then-No. 3 UCLA 75-68 in Palo Alto.

For his record-setting efforts this week, Rivals.com has named Lopez its National Freshman of the Week.

Lopez had seven points and eight rebounds in Stanford's upset of UCLA to put the surprising Cardinal within one game of the Pac-10 lead.

"I don't think anybody that saw him play in high school would be surprised that he was capable of having game like that," said USC coach Tim Floyd of Lopez's triple double. "He was one of the top-10 players in the country, in a group of three great centers with (Ohio State's Greg) Oden and (Washington's Spencer) Hawes. Everyone projected him as guy that would be in college for a short term."

Despite his high school accolades, Lopez had kept a low profile for much of the season after coming to Palo Alto ranked Rivals.com's No. 10 prospect in the class of 2006.

He missed the first five games of the season after recovering from preseason back surgery. He was productive in spurts before moving into the starting five Jan. 7 against Virginia.

"Brook Lopez is a long ways away," Stanford coach Trent Johnson said Tuesday. "For the most part, Brook has been pretty inconsistent. He's getting to the point now where's he's getting into pretty good shape."

Against Virginia earlier this month, Johnson put Brook Lopez into the lineup for guard Mitch Johnson. The change paired Lopez with his twin brother and fellow 7-footer, Robin Lopez, who leads the Pac-10 in blocked shots.

The duo has caused headaches throughout the league. Since the change, Stanford has won five of six and entered the top 25 this week.

"These games come down to easy baskets and they just nullify easy baskets," Floyd said. "You don't get second-chance opportunities on the boards. You get one shot, and those shots need be from further out than we were shooting the other night."

Johnson expects Brook Lopez's best days are ahead of him - especially now that his conditioning has improved after sitting out the start of the season.

"The better basketball shape he gets in, the better player he'll be," Johnson said. "He's willing to learn and he's going to get better. For him, just like our basketball team, we need to be more consistent."

Freshman of the Week
Players named Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week from the 2006-2007 season.
Jan. 1-7: Kevin Durant, Texas
Jan. 8-14: Kevin Durant, Texas
Jan. 15-21: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Also considered for National Freshman of the Week:

• North Carolina guard Ty Lawson scored 18 points with eight assists in the Tar Heels' 92-64 rout at Arizona on Saturday. He scored 15 points – all in the second half – in North Carolina's 88-60 win at Wake Forest on Jan. 24.

• Texas forward Kevin Durant scored 26 points with 15 rebounds in a 65-60 win over Nebraska. He scored 34 points with nine rebounds in an 84-79 win over Baylor on Sunday.

• Ohio State center Greg Oden scored 17 points with 17 rebounds in a 59-50 win over Northwestern on Jan. 24 and scored 19 points with six rebounds in a 66-64 win over Michigan State on Saturday.

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