Stanford has 11 underclassmen on its roster, and it showed in the first half. The Tar Heels, led by All-American Luke Maye and Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams, blitzed the Cardinal early. The Stanford offense was completely out of sync whilst the UNC attack hummed along to perfection. At the break Carolina led 52-26.
The Cardinal responded valiantly in the second frame. The offense that was stagnant in the first half took advantage of the Carolina overplays and clicked on numerous backdoor cuts. The increased motion and ball movement opened up more driving lanes for players like Oscar da Silva and KZ Okpala. The 26 point halftime deficit was cut to as little as 15, before ultimately finishing 90-72.
For the third straight game KZ Okpala led Stanford in scoring, with 16 hard-earned points. He also collected 9 rebounds and had a few highlight defensive plays. The sophomore was named Conference Player of the Week after his first two strong outings, and had some great moments again tonight.
Cormac Ryan was up for the challenge of playing in the hostile environment, chipping in 14 points, including 4 three point field goals. He was critical to the revitalized attack in the second half, as he pushed the ball in transition and ultimately finished with 6 assists. Ryan also had two steals.
Oscar da Silva wowed the announcers early with his knowledge of six languages, and wowed them late with his 11 second half points. The versatile sophomore sat much of the first half with foul trouble, but was able to penetrate the Tar Heel defense after the break and create opportunities.
This game brought Stanford back down to earth a bit after two exciting victories to start the season. UNC came in ranked 7th, and they looked the part. The Tar Heels finished +10 on the glass, and used their athleticism to dictate the game at both ends. This was a good learning experience for the Cardinal, and their second half performance showed positive signs.
One unexpected bright spot for Stanford was the play of Lukas Kišūnas. The freshman big man did not see the court against UNC-Wilmington, but checked in tonight and gave Haase 12 solid minutes off the bench. He grabbed four rebounds, blocked a shot, and made a number of winning hustle plays that helped spark the team down the stretch. He played in lieu of Stanback, and it would not be surprising to see him with an increased role in the coming games.
Cameron Johnson led the way for UNC with 17 points on 3-4 from behind the arc. Luke Maye had a 16-8 game that showcased why he’s in the running for every major award. The freshman trio of White, Little, and Black combined for 25 points.
With the loss Stanford falls to 2-1. They will return home to play a difficult Wofford squad on Friday. Wofford is led by Fletcher Magee, who is arguably the nation’s best shooter and helped lead the Terriers over this Carolina squad a year ago.