Entering today, Stanford’s only positive memories of Atlantis came on the water slides. They had failed to reach 50 points in consecutive games for the first time in nearly 60 years. Although they didn’t turn in the most sterling of performances, they did just enough to be in control throughout this 67-54 win over Middle Tennessee.
The Blue Raiders have been one of the top mid-major programs in America in recent years, but longtime coach Kermit Davis departed in the off season, as did the majority of their production from a year ago. Unsurprisingly, they’ve had a rocky start to this season. This matchup was just what Stanford needed.
In the first half Stanford reversed the ball much better than in recent games. Middle Tennessee came out in some zone looks and the Cardinal punished them with 7 first half threes from 6 different players. The length of Stanford also seemed to bother the Blue Raiders when they were on offense. At the break Stanford led 32-23.
They continued to jump on MTSU in the second half. They were there to contest at the rim time and time again, forcing the Blue Raiders into difficult, twisting looks. The Cardinal also ran their shooters off the three point line. For the first time in over a decade, Middle Tennessee finished without a three point make. The Blue Raiders went 0-7 from deep, just two days after Stanford held Wisconsin to 1-8 from distance.
KZ Okpala led the way with 22 points in just 25 minutes in a performance reminiscent of his first few games. Daejon Davis narrowly missed a double double, finishing with 9 points and 10 rebounds. He was questionable to play after an apparent knee injury yesterday, but he did not appear hobbled in this one.
Josh Sharma continues to show he can inject spurts of energy into this team. He finished with 10 points and 4 boards, proving effective in what appeared to be several designed sets. He checked into the game after Lukas Kišūnas, but logged more minutes than the Lithuanian freshman.
Bryce Wills had a really solid game, even though he finished scoreless. The rangy freshman led the team with 5 assists, and also added 4 steals, 3 rebounds, and a blocked shot. If he can slow the game down on offense, he figures to be a real weapon moving forward.
There were still some warts for Stanford. They turned the ball over 21 times, which won’t get it done very often. They also shot just 38% from the field against an outmatched squad. The potential with this team is obvious, but their offense has been rocky thus far.
Middle Tennessee was led by the 21 points of Antonio Green. Jayce Johnson added 14.