Stanford entered today a 20 point underdog, playing the second-ranked team in America in perhaps the most hostile arena in the NCAA. Against those odds, the young Cardinal squad went toe-to-toe with the vaunted Jayhawks for 45 gritty minutes. It took a herculean effort from senior Lagerald Vick to send the game into overtime, where Kansas ultimately defeated Stanford 90-84.
Jerod Haase shook up the starting lineup, replacing freshmen Bryce Wills and Cormac Ryan with the more experienced Josh Sharma and Isaac White. His decision paid off in a big way. Isaac White came in averaging fewer than 2 points per contest, but hit 4 first half threes to ignite the struggling Stanford offense. Sharma’s size and length helped draw early fouls on Kansas behemoth Udoka Azubuike, and made the Jayhawks pull up outside the paint.
Kansas’ offense was completely out of sync in the first 20 minutes. They finished the half with just one assist, as they were bothered by the Stanford length and willingness to switch on ball screens and dribble handoffs. Bill Self’s team came in as one of the top three point shooting teams in the country, but they couldn’t seem to shake free outside the arc. Instead they settled for tough midrange looks, and went into the break down 35-29. It was their first time trailing at the half in Allen Fieldhouse in nearly three years.
Conventional wisdom suggested a legendary coach like Bill Self would whip his superiorly talented team into shape at the half, making the necessary adjustments to turn the tide. Instead, it was Jerod Haase’s team who came out of the break sharper, as they increased their lead to double digits. Whereas they relied on long-range shots in the first half, they were finally getting more looks going towards the basket in the second. Things were humming along nicely, in large part due to the superb play of Daejon Davis.
But then Lagerald Vick woke up. Kansas converted Stanford miscues into open perimeter looks, and Vick paid them off with knockdown shooting. He entered the game shooting an eye-popping 58% from deep, and yet somehow improved upon that with this performance. A number of his looks weren’t even open, but his unique release enabled him to get them off over the Stanford length. He finished a clutch 7-11 from distance, the only Jayhawk to make a three on the day.
The Cardinal didn’t bat an eye when Kansas went on their runs. Each time it seemed the tide was turning, the Cardinal offense responded in turn with a big bucket. Kansas finally took the lead at the 5:25 mark, but Stanford took it right back.
With less than a minute remaining Stanford had the ball up a point. Daejon Davis ran down the shot clock before driving into the paint and drawing a foul. He blocked out the raucous crowd and drained both shots. With the clock winding down and a 3 point lead, Stanford had the option to foul to avoid a game-tying look. They didn’t. Lagerald Vick came off a screen, the defender went under, and he hoisted up a Mario Chalmers shot to knot it up. Daejon Davis came down the other end, with a chance to win it as time expired, but his shot from the top of the arc rattled off.
The overtime period was all Kansas. They went up 8 points in the blink of an eye thanks to more strong play from Vick. While the Cardinal clawed back, they could never get it to a single possession game. They were also playing without Josh Sharma, whose fifth foul came with 2 minutes remaining in regulation. Trevor Stanback simply couldn’t replicate the senior’s presence inside.
If you believe in quality losses, this was certainly one for Stanford. After a lackluster start to the season, including immediately being out of games against North Carolina and Florida, this was an encouraging sight. The players responded well to a tough environment and a number of haymakers from a strong opponent. There was a lot to like. However, they are left with no real chances to find a quality win before the start of conference play, and this would’ve been a monumental one.
KZ Okpala led the way in scoring with 22 points. He didn’t get on the board until the final minutes of the first half, but made a number of plays on both ends of the court. He also added 8 rebounds. Daejon Davis was perhaps Stanford’s best player in this one. He finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds, but just seemed to be in control of the game in a way he hasn’t been thus far this season.
Isaac White finished with 15 points, all on three point field goals. He likely earned himself more minutes moving forward, particularly on a team that hasn’t been lighting it up from the outside. Cormac Ryan had 12 off the bench, including some fearless buckets late in the game.
Kansas was led by the 27 of Lagerald Vick, 25 of which came after halftime. Dedric Lawson had a great game inside, finishing with 24 and 15 before being disqualified in the extra period. His front court mate Azubuike finished with 18 and 9.
Stanford enters a two week break as the players return to campus and take final exams. They are next in action on December 15th when Eastern Washington comes to Maples.