This was Stanford’s first game in 14 days, and it showed. Whether it be rust or finals week stresses or looking ahead, the Cardinal took an awfully long time to get going.
Yes, this Eastern squad got the better of Stanford a year ago, but on paper it still figured to be a breeze for the Cardinal. The Eagles entered the contest just 1-7, in large part to Big Sky MVP Bogdan Bliznyuk’s graduation. Meanwhile, Stanford nearly downed the top-ranked Jayhawks in the Phog, and looked to be turning a corner. Vegas had them as double digit favorites.
But EWU simply played harder out of the gate, going up 7-0 in the blink of an eye. “We abandoned our gameplan,” said Daejon Davis. They also abandoned shooters on the perimeter, and played lackluster on-ball defense. A less-than-gifted Eagles offense was 48% from the field in the first half. At the break they led 32-27, but their advantage was as much as 12.
Once again, Stanford’s offense simply couldn’t get started. KZ Okpala played just 9 minutes in the first frame due to foul trouble, but up to that point had only contributed 3 turnovers. Stanford went into the under-12 timeout with just 1 field goal make. Daejon Davis’ highlight drives to the cup were their lone bright spots in the first 20 minutes.
The second half was an entirely different game. Stanford put up a balanced 51 points on 19-28 shooting, scoring at all levels. Things began to turn on an early 7-0 run; da Silva scored on a post touch, Ryan drained a transition three, and Okpala threw down a thunderous tip dunk. Still, the Eagles wouldn’t go away.
Stanford finally gave itself breathing room for good around the 8 minute mark. The lead was just two when Daejon Davis had a chase-down block reminiscent of Game 7 LeBron James. Cormac Ryan paid it off with consecutive threes, one from each corner, to push the lead to three scores. The outcome was never again in doubt, and Daejon, Okpala, and Jaiden Delaire all added exclamation points.
Davis led the way with 19 points, 5 assists, and a number of plays to add to the highlight reel. His steals and tomahawk dunks got the biggest rise from the crowd, but it’s his beelines to the rim and floor general-ing that add the most to this offense. This is consecutive strong games from him after a slow start to the season.
Oscar da Silva had a bounce-back game on the offensive end. He entered the game just 3-28 from three after a stellar freshman shooting campaign. He knocked down 3-7, letting out a scream after the third that was perhaps as much relief as anything. He also got his post game going, and ultimately finished with 16 points. Coach Haase said they will continue to look to feed him inside.
“[Oscar] told me to give him confidence, but confidence is earned by playing well,” said Haase. Oscar’s teammates remarked that his fall quarter schedule was heavy, and that he’s more relaxed than he has been all year. “He got into the gym a lot and got shots up,” said Haase.
Cormac Ryan hit 4-6 from distance for 12 points. When his feet are under him, he is as lethal a shooter as you’ll see in the college game. His fellow freshman Jaiden Delaire also had a strong showing, finishing with 9 points and 6 big rebounds. Freshman walk on Sam Beskind made his first career appearance in the game’s final minute.
Jesse Hunt had a dominant performance inside for the Eagles, with 27 points on just 15 shots. Stanford had no answer for him on defense, and were only saved by his foul trouble. He made Isaac White borderline unplayable, repeatedly getting the diminutive Aussie switched onto him inside.
Stanford is in action on Tuesday, when San Jose State comes to town.