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Stanford knocks off Montana in season opener

26-2 second half run put game on ice

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

For the tenth straight season, Stanford is 1-0. After a slow start, the Cardinal used a big burst sparked by some new faces to top Montana, 73-62.

“In the second half we really amped up the pressure and got steals that led to fast breaks,” said freshman point guard Tyrell Terry. “And that really started the run.” It wasn’t just any run, either. With 15 minutes on the clock and clinging to a 40-38 lead, the Cardinal ripped off a 26-2 explosion. It spanned 5:30 of game time and completely blew the doors off the contest.

Freshman Spencer Jones got things started with a pair of quick-release threes that brought Maples to its feet. Then Bryce Wills added a spinning layup, and Terry drained a tough jumper. By the time it was said and done, the free-wheeling attack got almost everyone involved. The Grizzlies never knew what hit them.

“In the first half, they did a really nice job of changing ball screen coverage, about four or five different ways of how they were playing those,” said Coach Jerod Haase. “That kind of made us freeze and slow down a little bit and try to analyze too much.“

The frozen Stanford offense had a bit of a disappointing first 20 minutes. They went into the break with a 30-28 lead, but were mostly ineffective in the half court. They ran a series of high ball screens, but couldn’t seem to get any action going to the basket. Outside of Oscar da Silva’s 13, the offense was stymied. They trailed by as many as 6, and needed a late 9-0 spurt to go up at the half.

“We just didn’t play our basketball at all [in the first half],” said da Silva. “So it was an easy adjustment, just to get back to doing what we do.” They certainly did that. The offense in the second frame had 8 assists against just 4 turnovers, and the lead was pushed to as much as 26. Terry’s nerves subsided, and he went for 11 points and 3 dimes after the break.

With the freshman handling the ball so much, Daejon Davis found himself in an unfamiliar spot: playing off the ball. He seemed almost passive for much of the early going, not so much as attempting a shot until the first half was nearly over. He only finished with two points for the game, but came out of the break more engaged.

“He gave us a lot of energy in the second half that was important,” said da Silva. Davis’ lone field goal came on a steal and breakaway dunk. He finished with 5 steals and 4 assists, and ultimately put his stamp on the game.

Stanford was led by Oscar da Silva’s 21 points (2 away from a career high) on 7-10 shooting. Terry and Bryce Wills also finished in double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Wills had perhaps the best play of the game, when he went up to block a shot in the lane and simply caught the ball with both hands. Spencer Jones finished with 9 on 3 threes. The Cardinal converted 17 Montana turnovers, including 13 steals, into 21 points. They also held a 30-16 advantage in the paint.

Montana under coach Travis DeCuire has been a tough out. The former Mike Montgomery assistant led the Grizzlies to the last two NCAA tournaments, and was picked first in this year’s Big Sky media poll. They’re breaking in a lot of new players, but there’s still some of the old guard. Returning all-conference star Sayeed Pridgett finished the game with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists, and last year’s Sixth Man of the Year Kendal Manuel hit some early bombs.

A 14-0 Montana run in garbage time made the final score appear a lot closer, and nearly created a “bad beat” that would’ve made David Shaw blush. It also gave us the year’s first flopping technical foul, which is a new point of emphasis in college hoops this season.

Stanford is in action on Saturday when Cal State-Fullerton comes to town. It will be the second leg of the six game home stand to start the year.