Stanford (15-13, 8-8) jumped all over Washington State (11-17, 4-11) from the opening tip, and never looked back.
An early barrage forced Ernie Kent to use a timeout less than three minutes in. The Cougars found a couple buckets, but still trailed 15-7. That was the last time the scoreboard looked believable.
The Cardinal ripped off a 16-0 run, essentially putting the game away with some 30 minutes to go. As it turned out, Washington State couldn’t manage 16 points in the entire half. After Stanford added another 14-0 run, they found themselves ahead 50-11 with over 3 minutes left in the first period.
“I’m proud of our defensive effort,” said Coach Haase. “This time we played them with a healthy Cormac Ryan and KZ Okpala.” For stretches, it looked like they were playing them with 7 players at once.
KZ Okpala alone outscored the WSU team in the half, 16-15. The Cougars actually racked up more turnovers than made field goals in the period. They consistently wasted away the shot clock with isolation on the perimeter. It led to serious stagnation, as the long and quick Cardinal defenders were in their shirts. Stanford blocked 5 of their shots and held a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Cardinal offense hit 7 of its first 9 attempts from distance. That was a welcome sign, after going just 6-41 last week. The Cougar defenders opted to pack in their defense, allowing the Stanford shooters rhythm looks. It was the same strategy they deployed in the matchup in Pullman, and it was an unequivocal failure. To make things worse, the Cardinal still held a paint advantage. Stanford shot 59% from the field on the game and held a 20-12 assist-turnover ratio.
The only black mark on an otherwise sublime first half was the injury to Daejon Davis. The sophomore point guard dove for a loose ball around the 7:30 mark. Stanford secured a jump ball on the play, but Davis came up hobbled. He needed to be helped off the court and into the locker room. After the half, he reemerged with crutches and a heavily iced foot. Haase had no updates.
It would’ve been easy to rest on the laurels of a 37 point halftime advantage. But much to the contrary, the Cardinal carried over their energy and actually extended the lead. The second half saw them add 46 points on 63% shooting, even though they were subbing freely. They narrowly missed out on consecutive 100 point performances at home, but opted to respectfully pull it back on the game’s final possession.
“I’m really proud of the way our bench closed the game,” said Jerod Haase. “Guys were working hard and getting better.” Stanford’s bench outscored Washington State’s 58-16.
Stanford had 5 players in double figures, led by Okpala’s 22 in just 22 minutes. Cormac Ryan had 14 points on 4 triples. Isaac White also put in 14, as he saw extended time running the point in the second frame. Bryce Wills had 10, including his fifth and sixth threes of the year. Jaiden Delaire contributed 12 off the bench.
Rodney Herenton made an appearance with 4 minutes to go, and immediately scored a bucket on a nifty show-and-go. He followed it up with a smooth finger roll. “Rodney is our guy, man,” said KZ Opala. “He pushes us in practice. We know he can play.”
Washington State was without their fifth, sixth, and eighth leading scorers. If you add in their combined 17 points, it almost becomes just demoralizing. Robert Franks entered as the nation’s 16th leading scorer, but managed just 11 points on 5-15 shooting, to go with 4 turnovers. CJ Elleby led the Cougars with his 16 points, 14 of them coming in the second half.
At one point late in the game, chants of “overrated” rang through Maples. WSU came in ranked 184th by Kenpom, yet somehow the students’ words rang true.
Stanford returns to action on Sunday against Washington. With tight standings in the middle of the Pac, each of these last two games looms large in terms of tournament seeding. Bryce Wills noted that they are looking forward to facing a ranked team in Maples.
Washington State travels to Berkeley this weekend, as Cal is still searching for their first conference victory this season. (Edit: Just kidding)