After the come-from-behind win over San Francisco earlier this season, Daejon Davis said a victory like that gave his team the belief they could pull out tough games in conference play. Tonight, they used every iota of that belief.
Stanford saw only a handful of minutes of zone defense this year. But this game was against Mike Hopkins; zone is in his DNA. And not just any zone, but the Syracuse 1-3-1 that’s flummoxed many a team over the centuries that Jim Boeheim’s been coaching.
The Cardinal had a hard time getting the ball to the middle of the zone. Their passes weren’t crisp, their fingers were buttery, and their decision-making was slow. And on the odd occasion where they did successfully penetrate the amorphous defense, they were met in the middle by Isaiah Stewart, an absolute load of a center.
“We had a ton of time to prepare for it,” said Davis. “We were getting to our spots, we just weren’t making shots.” A lot of those shots came from the perimeter, and outside of Spencer Jones, no one could seem to connect in the early going.
To make matters worse, Daejon Davis took an elbow to the face and had to leave the game. He left to the tunnel and went through the concussion protocol before being cleared to return. The score was 8-7 Stanford when he left, but the Huskies outpaced the Cardinal 20-7 in the 11 minutes of his absence.
Until a couple minutes before the break, only two Stanford players had scored (Jones, James Keefe). But a running bank shot by Tyrell Terry and a corner three from Isaac White trimmed it to 28-20 into the locker room. The Huskies held a dominant 30-13 rebounding advantage, and Stanford mustered just 27% from the field. But the Cardinal didn’t make significant adjustments.
“We stuck with the game plan,” said Davis. “We just had to go out there, execute, and play better.” And they did. They made an extra effort to attack the zone, rather than settling for perimeter shots early in the possession. It churned out higher quality looks.
“When we can get inside out, that’s what good offense is,” said Jerod Haase. But in spite of the improved offensive showing, they were largely trading baskets. It wasn’t until they started stringing together more stops that they could make a run. With four minutes to go, they trailed by 7. And that’s when the magic happened.
Oscar da Silva finished through contact inside. Then they got Isaac White a good look from the corner and he buried it. On the next possession, with seemingly nothing going offensively, Davis threw up a prayer at the buzzer, and it was answered. It wasn’t the luckiest shot he’s made, but it was up there. The game was tied, and Maples erupted.
Stanford’s calling card defense got stop after stop down the stretch. That set up a deep Tyrell Terry bomb for the lead, and they would never look back. “Coach has faith in me to shoot the ball,” said Terry. “I just stepped up and shot it.”
“He’s pretty humble, but he makes those a lot,” declared Davis. Terry has seemingly limitless range. Even when he wasn’t showcasing his shooting abilities, he consistently found ways to help the team.
When it was all said and done, Stanford closed the game on a 14-1 run. They trailed by as many as 12 earlier in the contest, but were unflappable. This team has an extra something that the teams of years past have been lacking.
Spencer Jones led Stanford (13-2, 2-0) in scoring with 14, including the team’s first 8 of the game. Daejon Davis and Oscar da Silva had 12 and 11, respectively, all coming after half time. Tyrell Terry had 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Isaiah Stewart entered the game as one of the conference’s leading scorers, and a paragon of consistency. He had scored 14 or more in each game to date. Tonight, he had just 4, thanks to Stanford’s well-oiled fire schemes.
The Huskies were also without starting point guard Quade Green, who will miss the rest of Pac-12 play due to academic ineligibility. They were led by the 18 and 11 of Jaden McDaniels, and the 16 of Nahziah Carter.
“It was really neat to see Maples make an impact on the game,” said Haase. The arena played the role of ‘sixth man’ more so than in recent memory.
It’s awfully early still, but with Arizona’s thrilling loss to Oregon, Stanford finds itself alone atop the conference. After a week and a half, they’re the only team without a loss. “This is what we need to expect every game,” said Haase. “Just an absolute battle.”
They host Washington State on Friday. The Cougars lost tonight in Berkeley.