Since returning from final exams, Stanford (14-2, 3-0) has had a number of slow starts. This was not one of them.
They went up 10-2 in the blink of an eye, forcing WSU coach Kyle Smith to burn a timeout before the under 16 could put them out of their misery. The idea was to slow the Cardinal momentum, but the reality could not have been more different. By the ten minute mark, the Stanford advantage had ballooned to 26-4.
Oscar da Silva scored 15 points in the game’s first 9 minutes before heading to the bench with foul trouble. It would take the Cougars the rest of the first half to eclipse his total. “Our inside game was an important piece of our game plan,” said da Silva. “I was trying to come out and be aggressive.
Nothing Washington State did seemed to work. Desperate for any sort of spark, they switched to a zone defense. The Cardinal struggled on Thursday against the long 1-3-1 of Washington, but they had no such issues tonight. They worked the ball inside out, finding good shots, and knocking them down with confidence. It was a clinic.
The 46-18 halftime advantage was only 2 points shy of their midway lead against Maryland Eastern Shore earlier this season. There was a lot to like for Stanford, as they shot better than 65% from the field. Their starters also committed just one turnover. But once again, their defense put a serious stamp on the game.
Washington State’s top two scorers, CJ Elleby and Isaac Bonton, entered the game averaging nearly 34 per game between them. Elleby was even invited to the NBA Draft Combine a year ago. At the half, they’d combined for just 1 point on 0-11 shooting thanks to Davis, Wills, and company.
“Daejon and Bryce really enjoy the idea of being lockdown defenders,” said Coach Haase. “They take a lot of pride in that.” The two Cougar stars were frustrated, and it was visibly evident. Elleby in particular grew increasingly disinterested in the game, settling for difficult shots, committing careless turnovers, and getting blown by on an Isaac White drive.
The second half had a decidedly different tone, as play opened up more, and Haase experimented with different lineups and concepts. On the first few possessions, they worked the ball inside to Bryce Wills in post position. He paid it off with a bucket on his first touch. A few possessions later, the Cougars brought help and he kicked it to the opposite corner, which led to the extra pass to Tyrell Terry on the wing. The freshman drained the three.
One surprising bright spot was the play of Lukas Kisunas. The sophomore center scored a career high 9 points, on 4-4 from the field. He also grabbed 4 rebounds, handed out 3 assists, and blocked two shots. “Lukas added a spark,” said Haase. “He brought value to us on both ends of the floor.”
The lead grew to us much as 33, but oscillated once the Cougars started connecting on bunches of threes. The visitors made 9 of their 13 perimeter shots in the second half, but it was a case of far too little, far too late.
Stanford was led by Terry’s 22, a new career high. Oscar da Silva finished with 15 after a pair of brief stints in the second half. Isaac White and Bryce Wills scored 11 and 10, respectively. As a team, they had 23 assists against just 9 turnovers, and shot 61% from the field.
Washington State was led by Isaac Bonton’s 15, 14 of which came in a flurry during the second half. Daron Henson scored 12 points on 4 threes, in just his second game of the season.
This win moves the Cardinal to 3-0 in conference play for the first time since 2003-04. After an emotional victory like the one over Washington, there’s always the worry of a subsequent letdown game. That was apparently the message in the Stanford locker room.
“The win on Thursday wouldn't have meant anything if we dropped this game today,” said da Silva. “Everybody came out focused and ready to achieve that goal.”
They’ll put their hot start to the test next week against UCLA and USC in LA. “I’m looking forward to going on the road and seeing what we can do,” said Terry.