Stanford (15-2, 4-0) found its way into the Coaches Poll for the first time in 5 years this week. They can no longer fly under the radar, and aren’t likely to catch teams by surprise. But that doesn’t matter when you play this good of basketball.
This was just their second true road game of the year. Pauley Pavilion is as storied an arena as there is in college hoops, and its hallowed halls haven’t seen a Stanford victory in a decade and a half. The star freshman duo of Tyrell Terry and Spencer Jones had never played in any hostile arena at this level. But all that went out the window the moment the jump ball was thrown.
Every scouting report of Stanford has a big red circle around Spencer Jones’ name. The sharp-shooting wing leads the conference in made threes, and he is not to be given room to breathe. But the Bruins must’ve glossed over that part of the plan, and he made them pay with triples on each of Stanford’s first three possessions.
The Cardinal led by as many as 9 early and seemed bound to bust the contest wide open. But UCLA surprisingly found cracks in the defense and took advantage. It certainly helped that Oscar da Silva had to sit with foul trouble and Daejon Davis was hobbling his way around. They isolated Jaime Jaquez on Isaac White, Davis, and others, and gave him room to work. The freshman was once a coveted target of Jerod Haase, and showed why in the early going.
UCLA also crashed the offensive glass effectively. They entered the game ranked 11th nationally in Offensive Rebounding Percentage, and grabbed 7 more in the first half. They used those extra chances to go on an extended 20-4 run, and take a 29-22 advantage. But the Cardinal didn’t bat an eye, and anyone who did missed the lead evaporate instantaneously. Stanford came roaring back and took a 33-31 lead into the break.
Between the last five minutes of the first half and the first eight of the second, UCLA mustered just 10 points. The Stanford defense has been much vaunted as of late, and that stretch really showed why. The Bruins couldn’t find good shots, and in many cases, couldn’t find shots at all. But the Cardinal couldn’t get going offensively, and the lead was just 1 point with 15 minutes to go.
They made an adjustment, and it made all the difference. Instead of swinging it around the perimeter with five out in hopes of downhill action, they worked on exploiting the spacing to enter the ball into the post, over the top of a fronting defender. Lukas Kisunas, Jaiden Delaire, and Oscar da Silva were the beneficiaries, and it sparked a 12-2 run. For good measure, Tyrell Terry also heated up.
Terry set a career high in scoring last weekend against Washington State, and pushed it higher today. The freshman showcased most every tool in his arsenal, getting into the paint, finishing over and around length, and splashing quick twitch threes that a certain other Bay Area sharpshooter would appreciate. He was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week for his play during last week’s home stand, and submitted an early argument for repeat honors.
Stanford led by as many as 19 on their way to the 15 point road victory. There are a lot of people who are turning their noses up at this team’s 11th place spot in the NET rankings. But if they keep playing like this, none of those doubts will matter.
The Cardinal were led by Terry’s 24 points, including 4-7 from three. Spencer Jones added 14 of his own on 4-6 from distance. Bryce Wills chipped in 10, and Davis hobbled his way to 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Oscar da Silva was limited to just 18 minutes due to foul trouble, but the bench bigs had some bright spots in his stead.
Jaquez paced UCLA with 15. Jalen Hill and David Singleton were the only other Bruins in double figures, with 14 and 11 apiece. They’ve now lost 6 of their last 7, and are struggling mightily under new head coach Mick Cronin.
Stanford will put its undefeated conference record on the line this weekend against USC at the Galen Center. The Trojan front line will be a unique challenge.