If it wasn’t clear already, Stanford has problems offensively.
Oscar da Silva was fresh off being named Pac-12 Player of the Week for his dominance against Oregon. The Utes were not at all interested in letting him repeat. Almost every time he got an interior touch, a help defender was immediately sent, and a third man stunted. It was effective, and Stanford struggled to take advantage of that overcommitment.
Daejon Davis started the game on the bench (he still logged 39 minutes), which, according to the program, was a “coach’s decision.” He checked in early and proceeded to shoot 1-9 in the first half. He doesn’t seem himself, and I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the mask.
Tyrell Terry kept Stanford in the game offensively in the first half, as his 11 points were the lone bright spot. But he scored just 3 more the rest of the game, and committed 6 costly turnovers. To make matters worse, the majority of those 6 were live ball turnovers, and the Utes feasted in fast break.
Needless to say, the Cardinal once again found themselves in a deep hole early. Utah had things clicking offensively, scoring 26 points in the game’s first 10 minutes and leading by as many as 13. Their game plan against Stanford’s interior double-teams was effective, but most importantly they simply made shots.
It feels like I’m a broken record when I write that Stanford’s defense ultimately kept them in this one. For the second straight game, they held an opponent to a 10+ minute field goal drought, which is almost unheard of in the shot clock era. And despite that, they still found themselves trailing, as they struggled to piece together any offense of their own. They went to the break down 28-22.
They made adjustments in the second half, but that only led to 28 points in the period. Bryce Wills took advantage of the attention being paid to da Silva and slashed to the rim repeatedly. It was turning into one of his better offensive performances of the year, and his defense against Timmy Allen on the other end was also inspiring. But with 9 minutes on the clock, he suffered an ankle injury that had him writhing on the ground. He would not return.
In his place came Lukas Kisunas. The big man drew the start, ostensibly due to his strong showing against Oregon and the size of the Utah front line. He had his ups and downs today, but his game was cut short when he received his fifth foul on what appeared to be a clean block. The only player left that’s in Jerod Haase’s good graces was Isaac White, and so Stanford went very small down the stretch.
Still, the Cardinal took a couple of brief leads. Things were really looking good when Tyrell Terry broke his second half slump to hit a go-ahead triple with 50 seconds to go. But the Utes hit a free throw to knot it up with 3.9 ticks remaining. Some clock operator theatrics and an unanswered prayer later and the teams were headed to overtime. The extra period did not go well.
There are a lot of reasonable things to blame for this loss. Playing in Utah is never easy, due to altitude, the MUSS, and that terrifying but savvy Coach K. They have a terrific freshman point guard in Rylan Jones, and one of the better scorers in the conference in Allen. But after their initial flurry, Utah scored 24 points in the last 30 minutes of regulation. That should’ve meant a Stanford win.
There isn’t one overarching problem for Stanford’s offense. Jerod Haase repeatedly laments that they’re pretty good when they’re getting shots. Their 20 turnovers today certainly didn’t help in that category. There’s not really such a thing as a good turnover per se, but they seem to have quite a few really bad ones. The amount of times that players simply lose the ball, or get happy feet under the rim, or pass directly to a defender, is troubling.
They haven’t shot particularly well from deep as of late, either. I don’t have the numbers on this, but it seems like their three point rate is particularly high early in games. Settling for so many perimeter shots has been a cause of some of their slow starts, including today’s. Haase has talked about getting the ball inside, and getting threes from their offense, rather than taking the easy way out and letting it fly early in the clock. For whatever reason, they don’t seem to take that to heart until they get a media timeout or two into the game.
“It’s not your job to get a good shot, it’s our job to get a good shot,” said Jerod Haase to his team on the European trip. That doesn’t always seem to come to fruition. Quite often, they’ve relied on individual efforts to bail them out. The meager assist totals for entire halves of basketball affirms what our eyes have been seeing.
Now, these problems aren’t necessarily a death sentence. They’ve had plenty of good offensive showings, and the talent is there. But with their fourth loss in five games, their margin for error is quickly shrinking. If they want to keep their tournament hopes alive, they need to execute at a higher level.
Terry and Davis were the lone Cardinal in double figures, with 14 and 12 respectively. Wills had 9 before going down, and Oscar’s rough day saw him score 8 on 4-12 shooting, though he did pull down 11 boards.
Utah’s Allen scored 15 points, albeit on just 3 field goals. The real star of the game for them was the big Branden Carlson, who had 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 blocks. His previous career high for rejections was 3.
Stanford heads to Boulder to face a tough Colorado squad in a tougher arena on Saturday. Bryce Wills’ availability is uncertain, but it’s definitely in some doubt.