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Stanford loses emotional game in Boulder, 81-74

Oscar da Silva goes down with head injury

NCAA Basketball: Stanford at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Basketball, like life, sometimes isn’t fair.

Covering Stanford, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Oscar da Silva over the past few years. It’s been well-publicized that he can speak six languages, and that he’s serious about his classes, and that he conducts stem cell research. But there’s so much more to him.

His game ended early today, and it was scary. As he hustled back to prevent a fast break bucket, charging full speed ahead was Colorado’s Evan Battey, one of the beefier forwards in the conference. The two collided around the restricted area, and as they flew to the ground, Battey’s forearm forcibly slammed da Silva’s head into the hardwood. It was inadvertent, but you could immediately tell it was serious. Oscar left the game on a stretcher.

You should hear the way that his teammates talk about him, or even see the way they look at him. When Jaiden Delaire flourished earlier in the year, he spoke about the impact Oscar’s had on him. It wasn’t about how he’s learned his moves or picked up a trick or two. Rather, he spoke about the tone that Oscar sets every day with his work-ethic and the way that he carries himself. Jerod Haase didn’t have any captain last year, so bestowing that title on da Silva and Daejon Davis this year is a serious honor. They’re like big brothers to their teammates.

This team has a deep bond. Jerod Haase is the father figure, who on multiple occasions has been on the verge of tears talking about how much he cares for his guys. The whole squad and staff visited Oscar’s hometown of Munich, mingling with his parents and younger brother in the Bavarian capital. Oscar spoke about how special it was to have his two worlds intersect like that, and all involved had a great experience.

It’s hard to play a game after something like that happens to someone you care about so much. The two teams locked arms at half court during the stoppage, and players handled it in various ways. Daejon Davis had to sit on the bench in the immediate aftermath. Battey was distraught, approaching Haase in tears to apologize.

This was always going to be a difficult game for Stanford. They haven’t won in Boulder since 2012, and the Buffs are one of the conference’s best teams this year. With Bryce Wills still nursing his injury from Thursday, a short Stanford rotation got even shorter. They even had to go to Sam Beskind, a former walk-on. But for some 30 minutes, none of that appeared to matter.

Stanford built an 11 point halftime advantage through superb play defensively, even without the conference’s best defender. After Colorado hit their first shot of the game, they subsequently went on a 7+ minute field goal drought. Nothing came easy for them. They finished the first half shooting 28% from the field and 23% from deep.

The final moments of the opening period were wacky. Up by six points and with the clock ticking down, Tyrell Terry threw up a three point shot and appeared to kick his leg out. The ref whistled Colorado for a foul, and Colorado coach Tad Boyle’s justifiable anger earned him a technical. Terry hit all 5 foul shots.

The lead grew to as many as 16 in the second half. Much of this came more on the backs of unusual suspects like Jaiden Delaire and Isaac White, as da Silva and Davis were hampered with foul trouble. At the time of da Silva’s injury, Stanford led 41-30 with some 16 minutes on the clock. The lead wouldn’t be enough.

It wasn’t like they didn’t battle, because they definitely had fight in them. But they didn’t have the same edge. Their defense that was so good in the first half suddenly found itself getting picked apart. Colorado made all 8 of their three point attempts after halftime, and that just proved to be too much for the short-handed and heavy-hearted Cardinal.

Their toughness is one positive takeaway, but not the lone one. After a couple months of shaky play and even drawing a healthy scratch, Jaiden Delaire showed out in a big way. The sophomore forward scored 19 points off the bench in a variety of ways, including 2 triples. When he’s confident, Stanford is on another level. Isaac White added 4 threes himself off the pine. Even Beskind, who seldom sees action, seemed to blend in well enough.

Last year, Oscar had a bit of a slump during the non-conference stretch. He broke out of it in a big way in mid-December, and Daejon was there to provide an explanation: finals. Oscar had spread himself thin, taking a number of classes with challenging exams. His mind had been on biology and chemistry as much as it had been on basketball. da Silva grinned, as he never would have admitted such a thing. The whole scene was refreshing. Much in the vein of an Andrew Luck or Bryce Love, he’s the ideal of a Stanford student-athlete.

Hopefully, this was all just a scare and Oscar will simply need time to rest up and recuperate. Per Stanford basketball, his head laceration required stitches, but we’re still waiting on the results from the concussion protocol. Either way, the outcome of this game doesn’t at all feel like the most important thing today.