A crucial, litmus test of a midseason three-game road trip didn't go well for Stanford basketball, thanks in large part to the Cardinal's inability to rebound the basketball down the stretch of contests away from the friendly confines of Maples Pavilion.
last time Stanford took the floor at home in Palo Alto over two weeks ago, the
team was downright impressive in all phases of the game. The scoreboard looked
pretty: Stanford dismantled Colorado 84-64. The Cardinal shot well (53%). They
dropped 10 bombs from downtown and frustrated the Buffaloes
But the most striking numbers from that game came from the rebounding department: Stanford 35 grabbed boards; Colorado only 27. That's the last time the Cardinal out-rebounded an opponent, and also the last time that the team won a Pac-12 Conference basketball game.
Five days later, the alarming trend began when Stanford ended up deadlocked 30-30 with Washington State on the boards during a gut-wrenching 81-69 loss in Pullman. The Cougars' unconscious second-half shooting from the field certainly had something to do with that statistic (72.7%; the basketball gods had to settle the score with Stanford at some point after the Cardinal's 2007 UCLA win), but Washington State is the softest team on the glass in the conference. They've been out-boarded by Sacramento State, and they played Stanford just days after being destroyed 46-24 on the glass by Washington. Even if they are given the crutch of an absurdly hot shooting performance, the Cougars have no business matching Stanford in rebounding numbers.
Matters worsened two days later, when the Cardinal was shellacked 47-32 on the boards in Seattle. Washington rode their rebounding dominance to a 76-63 win over Stanford.
Sunday night's game saw more of the same woes for the Cardinal: Cal blitzed Stanford 41-25 on the glass en route to a 69-59 victory.
At this point, the good news for the Cardinal is that they're coming back home this Thursday. Stanford has averaged a 36-28 boarding edge in its four Pac-12 home games - all victories - to date. In those contests, they haven't given up the second and third chance points that have doomed them in their four conference road losses.
Talent is not an issue with this Stanford team. Between Josh Owens, Josh Huestis, Dwight Powell, and a handful of other fine athletes on the roster, Stanford has the ability to score and corral the basketball - at least in spurts.
Muscle, however, appears to be somewhat lacking, and that may be the reason that Stanford has been worn down during the second half of Pac-12 road games, especially against their most physical competition. Outside of Owens, Andrew Zimmerman (whose playing time has diminished), and maybe Huestis, there isn't much ‘beef' in the rebounding component of this Stanford roster.
Powell and Brown still look light, Stefan Nastic is "crafty" but is also still pushed around by meatier competition. John Gage, while dangerous from the outside offensively, hasn't yet developed the strength required to clear space on the interior.
When the home crowd has been behind them, Stanford has been able to neutralize their strength disadvantage. But on the road against Washington and Cal, the lack of muscle has cost Stanford.
Seattle, they were tormented by the 6-6, 258-pound rock that is also a football
tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who grabbed seven rebounds and bulldozed
bodies in just 16 minutes of play. In Berkeley on Sunday,
6-8, 245-pound Harper Kamp teamed up with 6-10, 250-pound truck Robert Thurman
to beef up and pound the Cardinal down the stretch at
Both times, the results were not pretty, both on in the rebounding stat sheet and on the final scoreboard. Cal coach Mike Montgomery did a good job forcing Stanford out of rebounding position by spreading out his offense in the second half, but the Cardinal will still have to make a commitment re-establishing their physical presence on the glass to attain elite status in the Pac-12 conference.
Incoming 6'9 (and still growing) center Grant Verhoeven (Visalia, CA) should provide a much-needed reinforcement next year. I'll go check out his high school game for The Bootleg on Friday and report back. Until he arrives in Palo Alto, though, Stanford will have to find other ways to repair its consecutive poor rebounding performances. They'll hope that Maples Pavilion will help matters.
About the Author: David Lombardi is a Stanford and Pac-12 conference enthusiast. He has broadcast the Cardinal on KZSU for several years and is currently contributing to the Cardinal Channel. You can check several of his Stanford calls out at www.davidmatthewlombardi.com, where you can also read his West Coast-oriented blog, which is linked directly here:
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