It’s only the fourth day of the new calendar year. It’s just the second Pac-12 game of the season. Still, the case could be made that it’s also a must-win game.
Stanford men’s basketball will spend its Sunday evening in a showdown against the Washington Huskies. For Stanford (9-3, 1-0 Pac-12; #44 RPI), the 7 p.m. tipoff at Maples Pavilion marks a chance to add another critical win against a difficult opponent.
An important game? Sure. A must-win showdown? Depends upon whom you ask. “I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a showdown game,” Cardinal forward Anthony Brown admitted on Friday. “But any time you have a ranked team coming in to your house, you definitely want to take advantage of that. Other than that, it’s just another Pac-12 game. But you can’t let them leave with a win.”
Ten minutes into Friday’s Pac-12 opener, Stanford played like they were going to let Washington State leave Maples with a win. However, the bench sparked the Cardinal before halftime, and Chasson Randle took it from there. The Card beat the Cougars, 71-56. Randle’s team-high 18 points, Brown’s 11 rebounds, and key contributions from Rosco Allen, Marcus Allen, Grant Verhoeven, and Robert Cartwright led the way. It was Stanford’s fifth win in six games.
Still, the Card found themselves down by ten points in the first half against the Cougars, continuing a trend of digging an early hole. That has not gone unnoticed by Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins, but he takes an optimistic approach to that pattern.
“We’ve been down in some games early, but we’ve managed to fight back and give ourselves a chance,” Dawkins said on Friday following the win over Washington State. “You’re not always going to start off how you want. But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. Our guys have finished some games well even though they start sluggish.”
Stanford may not be able to afford another slow start on Sunday night against Washington. The Huskies (11-2, 0-1 Pac-12; #21 AP) know all about hot starts, having won their first eleven games of the season. But Washington has dropped back-to-back games since, putting them in urgent need of a win that would stop the bleeding.
Last week, Stony Brook shocked Washington in Seattle, 62-57. On Friday, the Huskies dropped their Pac-12 opener at Cal, 81-75. The Bears took control in the second half, and Jordan Mathews ripped the Huskies for 31 points.
Washington was able to forge a first-half lead against the Bears, mostly because of Robert Upshaw. The sophomore center has yet to start a game, but he seems to finish most defensive possessions with a block. Against the Bears, the seven-footer made an immediate impact. His night ended with 16 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks in 31 minutes of work. Through 13 games, Upshaw has 60 blocks, best in the nation.
Upshaw casts the largest shadow, but guards Nigel Williams-Goss and Andrew Andrews are the heart of the Huskies. Williams-Goss leads Washington with 14.0 points per game, while Andrews has a team-high 22 three-pointers. Guard Mike Anderson and forwards Jernard Jarreau and Shawn Kemp, Jr. round out Washington’s probable starting lineup.
Anthony Brown is keenly aware of the dangerous the Huskies will pose the Cardinal. “They’re really big, really physical,” Brown noted on Friday. “We definitely need to play a lot better than we did [against the Cougars]. But on our home court, we should be able to give them a good test.”
In assessing Stanford’s win over Washington State, Dawkins offered an early point of emphasis for Washington. “We fouled way too much,” he said. The Cardinal were whistled 26 times against the Cougars. Verhoeven fouled out, Nastic finished with four, and four other Stanford players had three.
“That’s not typical of us,” Dawkins continued. “That’s not our defense. Our fouling defense was as bad as I’ve seen it. We have to do a better job of being disciplined on defense and understanding the play without fouling.”
Washington has held a decisive advantage in this series of late, beating Stanford eight of the last ten times.********** ********** **********
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