Stanford came back from the future, literally, in returning from Shanghai to take on Cal State Northridge, and in so doing gave Cardinal fans a glorious throwback to the team’s winning past. The Cardinal hammered a CSUN team who enjoyed a halftime lead at UCLA just two nights ago to the tune of a 96-69 score.
For the second straight game, Michael Humphrey picked up two quick fouls, and that’s when Josh Sharma came in and starting wrecking the Matadors. He had blocked shots, finishes at the rim, three pointers, and seemingly everything else that can be done. Sharma entered with 18:55 to go and the Cardinal down three. Ten minutes later, Stanford was up 13 and off to the races. Sharma finished with 13 points and five rebounds, both career highs.
Reid Travis led the way once again, putting up 19 points and five rebounds in 26 minutes. He was 6-9 from the field and more impressively, was 7-10 from the free throw line. The Cardinal got contributions from the entire roster tonight, with five players reaching double digits and 11 different players scratching.
Marcus Sheffield came of the bench to put in 17 points and Dorian Pickens added 14 to go with seven rebounds. In illustration of the effort with which the Cardinal played, Pickens had five offensive rebounds. Stanford enjoyed a 28-7 advantage in points off turnovers, outrebounded CSUN, and assisted on 51% of its baskets.
As glorious as the numbers were, the look of the team may have been even more impressive. The Cardinal had great spacing, great off-ball movement, moved the ball very well, rotated without hesitation on defense, and just did all the things good basketball teams do as the night progressed.
Yes, it was only game two, and yes, it’s not an elite Matador team, whose nickname certainly fits their defensive identity. However, a Stanford team coming off a tough turnaround on its return from China, looked crisp, focused, physical, and efficient. Go back to Coach Haase’s three core principles: tough, selfless, and invested. You can find statistical evidence for each of those in the box score tonight.
Tactically, Stanford has shown some interesting wrinkles. The most intriguing is the automatic post double with the other big. This was a favored tactic of the best Ben Howland UCLA teams, and with length the likes of Sharma and Humphrey coming at a post player blind to the weakside, the Cardinal really created havoc on the Matador offense with this move. Stanford blocked shots (Sharma had three), made steals, and forced tough shots all night.
The Cardinal finished with an ORtg of 115.7 while holding CSUN to 83. There were also 83 possessions in the game, as once again the Cardinal looked willing and able to run at every opportunity for the second straight game of the Coach Haase Era. If there was one flaw in the game, tonight, it was the 59% the team shot from the foul line, but even that was mitigated by Travis’ 7-10 because he is absolutely gonna lead the team in attempts from the charity stripe this season.
There was only so much the new staff could do to “win” in the offseason, but what there was to do, they did. It’s pretty clear that their most crucial messages have reached the team, and they are only gonna get better as the practice time adds up. There is only so much they could have accomplished in their first two games, but they’ve definitely exceeded any reasonable expectations in these initial chapters of the 2016-17 season.