It looked dicey early, and it looked dicey late, but in between Stanford may have learned some important things about itself after winning its final nonconference game of the season over Idaho 86-80 in advance of the Cardinal’s Pac-12 opener a week from Friday against Arizona State.
Dorian Pickens led the Cardinal with 25 points on the strength of 7-10 shooting from the three-point line and Robert Cartwright, making his first start of the season, scored 13 points and dished out four assists, one of which was a crucial endgame play on a slip screen and roll to Reid Travis that put the Cardinal up 82-77 with 35 seconds left in the game.
The play was by design according to Stanford Head Coach Jerod Haase, which was a stark contrast to the first half when very little went by design. Idaho hit seven of their first eight three-point shots, had 45 points at the half, and finished the first 20 minutes with an offensive efficiency rating of 140.6, which is so far off the charts you’d need a telescope to find it.
Stanford did just enough defensively in the second half, and Pickens’ shooting helped turn the game in Stanford’s favor. His seven made three pointers was a career and team high on the season, and it was only one shy of the all-time single game mark shared by Julius Barnes and Terry Taylor.
Idaho stuck to a 2-3 zone defense for most of the game, and slowly but surely Stanford ran down the Vandals. Cartwright sunk a big three with 9:02 to go to give Stanford its first lead of the second half and erase what had grown to a 10-point deficit, and moments later Pickens hit a three pointer to give Stanford a lead they’d not relinquish the rest of the evening.
Marcus Sheffield also started for the first time this season and scored nine points on 4-10 shooting. Marcus Allen and Christian Sanders, both relieved of starting roles tonight, each made huge three point plays in the second half to help Stanford seize control of the game. Allen sunk a three-pointer off an inside out pass from the post, and Sanders had a strong take to the rim for an old-fashioned three-point play.
If you’re looking for an important takeaway from this game, it was at the free throw line. Stanford ended up +10 from the charity stripe over Idaho and shot 77% as a team. Travis continued his solid shooting, going 8-10 from the free throw line, and it’s already gotten to the status where nobody brought it up as a newsworthy talking point postgame.
Robert Cartwright said that the win was a big one to get coming off a disappointing loss to SMU on Monday night. The team now heads into a break for the holidays, with practice reconvening on the 26th and then it’s full go until Stanford takes the Maples floor against Bobby Hurley’s Sun Devils on the 30th.