Only a handful of the members of the Stanford men’s basketball team were around for last year’s season-opening loss to San Diego. That didn’t stop one of the youngest squads in the Pac-10 from seeking revenge.
The Cardinal began its season in strong defensive fashion on Monday night, stifling the Toreros en route to a sloppy 64-48 win at Maples Pavilion.
The first half went according to plan for the Cardinal, who used stingy perimeter defense to hold San Diego to just 19 points. Although head coach Johnny Dawkins is faced with the challenge of a youthful team, it worked to his advantage last night as the Stanford squad looked noticeably quicker on both ends of the floor.
“I really liked our effort defensively for most of the game,” Dawkins said. “Our guys were alert. I thought we played 30 minutes of really solid defense”
Stanford was faced with early adversity as star junior guard Jeremy Green picked up two quick fouls in just over three minutes on the floor. Fortunately for Stanford, its new-look bench filled in admirably.
Junior forward Andrew Zimmermann led the way in the first half with 10 points off the bench, including a tip-in off junior guard Jarrett Mann’s missed jumper as time expired. Sophomore guard Gabriel Harris, who saw limited playing time in his freshman season due to foot injuries, hit three of his four attempts from the floor and tacked on seven first-half points.
Zimmermann attributed his success to hard training in the off-season.
“It’s putting in work in the summer just to gain that confidence,” he said.
The story early, however, was the Stanford defense. After San Diego sophomore forward Chris Manresa knotted the game at 7-7 with a layup, the Cardinal went on an 18-0 run, holding the Toreros scoreless for nearly eight minutes.
Freshman forward Josh Huestis recorded two of Stanford’s four first-half blocks, the second of which landed in the crowd. The Cardinal forced 12 turnovers in the opening period, and coughed the ball up just three times.
Huestis’ classmate Dwight Powell, Stanford’s most highly touted recruit, was impressive early in his debut. While he scored just five points, he played the surprising role as a 6-foot-11 facilitator, dishing out three assists among several crafty passes that produced a positive reaction from the relatively full Sixth Man section.
“Dwight is very versatile,” Dawkins said. “He can play the perimeter, he can play inside. We want him to play both [small forward and power forward] for us as he keeps progressing.”
Stanford entered the break with a 35-19 lead with five Cardinal freshmen seeing action.
The 16-point lead quickly shrank to 10, as San Diego came out firing at the start of the second half. Junior guard Darian Norris hit two consecutive three-point shots and brought the game back to 35-25.
“You give them credit,” Dawkins said. “They did a great job of making adjustments, especially starting the second half.”
Stanford junior center Jack Trotter extended the Cardinal lead back to 12 after drilling two technical free throws as a result of a battle in the post with Torero redshirt sophomore big man Chris Gabriel.
San Diego got within eight points on a basket by Manresa, but never fully closed the gap. Timely assists by Mann to Owens and Zimmermann in addition to continued hot shooting by Harris put the game out of reach.
Zimmermann and Harris scored 14 and 12 points, respectively. While Harris was expected to improve with a year in the Stanford system under his belt, Dawkins couldn’t help but smile when asked if the second-year guard’s performance was expected.
“I would be lying if I said it was,” Dawkins said. “He’s definitely improved as a shooter.”
Norris and Devin Ginty led the Toreros, contributing 10 apiece. Neither team shot well from the floor, with Stanford winning an ugly offensive battle on just 40.7 percent shooting.
What Dawkins’ team lacked in offense it made up for in defense, forcing 20 turnovers and winning the rebounding battle 40 to 27.
Stanford used 12 men over the course of the game, with substitutions aplenty. While Dawkins acknowledges the depth of the team, he is hesitant to commit to a set lineup.
“That’s a game-by-game thing,” he said. “I like the fact that we have more depth. It keeps fresher guys on the floor and keeps the level of intensity up.”
The Cardinal will look to keep its energy high when it plays host to Virginia (2-0) this Thursday. The Cavaliers have started the season strong, winning decisively in their matchups against William & Mary and South Carolina Upstate.
Tipoff between the undefeated teams is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.