Home at Maples Pavilion for the second consecutive week, the Stanford men’s basketball team has its first opportunity to avenge an early-season loss tonight when it takes on No. 21 Arizona (18-4, 7-2 Pac-10) for the second time in just over three weeks.
The youthful Cardinal squad (11-9, 4-5) has been inconsistent both at home and on the road this season, but appeared closest to fulfilling its potential in a 14-point victory over Oregon State last Saturday that successfully halted a four-game losing streak. Head coach Johnny Dawinks was pleased with what seemed to be a turning point for his team and hopes that the win will be a catalyst for success in the season’s remaining weeks.
“I’d like to see us continue to build off of this last game that we just played,” Dawkins said. “I thought we made a lot of connecting plays, [had] a lot of trust in one another’s teammates and really shared the ball well. And that’s exciting.”
The matchup will not be an easy one, as the Card faces one of its toughest opponents in Arizona. At the season’s halfway mark, the Wildcats are one of the teams to beat in the Pac-10, boasting the most wins in the conference (18) and currently sitting atop the conference standings, tied with No. 19 Washington.
However, both of Arizona’s conference losses have come on the road against Oregon State and Washington, two teams that Stanford has already beaten.
In their last run-in, which was postponed one day in light of the Jan. 8 shootings in Tucson, Stanford led the game early on, but was unable to answer Arizona’s solid perimeter shooting and several large runs, ultimately losing, 67-57.
Senior Jamelle Horne was especially potent, going 4-for-4 on threes and 6-for-7 overall, while sophomore Derrick Williams added another 14 points. Williams has led the Wildcats both offensively and defensively all season, averaging 19.8 points per game on 63.8 shooting from the field and 7.6 rebounds.
Tomorrow’s game will showcase the league’s premiere offensive and defensive squads. Arizona, who averages 77.2 points per game, leads the Pac-10 and is ranked 18th nationally with its 48.3-percent shooting percentage. On the opposite end of the floor, the Cardinal defense allows the least points per game in the conference, at 60.7.
Though Arizona owns victories in its last four games against Stanford (and a 52-29 overall advantage in the series), several Cardinal players have excelled against the Wildcats. Junior Jeremy Green has scored 81 points in five appearances against Arizona, an average of 16.2 points per game, and classmate Jarrett Mann is 10-for-13 from the field in four career meetings. Redshirt junior Josh Owens, who continues to show his resurgence from an undisclosed injury that kept him off the court last season, paced the Card in the January game, tallying 18 points and three rebounds.
In the Cardinal’s last game against Oregon State, however, it was freshman Anthony Brown who emerged as an offensive threat with 21 points, leading Stanford to a crucial victory over the Beavers.
“He’s on the upswing. He’s improving,” Dawkins said of Brown. “I think that’s always exciting, and I think that gives you energy, just seeing yourself start to make some of the plays he’s made.”
With two games left on the Farm before a trying road trip north to the Washington schools, Dawkins is optimistic that his team can learn to win, independent of the venue.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” he said. “Of course, we’re happy like any team to be playing at home, but no matter what, you know, you have to compete and you have to prepare the same way.
“For our guys, I’m just trying to keep them focused on the game we’re playing, not as much on where we’re playing,” he added.
Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. tonight at Maples Pavilion.