The Stanford Cardinal (14-5, 6-2 Pac-12) and the Washington State Cougars (9-10, 3-4 Pac-12) have two very distinct mindsets heading into Saturday’s matchup.
The Cardinal are coming off convincing back-to-back wins against Arizona State and Washington. The team is peaking on both ends of the floor as it approaches their last 10-game stretch of the regular season. As they visit Washington State on Saturday, the Card eyes a third straight win and a chance to add another victory to their impressive season.
The Cougars, on the other hand, want to get back on the winning track. They have lost three straight games by a combined 69 points, including a blowout 32-point defeat at Colorado last Saturday. First year head coach Ernie Kent is trying to establish a successful program in Pullman, but progress has been inconsistent thus far.
— Stanford Men’s Hoops (@stanfordbball) January 29, 2015
The sharp contrast between the two teams’ style of play will make for an entertaining game. Stanford pairs its senior duo of guards, Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown, along with center Stefan Nastic, with outside shooting and a deep bench. The ball moves around the perimeter, where the Cardinal’s guards can make plays against opposing defenses. Washington State leans heavily on its size, led by sophomore Josh Hawkinson, and looks for baskets with inside-out play.
Washington State shows a lot of potential, and they will need their stars to dazzle if they want to avoid the same fate they suffered against the Cardinal on January 2nd. Senior guard DaVonte Lacy has strung together an impressive season, averaging 16.9 points a game (4th in the Pac-12). He is a versatile scorer and is great at drawing contact near the rim, averaging nearly 6.5 free throw attempts a game.
Josh Hawkinson is the most pivotal piece for the Cougars and is perhaps the most improved player in college basketball. After averaging 1.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last season, the young forward has blossomed into a double-double machine. He grabs a Pac-12 leading 10.7 rebounds a game and owns the paint in most of his games. On offense, he’s patient and shows above-average footwork, scoring most of his 15.1 points from within 7 feet. If he’s not playing well, Washington State’s chances of winning will take a big hit.
Stanford needs to focus on execution to get a victory against the Cougars. When they hosted Washington State earlier this month, the Cardinal missed 9 of their first 10 shots while WSU jumped out to a 14-4 lead. Stanford only managed a 27-24 halftime lead thanks to 14 combined points from sophomore guard Marcus Allen and freshman point guard Robert Cartwright. A better shooting performance will be integral to picking up another victory in conference play. The Card will also hope that Anthony Brown, who has averaged 22 points in the past two games, continues his impressive run of play and opens up driving lanes with his dangerous outside shooting.
Johnny Dawkins’ squad has demonstrated the capacity to play at a high level, but at times goes through periods of low intensity. The team will need to correct this inconsistency as they approach the postseason, especially on the defensive end. The Big 3 for Stanford have scored over 60 points combined in each of their last two games, but it will be on them to lead and execute in both halves.
With the Cougars seeking to gain some measure of consistency, and Stanford hoping to build off of their solid start to Pac-12 play, both teams will have something to prove on Saturday in Pullman.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irod973 ‘at’ stanford.edu