Stanford men’s basketball (2-0, 0-0 Pac-12) enjoyed a perfect start to its season against two fellow 2015 NIT participants, recording a nervous 93-89 overtime win over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday and a 93-59 smack-down of Charleston Southern Sunday evening.
The Cardinal started slow against Green Bay on Friday, getting heavily outplayed on both sides of the ball as the Phoenix built a lead that stretched as high as 14. It wasn’t until late in the second half that the Stanford offense finally started clicking, as the team went on a 19-6 run that brought it level with just over seven minutes to play.
The Cardinal looked like they might win in regulation, but a foul by sophomore Reid Travis on what looked to be a consolation layup allowed Green Bay’s Charles Cooper to level the score with a three-point play. Stanford managed to preserve its previous momentum in overtime, however, and the team led for the entirety of the period to secure its sixth straight season-opening victory.
Senior Christian Sanders led the Cardinal with 23 points – 8 of which came in overtime – and sophomore Michael Humphrey added 13 points, 11 rebounds and an astounding 7 blocks on defense to keep Stanford in the game during regulation.
“I thought it was a big test for us,” head coach Johnny Dawkins remarked after the game. “Being down 14 at one point, being down late in the game by 10, and our guys just finding a way to pull out the win says a lot about them…The one thing we did learn is that we do have heart and we have an amazing will to win.”
Stanford’s victory over Charleston Southern on Sunday was less dramatic, with the squad taking a 10-point lead within six minutes of play from which the Buccaneers were never able to claw their way back. The Cardinal heavily exploited their size advantage over Charleston Southern, allowing just 14 points in the paint and forcing the Buccaneers to shoot 28 of their 49 field goals from behind the arc.
“That first game for us was obviously much tighter than we wanted,” sophomore Dorian Pickens said. “Tonight we wanted to focus on coming out with a ton of energy right from the jump. And really focusing on what we call having a defensive masterpiece… because we know that offense will come.”
Pickens led a balanced Stanford attack this time with 20 points and 8 assists. Senior Rosco Allen added another 19 points, and Humphrey contributed another double-double as the Cardinal shot nearly 60 percent in a vast improvement from their effort two nights prior.
Free-throw shooting was a bit of a low point for Stanford across both competitions, with the team shooting just 59.5 percent from the charity stripe against Green Bay and 60 percent against Charleston Southern. Stanford will have to improve considerably in this manner if it wishes to remain competitive against a quickly toughening schedule.
The Cardinal will return to action this Thursday in a nationally-televised game against the SMU Mustangs.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.