After winning last season’s NIT tournament and notching two victories in its first two games of this year’s NIT Season Tip-Off, Stanford men’s basketball (2-3) finally lost a game in an NIT tournament on Thursday, falling 59–45 to No. 8 Villanova (5-0).
On a slow-shooting performance by both teams, the Cardinal offense particularly struggled against Villanova’s aggressive defensive press. Stanford shot just 26 percent from the field against the Wildcats, forcing the team to drive to the basket to search out high-percentage shots and attempt to draw fouls.
Villanova proved more than capable of standing up to this pressure, however, and the team held Stanford to its lowest scoring total since February 2012.
The Cardinal did show marked improvement in their rebounding from their opening games, taking advantage of foul trouble for Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu to generate 20 offensive boards and build a 55-35 edge in the category. Stanford ended up giving most of this advantage back to Jay Wright’s squad on turnovers, however, and the team’s errant passing led to 13 Wildcat points.
“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” head coach Johnny Dawkins remarked to ESPN. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, [which] was disappointing.”
Stanford started the game dreadfully, allowing more than 1o minutes to pass before it made its first field goal. The team managed to trade baskets with its opponent for most of the rest of the game as the normally hot-shooting Wildcats connected on just 20.6 percent of their attempts from beyond the arch. But Stanford’s only particularly threatening run was stopped short when sophomore Reid Travis was whistled for a technical foul on a failed dunk attempt that ultimately led to a 4-point Villanova possession.
Sophomore Dorian Pickens had the most complete performance for the Cardinal, picking up his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Junior Marcus Allen continued his string of consistent efforts with 12 more points, and freshman Marcus Sheffield enjoyed a bit of a breakout game with two key corner threes that jumpstarted the brief second-half Cardinal comeback effort.
The loss drops Stanford to 2-3, the first time the team has fallen below .500 since the end of the 2010-11 season.
The Cardinal won’t get much time to work on their mistakes, as they return to action on Friday against Arkansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off consolation game. The Razorbacks have seen their season get off to a rocky start after they advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last March, most recently falling to Georgia Tech in the tournament semifinal.
Stanford will take on Arkansas at 9:30 a.m. on ESPNU.
Contact Andrew Mather at amather ‘at’ stanford.edu.