The Stanford Cardinal (10-8, 4-1 Pac-12) swept both Washington teams this weekend, defeating the Washington State Cougars (9-8, 1-4 Pac-12) on Thursday and capturing their fourth straight victory against the Washington Huskies (13-5, 3-2 Pac-12) in Seattle on Saturday to tie them for first place in the Pac-12 standings. Stanford coasted into the road trip on a wave of momentum following big home victories against UCLA and USC. Looming in recent memory, though, was a slow start to the year that included losses to the likes of Long Beach State, Eastern Washington University and Portland State.
This road trip posed an important question for Stanford men’s basketball: Are they actually a contender in the Pac-12?
The answer now appears to be a resounding yes. Daejon Davis, just after nailing the infamous buzzer-beater to sink USC a week ago, continued improving his game in his home state. The freshman guard combined for 31 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists (against seven turnovers) over the two-game span. He notched a double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds) against Washington, the school from which he de-committed, and nailed a clutch three-pointer to put Stanford up by five with two minutes remaining versus the Huskies.
Fellow freshman Kezie Okpala also contributed 31 points to the victories, boosted by a 72 free-throw percentage over the two games that was well above his season mark.
Senior forward Reid Travis was himself against Washington, bullying his way to 16 points and five boards. His struggles against Washington State (six points, six boards) revealed the depth of this Stanford ball club. Senior guard Dorian Pickens (28 points against WSU) had no issues taking charge. Neither did the rookies, who contributed 45 points to the victory.
Stanford’s 79-70 triumph over WSU followed a script we have seen many times this year. The Cardinal stumbled out of the gate and trailed by seven at the end of the first half, before their suffocating defense, strong performance at the line and clutch shots reversed the deficit in the final minutes. What made this road trip different was that, on Saturday against Washington, Stanford led at the break and expanded its lead in the second half. It was heartening to see Stanford retake its lead with 18 minutes remaining and hold it until the clock listed triple zeros.
Many of Stanford’s early season struggles can be attributed to inefficiency behind the arc. Though two games is certainly a small sample size (15-36), Stanford certainly stepped up its game from outside in this weekend’s victories.
Stanford will face another, perhaps more difficult, challenge this coming week. Though they do not have to travel, the Cardinal have dates with two ranked teams: No. 11 Arizona State and No. 17 Arizona. If there is anything we have learned from Stanford’s polished veterans and gutsy youngsters, though, it’s that it bring its best to high-stakes Pac-12 contests.
Stanford plays Arizona State at Maples Pavilion this Wednesday at 8 p.m. PST. That game will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Networks.
Contact Quinn Barry at qmbarry ‘at’ stanford.edu.