Struggling men’s hoops heads to Washington

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With just six games remaining on the regular-season slate, Stanford men’s basketball now (16-9, 5-7 Pac-12) heads north for two tests in Washington: the Huskies (12-14, 2-11 Pac-12) on Thursday and the Cougars (14-12, 5-8 Pac-12) on Sunday. Washington and Washington State are two of the four teams that the Cardinal defeated in early January en route to a 4-0 start to Pac-12 play. 

Stanford was the last team in the conference with a perfect record in league action as of Jan. 15, when it bested the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion for the first time in 13 years. Since then, the Cardinal have crumbled. Shooting struggles, slow starts and injuries have sent the team on a downward spiral, as Stanford has walked away defeated in seven of its last eight matchups — including a Jan. 19 meeting with USC in which the Cardinal boasted a 20-point lead at the half. 

The one-game absence of star junior forward Oscar da Silva, due to an undisclosed injury sustainedFeb. 8 against Colorado, inevitably made it impossible for Stanford to capitalize on a home thriller against Arizona State five days later, despite the fact that the Cardinal posted their highest field goal percentage (52%) since the Cougars visited the Farm on Jan. 11.

da Silva’s return for a home game versus the Wildcats on Saturday offered a sliver of hope for a reversal of Stanford’s fortune, but only two Cardinal players — da Silva and sophomore guard Bryce Wills — were able to contribute more than 10 points to the effort; da Silva tallied 13, while Wills added a career-high 25 on 13 attempts at 76.9% success. The other three starters — freshman forward Spencer Jones, freshman guard Tyrell Terry and junior guard Daejon Davis — combined for a total of nine.

Arizona, on the other hand, saw three players break into the realm of double digits, with freshman forward Zeke Nnaji pacing the squad with 21.

If the scoring challenges that have plagued the Cardinal since their collapse at USC present themselves in the coming contests against Washington and WSU, walking away with a win will be much more challenging for Stanford than it was on the Farm. Despite sporting an unfortunate 0-7 record on the road, the Huskies preserve a 9-5 winning record on their home court. Washington averages a success rate of 44.2% from the field — lower than Stanford’s 47.1% mark — but has relied on four scorers with double-digit averages to challenge big-name teams, including No. 8 Oregon. The Ducks narrowly edged the Huskies in a 64-61 overtime show. To further trouble visiting Stanford, Washington sinks a respectable 70.4% of attempts from the charity stripe, which recent Cardinal opponents have frequented as a consequence of Stanford’s average of 19.7 personal fouls per game in its last 11 games. 

The Cougars’ shooting has, at 40.2%, fared worse than the Cardinal’s, but the former’s average 36.2 rebounds per game could give them enough second chances to secure a win and split the series with Stanford. Additionally, WSU commits just 11.7 turnovers per contest compared to Stanford’s 14.9. 

The Huskies will be the first up on Stanford’s agenda in Washington. Tip-off in Seattle is set for 7 p.m. PT on Thursday. 

Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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