Following the postponement of Stanford men’s basketball’s (2-2,0-0 Pac-12) Pac-12 opener against USC (4-1, 0-0 Pac-12) on Sunday, the Cardinal now gear up to face California State University, Northridge (3-1, 0-0 Big West) at the Matadors’ home court on Tuesday at 2 p.m. PT. The game was rapidly arranged in light of the season’s unique circumstances that have prompted cancellations for both teams. It will be the Cardinal’s first game since its return to California following nearly two weeks of competing and training in North Carolina.
Stanford officially tipped off its season at the Maui Invitational at the beginning of the month, securing a fashionable 82-64 first-round victory against Alabama (3-2, 0-0 SEC) before falling 63-67 and 53-69 to UNC (4-2, 0-0 ACC) and Indiana (4-2, 0-0 Big Ten) in the subsequent rounds, respectively.
The Cardinal coasted to victory over the Crimson Tide largely thanks to a team-high 19-point contribution from freshman forward Ziaire Williams. Williams, who made headlines this spring for being Stanford’s highest-ranked recruit in program history. Williams was joined in double figures by three other Cardinal players: Junior guard Bryce Wills and senior guard Daejon Davis each notched 15 points, while senior forward Oscar da Silva added another 13.
Nonetheless, Stanford’s play was hardly perfect during its season opener, with 22 Cardinal turnovers providing Alabama with ample opportunity to secure 21 points off the errors alone. Six of these were committed by Williams — a rare demonstration of his youth and inexperience at the collegiate level — though the freshman compensated for his butterfingers on offense by crashing the defensive boards, securing eight rebounds to help the Cardinal out-rebound the Crimson Tide 47-31.
Since Alabama, however, shooting struggles have plagued the Stanford squad collectively. Despite back-to-back 18-point performances by Davis, the Cardinal as a whole shot just 39.2% from the field against UNC and 35.8% against Indiana. Free throws were perhaps the primary reason Stanford even remained a competitor in either contest as the Cardinal went 18-for-24 and 20-for-26 from the charity stripe against the Tar Heels and Hoosiers.
Rhythm was still not regained during a Dec. 6 matchup against North Carolina A&T which, like Tuesday’s game, was added to the Cardinal’s schedule following the cancellation of the three remaining non-conference games that were to be hosted on the Farm in December. Stanford relied on a game-high 26 points from da Silva and atrocious Aggie shooting to cruise to a 78-46 victory despite a mediocre 41% success rate from the field.
Against a Matador team that sits atop the Big West conference rankings, the Cardinal will need to rely on competitive defense and consistent offense in order to leave Northridge with a victory and a winning record. CSUN enters the matchup with momentum unmatched by the Cardinal, thanks to an unexpected 89-84 victory over Pepperdine on Saturday. Five Matador players resided in double-digits by the end of the night, led by junior guard TJ Sparks with 24 points. An additional 18 points were added by CSUN senior forward Lance Coleman II as the Matadors shot over 58% from the field during the second half.
Big offensive numbers are not unfamiliar to the Matadors, however, despite being considered an underdog by many in the meeting with the Waves. Both Sparks and Coleman II have averaged over 16 points per game across four games, and freshman forward Alex Merkviladze has complemented the duo’s efforts, averaging 12.3 points.
The last Cardinal versus Matador contest took place in 2016 and ultimately ended in a 96-69 Stanford victory.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.