After a break for the holiday season, men’s basketball (5-2, 1-0 Pac-12) is back in action as the team heads to Corvallis, Ore. to take on the Oregon State Beavers (4-3, 0-1 Pac-12).
The Cardinal had an exhilarating Pac-12 opener just over a week ago, downing the Arizona Wildcats (6-1, 0-1 Pac-12) 78-75, marking the first head-to-head win for Stanford in nearly 12 years.
Stanford’s victory over the Wildcats was highlighted by a balanced offense. The Cardinal saw four of its starters finish in double figures, with senior forward Oscar da Silva leading the way with 21 points. The sole starter who failed to score double figures was sophomore forward Spencer Jones, whose two threes in the final three minutes helped seal the victory.
Stanford followed up its conference opening win with yet another, this time a 63-50 victory against non-conference foe Cal State Bakersfield (4-3, 0-0 Big West) on December 21st. This victory came without senior guard Daejon Davis, creating some difficulties for the Cardinal at the point guard position. In the absence of Davis, many others stepped up, including freshman forward Ziaire Williams who led the team with 17 points and had a strong showing on the glass. Williams, however, continued to demonstrate his youth as he turned the ball over a team-high six times.
The Cardinal’s next opponent, Oregon State, was picked to finish last in the Preseason Pac-12 Media Poll and for good reason. The Beavers lost their all-time scoring leader, forward Tres Tinkle, who scored 2,233 points in his four years. In addition, the loss of 7-foot forward Kylor Kelley left Oregon State desperate on the interior.
However, despite the losses, the Beavers have shown glimpses of promise throughout the start of the season, largely thanks to its upperclassman leadership. Senior guard Ethan Thompson has been brilliant, averaging a team-high 17.3 points per game and being a true leader on the court. He has been nicely supplemented by junior forward Warith Alatishe, who averages 9.1 rebounds per game in addition to double-figure scoring.
Oregon State has faced ups and downs thus far, opening the season with a win over a mediocre Cal team (5-4, 0-2 Pac-12), but the low point of the season for the Beavers was its loss against Portland (6-2, 0-0 WCC), a team with a deceptive record. Portland has one of the weakest strength of schedules in all of college basketball, so, the Beavers’ loss to Portland is representative of the downside that many forecasted in the preseason.
Keys for Success
There are two keys for each team entering Thursday’s matchup. The first key for the Cardinal will be rebounding. This season, Stanford is 4-0 when outrebounding its opponent and 1-2 when getting outrebounded. Stanford has a distinct talent advantage over Oregon State, but the Cardinal will have to secure boards and prevent second-chance points to hold off an upset bid in Corvallis.
The second key for Stanford is Williams. After an impressive 19-point debut against Alabama, Williams began to struggle as most freshmen do, scoring 10 against North Carolina (5-3, 0-1 ACC) and then recording back-to-back single-figure scoring performances.
Since then he has sprung back to life, scoring in double figures in his past three games. Head coach Jerod Haase will continue to look for Williams to improve and mature, as Williams also leads his team in a statistic no one wants to lead in — turnovers. With 3.1 turnovers per game, it will be essential for the freshman to take better care of the ball or it could result in Oregon State giving the Cardinal a scare.
Oregon State’s first key is to contain da Silva. Da Silva, who averages 18.9 points and 6 rebounds per game, is the definitive leader of this Stanford squad. He is also able to exploit teams that do not have an exceptionally strong and physical frontcourt, as he did in his 32-point game against CSU Northridge (3-3, 0-0 Big West). Oregon State, whose 7-foot-1 senior center Roman Silva has very little impact and only averages 9.4 minutes per game, is very vulnerable to such a performance by da Silva. It will likely be the 6-foot-7 Alatishe, who averages 28 minutes per game, that will be da Silva’s greatest threat down low, making him the player to watch for the Beavers.
The second key for Oregon State is to find a way to overcome the defense of Stanford’s dynamic defensive duo — senior guard Daejon Davis (assuming he is healthy enough to return from injury) and junior guard Bryce Wills. The Beavers rely heavily on guard play, with senior guard Zach Reichle and sophomore guard Jarod Lucas contributing significantly alongside Thompson. Oregon State will need its guards to be at the top of their game if the Beavers want to take down the Cardinal.
Tip-off against the Beavers is set for 3 p.m. PT on Thursday.
Contact Teddy Solomon at tedsol ‘at’ stanford.edu.