Another game day approaches for Stanford men’s basketball (6-3, 2-1 Pac-12) and yet Maples Pavilion will continue to sit quiet and empty. For the second time this season, Kaiser Permanente Arena will be the team’s home-away-from-home on Thursday when the Cardinal host the University of Washington (1-7, 0-3 Pac-12) at the Santa Cruz venue.
The matchup signifies a quick turnaround for Stanford, whose schedule — like that of most teams — has been forced to adjust time and time again to ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, test results and related contact tracing protocols. Just days ago, the Cardinal recorded a 81-71 victory over Oregon State (5-4, 1-2 Pac-12) on Monday in a rescheduled game after the teams’ original meeting — set for Dec. 31 — was postponed due to COVID-19 test results and contact tracing within the Beavers’ program.
While the victory was beneficial to Stanford’s record and critical in the team’s search for momentum following a 73-56 loss to Oregon (8-1, 3-0 Pac-12) on Saturday, the game has concerning implications for Thursday’s run-in with the Huskies.
Just four minutes into Monday night’s action, junior guard Bryce Wills was helped off the court with an apparent leg injury and did not return to play the remainder of the night. Wills, who had contributed three points and snagged one steal in his minimal time on the court, went into the matchup averaging 9.3 points for the Cardinal in addition to having accumulated 11 steals and 39 defensive rebounds over eight games.
The junior joined senior guard Daejon Davis on the sideline, as Davis also suffered a leg injury earlier in the season. Prior to his injury, Davis was notching an average of 13.8 points for Stanford across five games and had recorded seven steals.
Without both two-way dynamic guards, the Cardinal was forced to rely heavily on its forwards and its freshman class to narrowly escape the Beavers and, should Davis and Wills remain unavailable, could very possibly need to do so again in order to handle the Huskies.
Thirty-one points from senior forward Oscar da Silva led Stanford’s offensive effort on Monday, while junior forward Jaiden Delaire poured in 19 of his own. Freshman guard Michael O’Connell took over the opening left by Davis and Wills en route to a career-high 12 points.
Delaire and da Silva also collectively reeled in 19 Stanford rebounds and combined for a crucial 16-for-21 showing at the foul line, where the 6-foot-9 pair was 7-for-9 and 9-for-12, respectively. Delaire added two steals to the stat sheet by the end of the night while da Silva tallied his 10th block of the season.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, however, threats from Washington could come from well outside of Delaire and da Silva’s territory, challenging the inexperience of O’Connell and fellow freshman guard Noah Taitz if both Davis and Wills are sidelined. Senior Huskies guard Quade Green tops the Pac-12 foe’s stats sheet, averaging 15.5 points per contest, and boasts three 20-point games this season, with the most recent being a 23-point effort against Arizona on Dec. 31.
Green also averages 1.4 steals per game while minimizing his personal fouls, aside from fouling out during the Huskies’ matchup with Oregon on Dec. 16. Though O’Connell played an impressive 30 minutes in Stanford’s meeting with the Beavers without recording a single turnover, Green’s experience as an upperclassman and demonstrated talent on defense may prove just enough to force a few loose balls from O’Connell.
Just as important as keeping Green contained from the field is the need to keep him away from the foul line. The senior boasts the team’s highest free throw percentage, sinking 19-of-22 for an 86.4% success rate on the season.
A victory on Thursday would be Stanford’s third straight over the Huskies. Tip off is set for 6pm PT.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.