With three players finishing in double digits, a victory by Stanford men’s basketball (8-4, 4-2 Pac-12) over Utah (5-5, 2-4 Pac-12) may have seemed guaranteed, but atrocious first-half shooting and defensive struggles kept the Cardinal trailing the Utes through the final buzzer. Snapping a three-game win streak, Stanford fell 65-79 on Thursday.
An early steal and three-pointer by sophomore forward Spencer Jones just 40 seconds into play hinted that Stanford may be the ones to set the pace for the night, but a five-minute scoring drought by the Cardinal after that bucket made it clear that the path to victory would be a bumpy one. A pathetic 28% Stanford success rate from the field on 7-for-25 shooting was a side effect of not only the aggressiveness of the Utes’ defense, but also rushed, disconnected play by Stanford.
“[Utah] did a nice job keeping us out of the paint,” head coach Jerod Haase said of the team’s challenges. “They did a variety of different things to do so and, when we did get to the paint, I thought we maybe shot sometimes when it was not advised and at times we didn’t see the next pass on the perimeter.”
Adding insult to injury, a 14-2 scoring run headed by Utah’s junior forward Timmy Allen to close the first half appeared to squash any chances Stanford had of taking control of the game’s momentum. Fifteen of Allen’s 22 points came in the first 20 minutes of play, with nine of them coming in the final five minutes before the half. Nearly half of the junior’s first half points — seven of the 15 — were notched from the free-throw line.
“We fouled too much,” said Haase. “We just can’t put a team on the free-throw line 30 times.”
Though Stanford struggled to contain Allen, or guard the junior without fouling, the Cardinal’s senior guard Daejon Davis worked to outdo the effects of Allen’s efforts with a notable performance of his own. In his first game since Dec. 19, Davis topped the score card for the Cardinal, pouring in 19 points in 25 minutes. Davis had been sidelined for five games after sustaining a leg injury against Arizona, and his absence from the starting lineup on Thursday may suggest the program is simply easing him back into competition and continuing to monitor his status closely. Junior guard Bryce Wills — who comprises half of a dangerous defensive duo with Davis — still remained absent from the night’s active roster after going down with a knee injury in early January.
Davis headlined the Cardinal’s offensive efforts despite shooting just 4-for-11 from the field. Three of the guard’s successful attempts came from beyond the arc, and an additional eight points were picked up by Davis at the foul line. He also led the Stanford squad in rebounds and steals, snagging five and three of each, respectively.
However, while Davis’ performance may indicate the healthy and successful return of a key Cardinal player, it also reveals the team’s deeper struggles against the Utes. Davis’ contribution of 19 points was still lower than senior forward Oscar da Silva’s season average heading into the matchup; da Silva went into Thursday’s battle averaging a conference-high 19.8 points and a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game. The forward turned heads with two 30-point games earlier this season — admittedly against lower-level teams CSUN and Oregon State — and has consistently demonstrated the dominance down low and the upperclassman confidence that is expected of the 6-foot-9 forward.
The Utes had other plans in mind for da Silva, however, and managed to keep the powerhouse limited to just 11 points and two rebounds over 31 minutes on the court. Da Silva managed just five shots from the field, capitalizing on three of them, and acquired the remainder of his points at the charity stripe, where he went 5-for-9.
With the Utes’ focus largely on containing da Silva within the paint, freshman forward Ziaire Williams was quick to find scoring opportunities around the perimeter. On the stat sheet, Williams appears to have encountered similar shooting struggles as Davis, sinking just 4-of-13 from the field; however, all four of Williams’ successful attempts came from behind the arc, where he shot 50%. Twenty-three fouls by the Utes helped send Williams to the foul line on numerous occasions, allowing the freshman to pick up an additional five points on the uncontested shots.
While the 14-point loss was an undesired outcome of an unremarkable performance by the Cardinal, the program’s 1,000-point club earned a new member Thursday night, with Davis reaching the benchmark as the 49th Stanford player to do so.
Next up for the Cardinal is a Saturday battle in Boulder. Stanford is set to take on Colorado at 12pm PT.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.