When Stanford men’s basketball (8-5, 4-3 Pac-12) headed east this week, the team was coasting on the momentum of a three-game win streak. But after Thursday’s matchup against Utah snapped the Cardinal’s successful run, Stanford was unable to rebound from the loss and fell 77-64 on Saturday to Colorado (11-3, 5-2 Pac-12).
For the first 15 minutes of play, it seemed as if Stanford would put the Buffaloes’ then-4-0 home record to the test. Colorado was the first to score in Boulder, with a jumper from senior guard/forward D’Shawn Schwartz adding two points to the Buffaloes’ side of the fight, but a layup from Stanford’s junior forward Jaiden Delaire on the subsequent position sparked a back-and-forth that would last well into the first half.
Eleven first-half points from senior forward Oscar da Silva were crucial to the Cardinal’s attempts to keep Colorado within reach, but a jumper from his younger brother, Buffaloes freshman forward Tristan da Silva, with just under seven minutes to go before the half was the spark the Buffaloes needed to leave the Cardinal in the dust. Colorado followed up with an 18-5 scoring run to head to the locker rooms up 16 at the break.
Aside from allowing Colorado to gain momentum as the first 20 minutes wound down, turnovers, shooting struggles and team injuries would eventually prove lethal for the Cardinal against the team that has consistently scored over 80 points a game at home. Stanford handed the ball over 15 times — just shy of the team’s 15.8 average — while only forcing Colorado to commit the same crime on 10 occasions. The Buffaloes transformed Cardinal turnovers into 17 points, while Stanford acquired just 10 from its opponent’s errors.
Six of Stanford’s turnovers came from Ziaire Williams, tarnishing an otherwise impressive performance by the freshman. The forward recorded 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting, netting two step-back three-pointers in the first half. He also snagged one of Stanford’s five steals and shut down a layup attempt by Colorado’s junior guard Eli Parquet with a block with just over 10 minutes to go in the second half.
Nonetheless, Williams’ successful shooting could not override the effects of his struggles to maintain control of the ball. He was hardly the only one, however, who contributed to a sloppy and disconnected style of play that Stanford fans also witnessed against the Utes on Thursday.
Poorly chosen passes and missed looks by Cardinal players on the perimeter set the team up for a number of unfortunate shots, culminating in a sad 36.7% field-goal percentage over the full 40 minutes. Despite being able to remain within single digits of Colorado for much of the first half, just three of the Cardinal’s first 11 shots fell.
“I thought we made plays, especially in the second half, that were just not seeing our teammates or were not making those extra passes,” head coach Jerod Haase said of the team’s offensive struggles. “We need to make sure that [we] not only have a game plan, but it’s my job as a coach to make sure we execute the game plan.”
Even with a well-executed game plan, Stanford would have had to overcome the significant challenges posed by numerous team injuries. The Cardinal was again forced to operate without junior guard Bryce Wills, who suffered a knee injury in early January and has yet to return.
Stanford’s lineup on Saturday also lacked sophomore forward Spencer Jones for undisclosed reasons; Jones currently leads the team in three-pointers with 19 to his name after 12 games played. The sophomore recorded a season-high 18 points against Washington on Jan. 7, picking up 12 points from behind the arc, where he went 4-for-6.
Without Wills and Jones, Stanford again turned to younger talent, namely freshmen guards Michael O’Connell and Noah Taitz. The duo has earned justified praise for stepping up in the wake of Wills’ absence and was relied upon heavily when senior guard Daejon Davis also found himself sidelined with a lower leg injury from Dec. 19 until Thursday. However, against a Colorado team with 10 juniors and seniors on its roster, Stanford’s inexperience was a fatal flaw.
The next chance for the Cardinal to reverse its losing fortunes comes on Thursday, when Stanford will take on USC. Due to Santa Clara County COVID-19 restrictions that ban contact sports and require a 10-day strict travel quarantine, the Cardinal will face the Trojans in Santa Cruz, where its last four “home” games have been held. Tip off is set for 2:00 p.m. PT.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.