A 21-point effort by junior forward Jaiden Delaire fueled a 73-64 victory by Stanford men’s basketball (10-5, 6-3 Pac-12) over Arizona (12-4, 6-4 Pac-12) on Thursday. With the win, the Cardinal swept the Wildcats in conference play for the first time since 2008.
“We won earlier this year against Arizona, and that was our first time beating them in 20 or so games,” Delaire said. “We weren’t just content with that.”
“We were talking about all week how we haven’t swept [Arizona] since 2008,” Delaire continued. “I think the guys’ level of intensity was all the way locked in this whole week leading up to the game.”
Arizona was quick to get on the board at its home court, securing the tip and — just 14 seconds later — the first lead with a three-pointer by junior guard James Akinjo. Stanford’s senior forward Oscar da Silva responded with a triple of his own on the answering possession, picking up his first three points en route to a 17-point contribution. Delaire added a free throw of his own to flip the lead just over a minute into play, but a three-and-a-half minutes scoring drought by the Cardinal gave the Wildcats ample time to find their rhythm.
The first half remained neck-and-neck as both teams’ field goal percentages hovered around 44%; The Cardinal knocked it 13-of-29 attempts in the first 20 minutes, while the Wildcats sank a similar 11-of-25. Akinjo added a team-high 12 first-half points for Arizona.
Unfortunately for the Cardinal, however, Arizona’s defense played safely and limited itself to just three fouls before the half, keeping Stanford away from the foul line aside from three free throws by Delaire. At the charity stripe, Stanford has averaged 16.7 points per game on the season.
Even with few trips to the foul line, seven first-half points a piece from da Silva, Delaire and freshman guard Michael O’Connell helped put the Cardinal up four at the break. Freshman guard Noah Taitz added an additional six off two attempts from behind the arc.
The second half saw a new Cardinal team that was prepared to challenge the Wildcats defense. Stanford found success on 13-of-24 attempts from the field for a 54.2% field goal percentage. Twelve second-half fouls by the home team gave Stanford 17 opportunities at the free-throw line, but the Cardinal capitalized on just 11 of those attempts, departing significantly from the team’s 73.3% success rate at the charity stripe this season.
Delaire picked up 14 of his points during the back 20 minutes, going 5-for-6 from the field — including 1-for-1 from long range — and knocking down three free throws on four attempts. The junior’s 21-point effort was his second 20-point game in the last seven contests and his sixth double-digit performance in the same time period, which coincides with the injury of junior guard Bryce Wills.
Wills exited a Jan. 4 matchup against Oregon State with a knee injury, joining senior guard Daejon Davis on the injury list after Davis injured his lower leg in Stanford’s first meeting with the Wildcats this season on Dec.19. Davis briefly returned for a trip to the mountain states, during which he spent limited time on the court, suggesting the program’s intentions to ease him back into competition. The senior, however, was absent again from the lineup for Stanford’s battle against the Bruins, as was freshman forward Ziaire Williams, who remained absent from Thursday’s action.
With the lack of Williams along with the Wills-Davis guard duo, Delaire’s offensive game transformed significantly. Prior to the Jan. 4 game, Delaire averaged just 6.2 points per contest. In the seven games since, the forward has notched 16 points per game.
“I believe in [Delaire],” said head coach Jerod Haase regarding Delaire’s recent consistency and crucial performances. “He doesn’t need to look over at me. We’re going to keep giving him the basketball and asking him to make plays and just get to the next play.
“That’s the mindset we need to continue to develop, and I’m confident we will,” Haase added.
While Delaire led Stanford on one side of the basketball, the team’s collective efforts on the other side were just as critical in the Cardinal’s victory. Defensively, the Cardinal’s key to success was minimizing Arizona’s fortune near the basket. The defensive efforts of da Silva, Delaire and junior forward Lukas Kisunas limited the Wildcats to just 14 points in the key. On the other end of the court, Stanford tallied 34 points in the paint.
Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’ stanford.edu.