Two career highs not enough for men’s hoops to tackle Trojans

Feb. 2, 2021, 10:48 p.m.

Stanford men’s basketball (10-7, 6-5 Pac-12) returned to Maples Pavilion to play its first true home game of the season on Tuesday against USC (14-3, 8-2 Pac-12). The home debut fell short of the Cardinal’s expectations, however, and the Trojans used 23 points from freshman forward Evan Mobley to defeat the home team 72-66. 

The Cardinal’s opening minutes of play suggested that the return home to the Farm — after having spent nearly all of December and January on the road — was a good luck charm. Senior forward Oscar da Silva got Stanford on the board early with a three-point launch, answering a Mobley dunk on the other end during the game’s first possession. 

From there, Stanford saw what was arguably its best first-half shooting of the season. Notorious for being slow to awaken offensively, the Cardinal took a different approach Tuesday. Stanford netted 14-of-26 first-half attempts from the field, including 5-of-8 from long range, to record 58.85% and 62.5% success rates, respectfully. USC was less fortunate in the opening 20 minutes, connecting on just 11-of-26 and 2-of-10 from deep.  

Junior forward Jaiden Delaire established himself as a serious offensive threat early on, notching the next 7 points for the Cardinal following da Silva’s opener before freshman guard Michael O’Connell added four of his own with a pair of free throws and subsequent jumper. 

Delaire and O’Connell proved to be a dangerous duo.

After recording just 6.2 points per game during the Stanford’s first six matchups, Delaire has averaged 17.2 points across the past nine contests, stepping up significantly in the wake of numerous injuries on the team, namely those of senior guard Daejon Davis and junior guard Bryce Wills. Delaire has ended four of his last nine appearances with 20 points to his name, and Tuesday night was no different for the junior.

On 10-for-16 shooting from the field, including 2-for-4 from behind the arc, Delaire led the Cardinal’s offensive efforts with 22 points — good enough to topple his previous career-high of 21. Eleven of Delaire’s points came in the first 20 minutes of play, helping Stanford soar to a ten-point lead with just over eight minutes to go before halftime. Mobley and the Trojans fought to close the gap heading into the break, but 5 late points from O’Connell sent the Cardinal to the locker room up three. With minutes to spare before halftime, O’Connell had already tied his career high of 14 points. 

The second half saw a Cardinal team led by Delaire and O’Connell as the Trojan defense limited standout da Silva, who entered the matchup averaging over 19 points per game, to just 9 points on the night. Foul trouble on the other side of the ball also proved constraining for da Silva as he found himself confined to the bench for 16 minutes of action. 

O’Connell again demonstrated a continuously growing comfort in the point guard position, which he took over following Davis’ and Wills’ injuries, and tallied a career-high 20 points by the end of the night. The freshman achieved the feat on 7-for-12 shooting from the field, including a 2-for-5 mark from three-point range, and added in an additional 4 points on four attempts at the free-throw line.

Despite O’Connell and Delaire acting as a powerhouse duo on offense, Stanford’s first-half shooting success dwindled in the second as the team capitalized on a respectable 13-of-26 attempts from the field, but just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for the Cardinal, the Trojans simultaneously found their footing, sinking 16-of-31 second-half shots to pull ahead as the final 20 minutes ticked away. 

Aside from USC’s shooting success in the second-half, it was personal fouls and turnovers by Stanford that set the Trojans up for the win. On 15 Cardinal turnovers, the Trojans produced 19 points. Meanwhile, Stanford converted 10 USC errors into just 11 points. Eighteen personal fouls by the Cardinal gave USC 20 total attempts at the foul line, while Stanford found itself at the charity stripe on just eight occasions throughout the night.

“We were thin for a variety of reasons, including significant foul trouble throughout the game,” said head coach Jerod Haase with regard to the numerous injuries and other challenges facing the Cardinal. “That put us in some situations, we had some lineups out there we wouldn’t normally have and asked guys to do things we normally wouldn’t ask them to do.”

The loss is Stanford’s second straight after the Cardinal also fell to Arizona State on Saturday. The next chance for the Cardinal to reverse its fortune comes on Thursday, when Stanford travels to Berkeley for a Bay-Area showdown. Tip off is set for 6 p.m. PT.

Contact Savanna Stewart at savnstew ‘at’

Savanna Stewart is a managing editor in the Sports section. She is a junior from Twin Bridges, Montana studying Political Science and Communication and enjoys running and playing basketball. Contact her at sstewart 'at'

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