After a three-game homestand, Stanford men’s basketball (13-8, 9-6 Pac-12) commences a trio of away games with a Thursday matchup against Washington (4-16, 3-12 Pac-12) in Seattle.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has graced the Cardinal with anything, it is familiarity with being on the road. Coronavirus restrictions extending from late Nov. 2020 until late last month banned contact sports and instituted a mandatory 10-day travel quarantine within Santa Clara County, forcing the team to live and compete away from the Farm for nearly two months in total. The Cardinal spent 59 out of 64 days between Nov. 27 and Jan. 30 outside the county and hosted its designated home games at Kaiser Permanente Arena in Santa Cruz.
During its extended road trip, the Cardinal went 10-6, including a perfect 5-0 at its neutral-site home away from home. The Huskies were one of four Pac-12 teams to be toppled in Santa Cruz; Stanford cruised to a 91-75 victory on Jan. 7 with 21 points from junior Jaiden Delaire, 18 points from sophomore forward Spencer Jones and an additional 17 from senior forward Oscar da Silva leading the Cardinal’s efforts.
While the victory was Stanford’s only 90-point showing so far this season, it was achieved without the Cardinal’s starting upperclassmen duo of senior guard Daejon Davis and junior guard Bryce Wills, who were both sidelined with injuries. With Wills returning on Feb. 7 and Davis rejoining the lineup on Feb. 13, Thursday looks promising for a Cardinal roster that boasts four players averaging double digits.
Da Silva has become a star for Stanford throughout his senior season, recording top-five marks in the conference in three categories as of Feb. 15: points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage. The 6-foot-9 forward has averaged 19.2 points on 57.3% shooting while reeling in 6.9 rebounds.
Delaire has recently charged to the top of Stanford’s offensive stats alongside da Silva, transitioning from posting just 6.2 points per game before Jan. 4 to notching over 16 points per competition during the 10 contests that the Cardinal was without Davis and Wills.
Davis, with 12.4 points per game, and freshman forward Ziaire Williams, with 11.7, round out the top-four scorers for the Cardinal, though Davis’ numbers reflect just eight total games played on the season. His rustiness was only mildly apparent against Utah on Feb. 13 as the senior recorded seven points in 25 minutes on the floor, but his offensive showing still fell short of that of freshman guard Michael O’Connell, who temporarily inherited Davis’ role in his absence.
Like Delaire, O’Connell thrived in the extra playing time, posting double digits on multiple occasions and a career-high 20 points against USC on Feb. 2.
Even if scoring can be largely left to da Silva, Delaire, Williams and Jones or O’Connell, Davis and Wills will need to reassert his identity as dangers on defense, if the Cardinal wishes to come away victorious. Together, the pair constitute one of the Pac-12 Conference’s most challenging defensive guard duos. The Huskies’ four top scorers 𑁋 senior Quade Green, sophomore Marcus Tsohonis, junior Jamal Bey and junior Erik Stevenson 𑁋 are all guards, and together account for over 43 of Washington’s average 66 points per game, meaning Wills and Davis will undoubtedly have their work cut out for them.
Tsohonis has already demonstrated his ability to wreak havoc on a Stanford defense lacking Wills and Davis when he poured in a game-high 24 points in the teams’ first meeting this season. If Tsohonis is any more comfortable on his home court than he was in Santa Cruz, the Cardinal will need to limit the sophomore from charging ahead to a 25-points game or another 29-point effort like the one Tsohonis recorded against Washington State on Monday.
Additionally, Stanford needs to refrain from evaluating Washington off of its record alone. While the Huskies may have just four wins to their name, two of the victories were against Utah and Colorado, both of whom cruised to double-digit wins over the Cardinal on Jan. 14 and Jan. 16, respectively. Tsohonis dominated against the Utes, but Bey netted a career-high 28 points again the Buffaloes, emphasizing the damage that the Huskies can do if not shut down at the perimeter.
Tip off on Thursday is set for 8 p.m. PT as the Cardinal looks to pick up a second straight win.