Just days after a blowout victory over Washington, Stanford men’s basketball (14-9, 10-7 Pac-12) fell victim to a shorthanded Washington State (14-10, 7-10 Pac-12) team, losing 85-76 in triple overtime.
The loss is devastating for Stanford, as it continues to sit on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament. After today’s outcome, the Cardinal will likely be on the outside looking in.
Washington State was without its best player, senior guard Isaac Bonton, who has now missed two games due to injury. Given that Bonton is an experienced leader of the team and averages 18.4 points per contest, the Cougars entered this matchup at a distinct disadvantage.
Stanford was also playing with a slightly altered lineup, but was not missing any key players. The Cardinal has continued to play with junior guard Bryce Wills, freshman forward Ziaire Williams, and senior guard Daejon Davis coming off the bench; the trio was safely in the starting lineup during the opening month of the season but missed numerous games each due to injuries and personal reasons, leaving head coach Jerod Haase with the task of integrating them back into the lineup.
“What we’re trying to do is put guys in positions where we can have as much chemistry as possible,” Haase said with regard to his rationalization of the decision, which resulted in Williams seeing very little time in the overtime periods.
Stanford began the game struggling, allowing Washington State to get out to a 7-0 lead. Although the Cardinal came back with a 9-0 run of its own, neither team dominated during the first half. Due to two early fouls, senior forward Oscar Da Silva played only seven first-half minutes and did not take a single shot.
On the day, da Silva went on to score just 11 points — uncharacteristic of the forward who averages nearly 20 points per game. Although da Silva did have six assists, his foul trouble held him back as he only played 19 minutes, eventually fouling out.
Da Silva was hardly the only member of the Stanford squad to be plagued by fouls. With Davis, da Silva and sophomore forward Spencer Jones playing with multiple fouls throughout and Davis also eventually fouling out, many of Stanford’s core elements were unable to play with their usual physicality.
On the whole, Stanford’s advantage did in fact come in the paint, where it outscored the Cougars 40-20. This was partly thanks to junior forward Jaiden Delaire, who scored 15 points on da Silva’s quiet afternoon.
Very little changed in the second half. Turnovers continued to define the game, and given that both teams were affected almost evenly, neither team could create separation. There were a combined 45 turnovers, with Stanford contributing 23 and Washington State handing over 22.
While the Cardinal did lead by as much as eight in the second half, there was just a three-point deficit in Stanford’s favor with 13 seconds remaining in the game. Struggling to inbound the ball, the Cardinal was forced to call a timeout to avoid a turnover. Upon second chance, the inbound was successful, and O’Connell went to the line to shoot two. However, the freshman, who at the time was averaging 84% from the line on the season, missed both and gave the Cougars the chance they needed. Sophomore guard Noah Williams seized the opportunity, hitting a three-pointer to tie up the game and send it to overtime.
This shot perfectly exemplified N. Williams’ game on the whole. He was undoubtedly the best player on the court this afternoon, knocking down an astounding eight from long range while scoring a career-high 40 points. The sophomore has repeatedly demonstrated his immense worth in the absence of Bonton.
N. Williams’ finish to regulation was consistent with his overall performance, and Cardinal fans could argue the same to be true about O’Connell. Overall, he helped to fill the offensive void left by da Silva, and his stellar outing was somewhat unprecedented, but not surprising. The freshman, who found his way into the starting lineup while Davis was out, scored 17 points, while adding seven assists and securing six rebounds. While O’Connell’s untimely missed free throws may be what most think about after this game, he has been a bright spot for this Cardinal squad.
Although O’Connell’s free throws may have come at the worst time, the entire team struggled from the charity stripe. Shooting just 9-of-18 from the line, as opposed to 18-of-23 for Washington State, free throws were a significant factor in today’s loss.
The first two overtime periods displayed a similar story to regulation, as the teams continued to go back-and-forth. However, Stanford was its own worst enemy in the third overtime, turning the ball over with frequency and allowing the Cougars to score all nine points in triple overtime.
Stanford will be back in action on Thursday to take on Oregon at home in Maples Pavilion. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. PT.