The men’s basketball season is officially underway, and Stanford men’s basketball (1-0, 0-0 Pac-12) started off with a close call against Tarleton State (1-1, 0-0 WAC), beating the Texans 62-50 on Tuesday.
Stanford started with a lineup consisting of four forwards and one guard, sophomore Michael O’Connell. Despite winning Pac 12 Most Improved Player last season, senior forward Jaiden Delaire came off the bench. Another omission to the starters was sophomore guard Noah Taitz, who was out for this game. Delaire, who averaged 12.5 points per game last season, was the true surprise, considering his maturity and leadership is usually attributed to that of a starter rather than a sixth man. In the absence of a second true guard starting on the floor, freshman forward Harrison Ingram took on the 1-2 role for some of the night’s action, and junior guard Sam Beskind checked into the game early on to relieve the front court.
The game started with back and forth defensive stops for both teams, preventing either from gaining significant offensive momentum. Tarleton State held Stanford to just above 30% shooting from the field and 10% from beyond the arc; it was not for lack of attempts on Stanford’s part, however, as the Cardinal had 10 attempts from deep before the break. The Cardinal took their time on defense, forcing the Texans into multiple shot clock violations. After scoring runs by both teams late in the half, Tarleton State ended the half on top 26-24.
“The pressure certainly bothered us,” said head coach Jerod Haase of the Texans’ first-half defensive strength. “Their game plan was really, really good, and they executed [it] very, very well.”
Bouncing back from the first-half challenges and more efficiently executing their own game plan became high-priority on the Cardinal’s to-do list at the half.
“Every team goes through a lull,” Ingram said. “It is about how you respond. Coach Haase called a timeout, said something in the huddle to us about being surgical and nasty.”
Despite Haase’s advice, the second half started with the same struggles as the first: a scoring drought and lack of momentum for both teams. However, after a short run by Tarleton State, Stanford answered with a 15-0 run of its own, at one point establishing an eight-point lead over the Texans — the Cardinal’s largest through 31 minutes of play — before the visitors answered with a layup of their own with seven minutes to go.
Afterward, Stanford continued to dominate, going on another 11-0 run as the clock ticked away until just 1:57 remained. Following the media timeout, Stanford cooled off on offense but still played strong defense, not allowing an easy shot. The game ended after an Ingram three-pointer with Stanford on top 62-50; the triple was one of the Cardinal’s five successful buckets from behind the arc in the second half.
Ingram led the team in both points and rebounds in his first-ever collegiate game with 16 points and seven rebounds. Hovering next to Ingram on the stat sheet was Delaire, who finished the night with 14 points and six rebounds, thanks to a 9-for-11 showing at the foul line. Freshman guard Isa Silva led the Cardinal in assists with four. Despite the shooting and finishing struggles, the game featured many bright spots, like the aforementioned freshman success, that point to an interesting season for the Cardinal.
“I think you are going to see us grow a ton this year,” Haase said. “It is going to be a ton of fun to watch us develop and grow.”
Aside from marking the Cardinal’s first home win since a Feb. 13 matchup with Utah, Tuesday’s game was Stanford’s first home contest with fans present in over 600 days, and the team was more than ready to have the Cardinal fans back in Maple Pavilion.
“The student section was fabulous,” Coach Haase said. “Game-changing. I think it impacts the game for us, gives our guys energy and excitement.”
Up next for the Cardinal is a Bay-Area brawl. Stanford looks to play at Santa Clara (1-0, 0-0 WCC) on Friday at 8 p.m.