The Stanford men’s basketball team notched a high-octane win in its much-anticipated season opener against the Pacific Tigers on Monday morning. The team is coming into the season with high expectations, as the media has projected the Cardinal to finish in fifth place in the Pac-12 conference this season. With much of last year’s team still intact and an extra offseason to improve, head coach Jerod Haase could have his best team yet on The Farm.
While excitement for the season opener was certainly palpable, some unfortunate injury news hit before the game. Senior forward Spencer Jones was announced out due to a lower-body injury. His status is day-to-day going forward.
Despite the injury, the team did not disappoint in its first appearance, routing Pacific 88-78. While sophomore forward Harrison Ingram got off to a slow start with just seven points, others were able to pick up the slack. Guard Michael Jones, the team’s first graduate transfer since 2009, led the Cardinal with 31 points on 9-for-15 shooting, while sophomore center Maxime Raynaud followed with 22 points of his own.
Although student attendance at the game was low, elementary and middle school children from the Palo Alto school district were present at the game, and the players certainly felt their presence.
“They brought a ton of energy,” Jones said of the young school students. “As good of a crowd as I’ve seen bring it throughout a whole game.”
In the first half, the Cardinal played efficient basketball on the offensive end, moving the ball effectively to get open looks. The team’s willingness and ability to shoot became evident quickly, with four different players making 3-pointers. Raynaud’s size also presented a mismatch for Pacific, as he was able to score in a variety of situations.
“He was obviously very effective,” Haase said about Raynaud. “The size advantage was important. He was able to get a lot of different shots around the rim in a lot of different ways, whether it was a post-up, or a high-low or an offensive rebound. He looked really comfortable out there.”
Despite Stanford’s solid offensive play, Pacific kept it close throughout much of the first half. However, around the seven minute mark, the Cardinal were able to piece together a 19-10 run to extend their lead to 12 at halftime.
Stanford continued its momentum into the beginning of the second half, widening the lead to 19. But Pacific began battling back thanks to the efforts of guards Jordan Ivy-Curry and Donovan Williams on the offensive end. Ivy-Curry finished the game with 23 points while Williams followed with 17 of his own.
While Jones was quick to credit the Tigers for their second half play, he also believes defensive lapses led to the Tigers’ scoring run.
“They hit some tough shots, give them credit, but we got away from ourselves a little bit on the defensive end,” said Jones after the game.
In addition to their offense, the Tigers brought out a press that helped slow the Stanford offense down in the second half.
“Their press was not something that impacted us in terms of a lot of turnovers,” Haase said. “But it did impact the pace of the game. It took us a little bit longer. I don’t think we attacked it quite as well as I would have liked to.”
Pacific was able to cut the Stanford lead down to three with seven minutes remaining. But the Tigers’ rally fell short, as Stanford utilized its size advantage to get free throw attempts to once again extend its lead. The Cardinal eventually clinched an 88-78 win to get their first win of the season.
Up next, the Cardinal will head east to Milwaukee to take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Brew City Battle. It will be an early test for the Cardinal, as they’ll get to see how they measure up to P5 competition.
“I think we’re very excited,” Raynaud said. “It’s gonna be a very good opponent. That’s gonna be a real challenge for us. We’re ready for it, we’re ready to embrace it.”
Tip-off is set for 4:30 p.m. PT on Friday in Milwaukee. The game will be televised on FS1.
Editor’s note: this article was updated to correct Pacific player Donovan Williams’ name from “Donavan” Williams.