After a two-week hiatus, the Stanford men’s basketball team (4-6, 0-2 Pac-12) is back in the win column after defeating the Green Bay Phoenix (2-10, 1-1 Horizon) 85-40 for their first win in December. The 45-point victory is the Cardinal’s largest of the season.
A stifling defensive effort allowed Stanford to get out to an early double-digit lead in the first half. Even with having opportunities to score in the paint, Green Bay was unable to cash-in on close field goals early. Despite having nine turnovers themselves, the Cardinal’s aggressive ball pressure disrupted Green Bay’s offensive rhythm, and ultimately forced them into committing 15 turnovers.
“We started the game and had just some careless silly turnovers,” said Stanford head coach Jerod Haase. “But on the defensive end, I thought we executed the game plan and what we were trying to do. [We were] trying to have good ball pressure, trying to eliminate driving lanes.”
Overall, the Phoenix shot a pedestrian 28.6% from the field, and 25% from the 3-point line in the first half.
Offensively, Stanford was able to use their size at the center and wing positions to score easy baskets at the rim. Senior forward Spencer Jones led a balanced Stanford scoring attack with 10 points before halftime while junior forward Brandon Angel followed with eight. The Cardinal shot a whopping 65.4% from the field and 40% from the 3-point line.
“We definitely expected to come out and kind of punch them in the mouth,” Jones said. “Just cause, with our little losing streak coming in, we had to try and turn things around.”
Additionally, freshman guard Benny Gealer earned his first points of the season in the first half, knocking down a 3-point shot from the top of the arc to extend Stanford’s lead to 19. Gealer dealt with health-related issues, which prevented him from playing earlier in the season.
“Benny was really a spark,” Haase said. “He has a pace to his game and confidence in his ability. Obviously he can shoot the basketball. I don’t expect a finished product right now, but I expect him to go out and play with a reckless abandon.”
By the end of the half, the Cardinal led by a score of 42-19, their largest halftime lead of the year.
In the second half, Stanford received more production from their bench, as freshman guard Ryan Agarwal and sophomore guard Jarvis Moss added to the scoring spree. Moss and Agarwal finished the game with 10 points and 11 points respectively, and both players combined to shoot 5-for-8 from the 3-point line.
“We just put a lot of work outside of the game that people don’t see,” Agarwal said. “When any of us get one of those looks, we’re just shooting it with confidence.”
The strong defensive start carried through in the second half for the Cardinal, as the team forced the Phoenix to repeat their first half performance. Green Bay shot just 25% from the floor and 15.4% from the 3-point line in the second half.
At the end of the game, senior walk-ons Josue Gil-Silva and Roy Yuan entered the game with about a minute remaining. Despite neither tallying points, the excitement their entrance created on the bench is evidence of the team’s chemistry.
“This type of game is where you see the chemistry we kind of have,” Jones said. “Everybody is standing up when one of these guys or anybody knocks down a three. Everybody’s celebrating. It’s just an example of the culture we have and the type of fun we have with each and every guy.”
Up next, Stanford will head to Dallas to take on the No. 7 Texas Longhorns (7-1, 0-0 Big 12). The Longhorns have already accumulated wins against No. 15 Gonzaga and Creighton and may prove to be Stanford’s most formidable opponent so far this season.
The game is also a homecoming for sophomore forward Harrison Ingram and Agarwal, who both hail from Dallas. In order to have a chance against Texas, the Cardinal will have to start the game much stronger than they have in previous games against ranked opponents.
“I’d say the biggest thing is how we perform in those first five minutes,” Jones said. “Each and everyone of those games, if you look at the second half and we’re right there with them. Even score pretty much, if not outscoring them in the second half. It really just comes down to how strong we can come out in the first five minutes, whether we can set the tone and show what we can do.”