Trouble in paradise: Men’s basketball loses thrice in the Bahamas

Nov. 27, 2023, 2:12 a.m.

Stanford (3-4, 0-0 Pac-12) traveled to the Bahamas to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis over Thanksgiving break. With potential contests against various ranked teams from around the nation, including former Stanford player Harrison Ingram’s No. 14 North Carolina (5-1, 0-0 ACC), the Cardinal sought to prove themselves ahead of Stanford’s shift to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After three days of back-to-back matches, the Cardinal walked away with three straight losses. The matches against No. 20 Arkansas (4-3, 0-0 SEC) and Michigan (4-3, 0-0 Big Ten) were close contests ultimately decided in the final seconds, while the loss against Northern Iowa (2-4, 0-0 MVC) came with a disappointing deficit.

Stanford vs. Arkansas

Day one of the tournament for the Cardinal featured a match against No. 20 Arkansas.

After four collective turnovers on both teams, graduate student guard Jared Bynum drove into a busy lane for a layup, breaking Stanford’s early drought nearly three minutes into the match. This hustle on the floor is not uncommon for the player out of Providence, as he is no stranger to driving into the paint against multiple defenders to make tough shots and passes. He closed the match with 13 points and eight assists.

Fifth-year forward Spencer Jones and senior forward Brandon Angel returned to the court after sitting out due to injuries, and both contributed points early for the Cardinal. The first half featured a lot of back-and-forth between the teams, with the largest margin at just five points. Arkansas led 22-20 at halftime.

The Cardinal opened the second half with a 18-7 run, producing the largest lead of the match — nine points. Bynum and Jones spearheaded the effort with a combined 13 points. Jones was the only player with notable performance at the perimeter, going four for five in the period. Bynum missed the last attempt from the arc in the period, sending the match into overtime with both teams tied at 59 apiece.

Stanford produced two slams in the first overtime to maintain a tight margin with Arkansas’s foul shots. Graduate guard Michael Jones received his fifth foul with just 0:04 left, initiating the Cardinal’s most pivotal sub of the game: Michael Jones for sophomore guard Benny Gealer. Gealer weaved through a tight transition defense into the frontcourt and lobbed the ball from deep for a buzzer beater, sending the match into double overtime at 66-all. These were Gealer’s only points of the night but the most important for the team.

A collection of trips to the free-throw line kept the Cardinal in play in the second overtime. But with every set of made free-throws came a jumper or layup from Arkansas in response. Down three with 0:07 left in the game, Stanford missed two attempts at the perimeter and faced its first loss of the tournament, 74-77.

Spencer Jones led the night in scoring with 27 points, shooting 50% from both the field and the arc. The Cardinal’s anticipated point-makers had a less productive night: junior forward Maxime Raynaud, Michael Jones and freshman guard Andrej Stojakovic combined for only 20 points. 

Stanford vs. Michigan

Stanford returned to the court Thursday for another close match against Michigan, who lost to Memphis (5-1, 0-0 AAC) on Wednesday. This was the sixth time the Cardinal competed against the Wolverines in program history.

Stanford opened the match with a 12-2 run in the first five minutes. Both Angel and Spencer Jones contributed to this run, returning to the starting lineup for the first time together since Nov. 10 against Sac State (2-5, 0-0 Big Sky). Michael Jones followed with back-to-back contested threes, sparing Stanford in moments of offensive hesitation. He ended the game with 16 points, going 4-7 from the perimeter and forcing three turnovers.

The Cardinal demonstrated good team basketball, with 20 of 30 field goals assisted by various players — 12 of 17 in the first half and 8 of 13 in the second. Still, Michigan led by one at halftime, 44-45.

Michael Jones maintained intensity with a solo 8-0 run for Stanford to open the second half, all points assisted by Bynum. But Michigan responded with seven points to tie it up at 52-all early in the half. The Wolverines pushed ahead with a 9-2 run, producing a 13-point lead. Stanford caught up to the leading opponent late in the half with three from Bynum.

However, Bynum’s solo efforts were no match for the Wolverines’ jumpers and foul shots. Michigan handed Stanford a loss in another close contest, 83-78.

Despite the loss, Thursday was a well-rounded night of scoring for Stanford’s starters. Bynum had a stellar night, achieving a career-high 22 points and going five for eight from the arc. He also contributed six assists, a steal and a block.

Raynaud and Angel were the remaining players to score in the doubles, with 14 and 11 respectively.

Stanford vs. Northern Iowa

Stanford’s final chance at a win came and went against Northern Iowa on Friday. The Panthers were swept by North Carolina and lost by two to Texas Tech (5-1, 0-0 Big 12) previously in the tournament.

The Cardinal’s production on both sides faltered from the get-go. The lack of response on offense to various runs from Northern Iowa combined with the inability to keep the Panthers at bay on defense made for an unsuccessful night for the Cardinal. Northern Iowa held a large lead heading into halftime, 49-27.

Stanford found zero luck closing the gap, as Northern Iowa maintained a 19-point lead or greater the entire half. In the end, the Cardinal faced a brutal defeat in its final match in the Bahamas, 51-73.

Outside of close contests with a one-to-two-possessions difference in scoring, Stanford hasn’t seen such a low-scoring, large deficit since its loss 43-66 at then-No. 7 UCLA on Jan. 29, 2022. Even then, it was a top-10 opponent on their home-turf, so such an outcome can be expected.


Overall, the Battle 4 Atlantis was a disappointing run for the Cardinal, who took last place in the tournament. Their consistency has been questionable, from Spencer Jones being a wild card for the lineup game after game to scorers having incredible production one night and nothing to show for it the next.

However, some good came from the trip: Bynum’s 19 assists over the three matches brought his tally in the season to 48. He currently leads the country in total assists this season and is second in assists per game.

Looking ahead, Stanford has three non-conference games remaining — San Diego (5-2, 0-0 WCC), Idaho (3-3, 0-0 Big Sky) and San Diego State (5-1, 0-0 Mountain West) — before the Pac-12 schedule is in full swing. The team returns home to face San Diego on Sunday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. PT.

Hawe is a staff writer for the sports section.

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