Debuting their new red throwback uniforms, Stanford men’s basketball (12-11, 7-6 Pac-12) dominated USC (9-15, 3-10 Pac-12) last night 99-68 in front of a sold-out Maples crowd.
The uniforms were an ode to the Cardinal teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and current head coach Jerod Haase’s team certainly did them justice. The Cardinal were on fire from beyond the arc, setting a new program record of 19 three-pointers made in a single game — tied for the most by an NCAA team this year — and 12 three-pointers made in a single half. Add to that a stifling team defense, and the Cardinal were able to secure a massive 31-point victory against the Trojans.
The game started evenly, with both teams trading baskets in the first few possessions. However, after a couple stops on the defensive end, including a block each from graduate guard Michael Jones and freshman guard Kanaan Carlyle, the momentum started to swing towards the Cardinal. Junior forward Maxime Raynaud scored a quick 10 points, propelling Stanford to a 15-14 lead with around 13 minutes left in the first half.
At this point, the Cardinal defense hit another level, as the Trojans didn’t make another basket for 7 minutes.
“I thought we were active in the first half,” said Haase. “I thought defensively we were exceptionally active, challenging the shots of the players that we wanted to try and eliminating three point attempts, I thought we were pretty good with that. But the activity is where I really think it started.”
“We all came out with amazing energy, rebounded the ball really hard, everybody knew the scouting report by heart, we were flying around rotations,” said Raynaud about the team’s defense effort.
While the Trojans went ice cold, the Cardinal started to get hot. Freshman guard Andrej Stojakovic made 11 points in four shot attempts en route to a career high 20-point performance in which he shot 8-for-12 from the field and 4-for-7 from three. In addition, Carlyle, sophomore guard Benny Gealer and fifth-year forward Spencer Jones all added three pointers of their own.
No matter what USC tried on defense, be it a man or a zone scheme, Stanford’s ball movement gave them open looks on every possession, and the Cardinal’s hot hand took advantage of those opportunities. Stanford ultimately shot 56.3% from the field and an astonishing 50% from three on 38 attempts on the night.
“The coaching staff does a really good job of giving us confidence and we pride ourselves on shooting a lot of threes because we’re a really good shooting team,” explained Stojakovic. “Obviously we don’t always want to make it a three point shooting battle, but if that’s the case I think we’re equipped with the right guys to compete with anyone in the country if that comes up.”
Finally, with 6 minutes left in the half, USC freshman guard Isaiah Collier split free throws to end the Trojans’ 7-minute scoring drought. But the Cardinal’s 25-0 run in that time had given them a commanding lead and control of the game.
At halftime, Stanford was up nearly 30 points, with the score 55-26.
Coming out after the break, the Cardinal kept their foot on the gas. USC’s scoring started to come back, cutting the lead down to 21, but Stanford was able to keep the Trojans at bay. Carlyle opened up the half by drilling a heavily contested three, while Raynaud hit a tough stepback jumper from the short corner. Raynaud would end the game having missed only one shot, leading the team with 25 points and 9 rebounds and recording his third consecutive 20+ point game.
“He’s getting better. He loves the game right now, he loves the process of improving. He’s in there working before and after practice,” said Haase on Raynaud’s recent run of form. “I really feel like he’s fallen in love with the process of getting better right now.”
By this point, the sold-out crowd was electric. With every made basket, forced turnover, or rebound, the home fans were roaring with excitement.
“It was different for sure,” Gealer said, speaking about the crowd. “I mean we loved it. We were all excited to play this one. Just seeing all these Stanford fans supporting, it really felt like a home crowd, the best crowd I’ve played in front of this season. It felt great, the energy [was] contagious.”
The crowd’s impact on the Cardinal was undeniable. After Gealer blocked a USC three point attempt, Maples broke out chants of his name, to which he immediately knocked down his own three pointer at the other end of the floor. Gealer would also have a career night, totalling 14 points and shooting 4-for-6 from three. Then, on the fourth of Spencer Jones’ 5 made threes of the night, Raynaud had his hand up in celebration before the ball even left Jones’ hand. Then, in the dying minutes of the game, fan-favorite graduate guard Roy Yuan checked into the game and immediately drained a three, causing Maples to erupt into the loudest cheers of the night.
“It was really cool. Our guys fed off that energy. Obviously there was an excitement in the building once we had success. Our team fed off that energy, the crowd fed off that energy as well,” said Haase.
Although it was an excellent offensive night for the Cardinal, one of the biggest takeaways from the players was the improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
“[This] shows us that we can also be a great defensive team. We’ve always been a great shooting team, now if we can get both together that would be amazing,” said Raynaud.