Tonight, the Stanford men’s basketball team hosts Utah in its first visit to Maples Pavilion as a Pac-12 contender. The Cardinal (13-3, 3-1 Pac-12), playing in its only home-stand in the month of January, has not faced the Utes (4-11, 1-2) since 1997.
Both teams came away with splits last weekend, with the Utes beating Washington State in overtime, then losing to Washington, and the Cardinal falling to Oregon before picking up an exciting four-overtime win over Oregon State. However, head coach Johnny Dawkins hopes that the team and the home crowd don’t dwell on the thrilling victory.
“Everyone is still amazed about the game and wants to talk about the game and stay in that moment,” he said. “And we need to move on to our next moment, which is this weekend, and our opponents that we face coming up with Utah, so you know we want to move on.”
Utah, who was slated to finish last in the conference, has already exceeded expectations. The Utes’ offense centers on senior guard Josh Watkins, who led all players with 18 points in the victory over Washington State, and ranks fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring with an average of 15.6 points per game. He is equally dangerous when creating opportunities for his teammates, dishing the second-most assists per game in the conference, with an average of 4.93. Defensively, junior center Jason Washburn ranks fifth in the conference in rebounding, with 6.9 per game, while shooting 58.3 percent from the field, fourth-best in the conference.
“I think Utah’s a good team, they have potential,” Dawkins said. “I think they’ve been getting better all season, culminating with the games you saw this past weekend versus the Washington schools. They’re very competitive; they’re a physical team, and kind of resembling their coach . . . You can see the guys taking shape and buying into what they have to do to win.”
The Cardinal, which leads the conference in total rebounds, will look to use its advantage on the glass to nullify Washburn’s production. Stanford will also need to cut down on fouls and turnovers, and convert from a higher rate at the line. Realistically, the Utes might be one of the weakest conference opponents the Card will face this season, providing an excellent opportunity to correct early-season errors.
Stanford will tip off against Utah tonight at Maples Pavilion at 7 p.m.