Fresh off a rejuvenating victory over Bay Area rival California, the men’s basketball team heads out onto the road to face another Pac-12 foe: Colorado.
While it’s normally quite chilly in Boulder this time of year, the mercury has actually been hovering a bit higher in the “Centennial State” than it has been on the Farm, although the Cardinal is hoping the Buffaloes continue to be cold from the field tonight.
Colorado is last in the conference in three-point shooting (25.8 percent) while Stanford is riding the hot hand of John Gage (4-4 from behind the arc last game) to a nice 40.2 percent clip on the year.
But if history is any indication, the game won’t be easy for the home side and rebounding figures to be the main storyline from tonight’s matchup at the Coors Events Center.
Last year, the Cardinal managed to manhandle the Buffs in both regular season matchups despite Colorado finishing the year with a better record and making a surprising run in the NCAA Tournament.
“They whipped our ass, there’s no politically correct way to say it,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “They whipped it in every way, shape and form. At home, on the road, rebounding, offense, defense, loose balls<\p><\_><\p>you name it.”
The two scores (84-64 at Stanford, 74-50 in Boulder) did a decent job of describing the Cardinal’s dominance, as well as the 85-53 two-game edge in rebounding.
“When we played them here, it wasn’t a great feeling seeing your fans leave not even halfway into the second half,” CU junior wing Andre Roberson said. “It was just kind of disappointing. We let (Buffs fans) down with that.
“This year, I feel like we’re going to come ready to play…capitalize on the game plan and come out ready to compete. We know what they’re all about; we have to be physical and aggressive.”
But it was the backcourt duo of junior Aaron Bright and sophomore Chasson Randle who really gashed the Buffs last year and allowed the frontcourt to thrive. Bright averaged 11.5 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 6-12 from the field. Randle averaged 19.0 points while connecting on 13-21 overall.
Nevertheless, it will be important for Stanford’s “bigs” to step up and fill the void left by graduated seniors Andrew Zimmerman and Josh Owens, who were the main contributors down low for the Cardinal last season and at 6-foot-8 and over 230 pounds each, gave the Buffs plenty of trouble in the paint and spread the floor for Bright and Randle to drive.
At 6-foot-10, junior Dwight Powell has made the transition from the small forward position to the power forward and center spot this season, and Boyle said he is “much improved” from last season and a threat on the offensive end.
Powell is averaging a team-high 16 points in Pac-12 competition and collecting 8.6 rebounds a game. Teamed with junior Josh Huestis, who is averaging 9.8 rebounds per game, Stanford is fourth in rebounding margin (plus-1.8) while Colorado is eighth (minus-2.0).
But despite the downward trending stats, the Buffs started the season off in the top-25 and are a dangerous squad. They have lost just once at home in eight games, and beat Dayton, Baylor and Murray State to earn the Charleston Classic title in the preseason.
Led by Spencer Dinwiddie on the offensive end, 14.6 points per game, the Buffs are averaging over 70 points per game this year.
Diwiddie said the page on last season’s lopsided losses to the Cardinal has been turned and the Buffs aren’t dwelling on redemption: “It’s a new year, new team. We fully understand what happened last year. We understand we got out-bounded on the glass and they blew us out both times. We’re looking to come out and play physical and tough and set the tone.”
Colorado’s most recent win in the series with the Cardinal came on Dec. 23, 1990, with the Buffs booking an 89-79 decision in Boulder. Stanford hopes to extend the drought tonight with tip-off from Colorado coming at 8 p.m. MST on ESPNU.