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Home sweep a must for Pac-12, NCAA hopes

After scoring an upset win on Sunday against then-No. 17 Oregon, the Stanford men’s basketball team finds itself in an interesting position heading into its games against Washington State and Washington this week at home. With a sweep, the Cardinal could put itself not only back in the thick of the conference race, but also in the hunt for an NCAA tournament bid. With anything less, Stanford will put itself back in a hole.

The Cardinal (10-5, 1-2 Pac-12) put forth two of its most incongruous performances of the season last week on the road in Oregon. Stanford suffered an ignominious 81-72 defeat at the hands of the Oregon State Beavers last Thursday night in Corvallis, Ore. — its first loss in its past five meetings against OSU — before gaining some method of redemption with the win over the Ducks in Eugene, Ore.

(BEN SULITEANU/The Stanford Daily)

Senior guard Anthony Brown (21) rebounded from a tough loss against Oregon State to provide offensive fire power against the Ducks with 24 points. (BEN SULITEANU/The Stanford Daily)

As has been the case all season long, junior guard Chasson Randle was again at the forefront of Stanford’s efforts in both victory and defeat, averaging 26.5 points on 56.3 percent shooting in the two games last week. Had Stanford managed to avoid the disaster in Corvallis, it is likely Randle would have picked up his second Pac-12 Player of the Week honor of the season. Instead, the award went to Cal’s Justin Cobbs, whose team swept the Oregon schools. Randle is now averaging 19.5 points per game this season, which puts him third in the Pac-12.

No one player’s week summed the team’s performances like senior guard Anthony Brown, who struggled mightily against Oregon State on Thursday before bouncing back to score a career-high 24 points against Oregon on Sunday. Stanford’s backcourt duo of Brown and Randle has been one of the team’s strengths all season long, and if the pair can continue to put up simultaneous performances like the one they put together against Oregon, the Cardinal can be awfully tough to beat.

Washington State (8-8, 1-3) is the first test for Stanford this week. Much like the matchup with Oregon State, the Cardinal will again be heavily favored, but the Cougars have the ability to create some serious problems should Stanford not be on its game. WSU plays a low-possession, low-scoring brand of basketball that can be frustrating for opponents at times, as evidenced by the Cougars’ 49-46 upset victory over Utah last week.

“They play different defenses,” said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. “They’ll mix their defenses, so that’s something you always have to be prepared for. They’ll play some man, some zone, and the kids are very active.”

That said, WSU is in the midst of an uphill battle, as the Cougars will carry on without leading scorer DaVonte Lacy, who will miss the next four to six weeks with an injury. Lacy, at 17.7 points per game, is currently the only WSU player averaging double figures. His absence should make it even tougher for the already offensively challenged Cougars to score against the Cardinal.

In his absence, guards Que Johnson and Royce Woolridge and forward D.J. Shelton will be the WSU players to keep an eye on.

In contrast to WSU, Washington (11-6, 3-1) is healthy and playing some of its best basketball of the season. After a shaky start, the Huskies have won seven of their past nine contests, including an upset win over No. 21 Colorado on Sunday. Washington features a high-powered offense led by star senior guard C.J. Wilcox, an NBA prospect who is second in the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.5 points per game.

Freshman Nigel Williams-Goss, a McDonald’s High School All-American, and conspicuously named sophomore guard Andrew Andrews provide support for Wilcox in the backcourt, while University of San Francisco transfer Perris Blackwell anchors the interior. Stanford would be wise to use its height advantage against the Huskies: Blackwell is the only member of the rotation taller than 6-foot-5.

Tip off at Maples Pavilion is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday night and 8 p.m. on Saturday night as the Cardinal looks to get itself back in the Pac-12 race.

Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’

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