In the first portion of its southern California road trip last night, the Stanford men’s basketball team suffered one of the most brutal losses it has experienced in the past several seasons. With a final score of 65-42, the Cardinal scored an uncharacteristically low number of points and fell to USC (11-8, 3-3 Pac-10).
Stanford (10-7, 3-3) was previously fourth in the Pac-10 standings, coming off a home split with the Washington schools that included one of its biggest victories in the past few years, coming over the then-No. 17 Huskies, along with a close 61-58 loss to Washington State.
The Trojans’ win over the Cardinal marks the end of a losing streak. After being swept by both Oregon teams and losing three of their last five games, the Trojans were previously ranked sixth in the preseason media poll and have averaged 68.1 points per game. Though the team has collected several clutch wins against national powerhouses such as Texas and Tennessee, USC has remained at the middle of the conference because of overall inconsistency.
Last night, however, the team’s offense delivered, as junior forward Nikola Vucevic racked 20 points and nine rebounds for the Trojans and redshirt senior forward Alex Stepheson completed his seventh double-double of the year with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Stanford was not able to match USC’s offense, as the Card scored went only 14-for-63 from the field while allowing the Trojans to shoot 55.6 percent. Freshman guard Anthony Brown was Stanford’s leading scorer, posting nine points for the Cardinal and earning a significant amount of playtime alongside several classmates, such as forward Dwight Powell.
Head coach Johnny Dawkins has high expectations for his freshman class, particularly Powell, whom he said is “working hard and getting better.”
“I think he’s getting more comfortable.” Dawkins said of Powell. “He’s young and trying to feel his way through Pac-10 play, but every game he’s getting more active and rebounding for us more consistently.”
Stanford will continue to rely on Powell, along with juniors Josh Owens and Jarrett Mann, as the team continues through the conference season tomorrow against UCLA. The Bruins (12-6, 4-2) have been one of the Pac-10’s most consistent teams of late, winning nine of their last 11 games and narrowly defeating Cal last night, 86-84.
Like Stanford, UCLA pulled off a huge win over a top-20 team, defeating then-No. 16 BYU in mid-December, 86-79. Averaging a high 71.3 points per game, the team has five different players who regularly produce double-digit figures in scoring.
Reeves Nelson and Tyler Honeycutt average more than 13 points and nearly eight rebounds per game apiece, and Stanford will have to recover its dominant defense from earlier in the season in order to stop this high-scoring duo.
Despite its past two losses, defense remains the strongest aspect of the Cardinal’s game. It will have to pick up the slack on the offensive end, though, to earn a win against the Bruins, especially since five years have passed since Stanford won a road game over either of the southern California schools.
In fact, the Card has struggled in most road games thus far, and the young team hopes to turn this around tomorrow by recovering its early-season success, particularly by attacking the boards and exploding on the offensive end.
Tipoff is at 11 a.m. at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.