Men’s basketball returns to Maples in final non-conference game

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The Stanford men’s basketball team (6-4) will return to action once again after a six-day break. Stanford will host Carroll College (8-3) for an exhibition game at Maples Pavilion in the Cardinal’s final game before conference play.

Carroll College comes in as one of the stronger squads of the Frontier Conference in the NAIA. The Fighting Saints are a disciplined and well-coached team with capable shooters in their starting lineup. They are led by junior Zach Taylor, an Honorable Mention All-American guard who has had an illustrious career in his three years at Carroll. Taylor is once again the team leader in points and assists per game at 19.9 and 5.3, respectively, while also averaging 4.4 rebounds on the season.

Taylor is adept at stretching the floor, but can also attack the rim and has drawn contact consistently this season. The Washington native has only missed three of his 47 free-throw attempts this year. However, the team’s leader is questionable for Sunday’s game, after being sidelined for the past week with an injury.

We’re being conservative with Zach,” said head coach Carson Cunningham. “He’s been banged up a bit from ankle to head. It’s been a taxing stretch. He should be good to go soon.”

The Cardinal, who have shot a mediocre 47-of-118 (39.8 percent) in their last two contests combined, will look to continue developing their offense against a stout Carroll defense. The Saints are holding opponents to 43.2 percent shooting from the field, though they give up threes, one of Stanford’s strengths, at a 37.2 percent clip.

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Cardinal, but over the last five games, the team has established some rhythm on the defensive end thanks to a consistent starting lineup and a more concrete rotation. The return of junior guard Marcus Allen has been especially helpful for Stanford during that stretch. Allen serves as the catalyst on a team that often relies on its defense in tight games. The junior has quick, active hands – as a result, he is is averaging just under two steals per game since his return.

On the other side of the ball, however, the Cardinal are still looking for to channel its roster’s diverse talents into a fluid and consistent attack. Stanford hasn’t found a clear number-one option yet and has instead opted for a balanced approach on offense.

Four Cardinal players are averaging over 12 points per game. Of those four, Dorian Pickens seems to have emerged as the Cardinal’s most versatile threat.

The sophomore guard scored over 20 points in each of his last two contests, including a 24-point performance on 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range in a dramatic 75-73 loss to Texas. Pickens is one of the only Stanford players capable of creating his own shot, though head coach Johnny Dawkins has offset the team’s lack of ball-handling by moving the ball frequently.

Senior Rosco Allen has also continued his stellar 3-point shooting from the team’s preseason tour in Italy. Allen benefits from solid ball movement, as the Cardinal offense thrives when the ball moves from the post back to the perimeter, with Allen the final recipient in many of Dawkins’ sets. The guard has shot just under 43 percent from beyond the arc thus far and leads the team with 13.8 points per game.

Stanford’s margin of error remains tight after losing sophomore starter Reid Travis indefinitely to a stress fracture two games ago, and will need significant contributions from all of its starters against a Carroll squad with nothing to lose.

The Cardinal tip off at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Maples Pavilion. The game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.

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Irving Rodriguez is a beat reporter for men's soccer and basketball. He was born in Mexico, but has lived in Chicago since second grade. He is all too willing to skip homework in order to watch the Chicago Bulls and Manchester United and will defend Derrick Rose until the very end. He likes to write about soccer, basketball and analytics. Irving is a senior majoring in Physics. To contact him, please email irodriguez 'at' stanford.edu.