Fresh off a victory over rival California, Stanford (10-6, 3-2 Pac-12) will host another tough opponent in No. 12 Arizona (15-3, 3-2) Thursday night. The Cardinal will be looking to break Arizona’s whopping 11-game win streak in the series.
The Pac-12 has proven to be more competitive in the early going than initially expected, with the conference’s top four teams by points-per-possession holding a 4-8 record on the road. The Wildcats are seeking their first conference road win after beating both Washington teams at home by an average of 28 points. Two games earlier, they lost by three to UCLA after a last-second triple by Bryce Alford, followed by a heartbreaking two-point loss in 4OT against USC.
Touted as favorites to repeat as Pac-12 champions, Arizona has shown some ferocious firepower. The Wildcats have broken 90 points six times this season and are averaging 93.6 points per contest in conference play (though that includes their 101-point outing in four extra periods).
Senior Ryan Anderson anchors a big, athletic Arizona squad that likes to score in the paint. The 6-foot-9 forward comes to The Farm averaging a double-double of 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Anderson plays the pick-and-roll well and is excellent when playing off the ball. He often attacks the rim from the baseline and is aggressive on the boards. He ranks third in the conference with 53 offensive rebounds.
Anderson is accompanied by senior Kaleb Tarczewski, a true 7-footer. The senior center was a big rebounding force for the Wildcats before missing eight games to a stress reaction and strained muscle in his left foot. It didn’t take long for him to regain his rhythm, however, since returning: The senior is averaging 12.4 points and 10 rebounds over his last five games.
Stanford has had its hand in the early Pac-12 chaos, upsetting then-No. 21 Utah on New Year’s Day, and following it up with quality wins over Oregon State and Cal later in the month. As a whole, Stanford has played well as of late, winning five of its last seven. On top of that, the Cardinal can match their win total against ranked opponents from last season with a win over Arizona.
Last year, Stanford lost both of its games to the Wildcats. However, the home matchup proved rather interesting. The Cardinal gave Arizona a tough matchup, staying even well into the second half before the Wildcats pulled away. The game featured an uncharacteristically loud Maples Pavilion and some early foul trouble from Arizona’s bigs. The Cardinal may need both of those things to stay competitive with the Wildcats.
The Cardinal will certainly need a big game from Michael Humphrey. The sophomore forward has emerged as an inside force for Stanford and serves as the defensive hinge in the paint. Humphrey is seventh in the Pac-12 with 1.8 blocks per game and is the Cardinal’s best rebounder, as sophomore Reid Travis is still out with a stress fracture in his left leg. He will match up against a talented Arizona frontline that looks to control the post on both ends of the floor.
Marcus Allen, whose active hands and keen ability to jump the passing lane often stifles the opponent’s ball movement on the perimeter, has also helped the Stanford defense remain stout despite playing the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation. Led by Allen and Humphrey, the Cardinal have held opponents to under 70 points per game in Pac-12 play.
The two squads will face off Thursday night, with tip-off set for 8 p.m. at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’ stanford.edu.