With just over seven minutes left, junior point guard Robert Cartwright stole the ball, drove down the court and found center Grant Verhoeven for an easy layup to pull the Cardinal within five points. But the senior’s team-high 12 points and electric second-half play could not rally the team back as Stanford men’s basketball (6-2) came up short at home against No. 12 Saint Mary’s (6-0) 66-51.
The Wednesday night matchup pitted the Gaels’ Calvin Hermanson against junior guard Dorian Pickens, who earned All-Tournament honors at last week’s Advocare Invitational, in which Pickens averaged 18.3 points per game. Pickens was quiet on the night, finishing 0-of-4 from the field with just two points in 30 minutes. By contrast, Hermanson shot 9-of-11, including 7-of-9 from beyond the arc, where he drilled five three-pointers in the second half.
While the Cardinal displayed a balanced attack and solid defense, particularly inside, early on to give them a 30-26 lead at halftime, Saint Mary’s adjusted by pushing the ball to the perimeter and started the second half on a 12-0 run.
“We do try to play inside-out,” Stanford head coach Jerod Haase said. “Obviously, it didn’t work effectively enough.”
The Gaels shot 40.7 percent from three-point land, where the Cardinal connected for only three out of 12 attempts.
The Stanford offense continued converting on the low post, however, to give Verhoeven and junior forward Reid Travis a combined 9-of-17 total compared to just 31.6 percent from the rest of the team. Junior forward Michael Humphrey made a mere two buckets on nine tries, including a chucked-up three-pointer that hit the bottom of the backboard as the Stanford shot clock wound down.
“We need multiple guys on the offensive end to be efficient,” Haase said. “We’re not at that point yet.”
Though Hermanson’s career-high 25 points and three-point splashes proved lethal for Stanford, Saint Mary’s head coach Randy Bennett said he thought his forward’s defensive effort outshone all else.
“I don’t think Dorian got a good shot off all night,” Bennett said. “To hold a guy like that, who’s probably an All-Pac-12 guy, to two points, he did a good job.”
Hermanson said he was more proud of his defensive performance as well.
“I like defense more. There’s nothing more satisfying than getting a tough assignment and locking a guy down,” he said.
The student section at Maples was more full than usual to watch the Cardinal take on their first ranked opponent. Despite the packed section, the smaller Saint Mary’s traveling crowd made its presence heard.
“When there’s a ‘Go Stanford’ chant going on, and then after, when they say ‘Stanford,’ you hear our fans say ‘Gaels,’ it’s pretty cool to have that support of your student body behind you,” said Gaels guard Joe Rahon, who posted 10 points on the night. “Even though you’re on the road, we’re going on a run and you could hear cheering, which I think is very rare for a road game. So that helped us keep the ball rolling in the second half.”
For Verhoeven, who was the Cardinal’s only consistent offensive threat in the second half, an upset would have meant a great deal to the team, which started 6-1 for the first time in five seasons under first-year coach Haase.
“It’s a missed opportunity, but we have another one coming right up on Saturday,” Verhoeven said.
Stanford travels to Kansas on Saturday to take on the No. 4 Jayhawks.
Contact Tristan Vanech at tvanech ‘at’ stanford.edu.