Stanford men’s basketball (11-8, 3-4 Pac-12) shrugged off a slow start in Corvallis Thursday night to defeat the Oregon State Beavers (4-15, 0-6) 62-46. Despite holding just a two-point lead at halftime, the Cardinal commanded the second half, outscoring their opponent 35 to 21. Junior forward Michael Humphrey scored 21 points to continue his solid Pac-12 play.
Stanford was without its lead scorer Reid Travis, after he re-injured his shoulder in the previous game against Washington. His status remains day-to-day. Despite some knocks, though, Stanford was able to maintain its composure in the tough road environment, while Humphrey successfully picked up the slack with a commanding presence on both sides of the ball.
Midway through the first half, Stanford was down 16-7, and in response, head coach Jerod Haase made several substitutions. The changes paid off, with Stanford going on a 16-9 run and Humphrey scoring an emphatic dunk to finish off the half.
As the second half got underway, other Cardinal players also made big contributions. Marcus Allen scored a career-high 12 points, and Marcus Sheffield added seven points coming off the bench. Stanford stretched its lead to as many as 17 points at times. But the somewhat lopsided score belied the intensity of the contest, which persisted well into the second half.
Junior guard Robert Cartwright added four assists to his season tally but failed to score, going 0-for-5 from the field. Fellow guard Christian Sanders played much more than in the past two games, totaling 17 minutes, while Cartwright’s time was cut to just to 23 minutes.
Stephen Thomson Jr. of the Beavers led his team scoring with 15 points, including four three-pointers. While the game was competitive for long stretches, Stanford thoroughly beat its opponent, which dropped to just 4-15 on the season and 0-6 in conference play.
Meanwhile, Stanford has won three straight conference games, after losing its opening four conference games in disastrous fashion. While the Cardinal continue to improve, they has a lot of work to do if they want to make it back to March Madness for the first time in four years.
Stanford travels to Oregon on Saturday, where the Cardinal will face a decidedly harder test. Simply put, the Ducks have been one of the most electrifying teams in the Pac-12 – and the country – this season. As many a Stanford sports team knows, playing in Eugene is one of the most difficult assignments. The Ducks are 17-2 on the season and 6-0 in the Pac-12.
In addition to being ranked the nation’s No. 11 team, Oregon upset previously undefeated UCLA and USC in consecutive games. Subsequently, the Ducks dismantled both Washington schools on the road, and made Cal resemble a high school team.
The one saving grace for Stanford may come from bad fortune for the Ducks. Star forward Dillon Brooks left the game early against Cal with a leg injury. It is still unclear whether he will be able to play against Stanford on Saturday. But Oregon has plenty of other scorers like Jordan Bell and Casey Benson, so Stanford will need to be in top form to defeat its Northern rival.
If Reid Travis is able to return for Stanford, that would provide a huge boost to the squad. Stanford is entering a season defining stretch of its season: With upcoming games against Cal, Colorado and Utah, and then a trip to the Arizona schools, Stanford will soon face many of the programs it will be vying with for a spot in March Madness.
Saturday’s game against Oregon will be a good indicator at Stanford’s preparation against top-tier programs, as well as the progress made under new coach Haase. Saturday’s game begins at 3 p.m. on the Pac-12 network.
Contact Michael Spelfogel at mspel ‘at’ stanford.edu.