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Trouble in paradise: Men’s basketball struggles at Battle 4 Atlantis

Cardinal return from Bahamas with question marks

Sophomore forward KZ Okpala (above) scored a career high 30 points this past weekend against Cal. Stanford hits the road to play Oregon State and Oregon this weekend. (JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com)

The Stanford men’s basketball team (4-3) headed to the Bahamas this past Thanksgiving week for the 2018 Battle 4 Atlantis preseason tournament on Paradise Island. The tournament ended up being anything but paradise for the Cardinal as they placed seventh out of eight competing teams after playing in three games.

Sponsored by the multinational hotel group Kerzner International and hosted at the group’s famed Atlantis Resort, Battle 4 Atlantis is reported to award participating schools over two million dollars annually. Top tier NCAA basketball programs, like Butler and Virginia, attended the event.

“We are thrilled to host some of the leading teams in college basketball,” says George Markantonis, President and Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas. “This event is something our guests and college basketball fans around the nation will love. There simply isn’t a better way to celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday.”

Stanford started off the tournament cold, freezing cold. Against Wisconsin in the first round, Stanford recorded its worst shooting percentage in a single game in three seasons, with a field goal percentage of 27.1 overall and 11.1 from three. The team put up a tournament low 46 points to Wisconsin’s 62, despite the Badgers putting up a similarly low three-point percentage of 12.5.

The squad headed to the losers’ bracket on Thursday to face off against Florida. The Gators had fallen to Oklahoma 65-60 in the first round. The going didn’t get much better on day two, with only one Cardinal player surpassing 10 points — freshman guard Cormac Ryan with 12. The Cardinal were crushed 49-72, and scored fewer than 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since the 1961-62 season.

In the team’s third and final game of the tournament Friday, Stanford took on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, a team coming off of back to back losses against powerhouse programs Butler and Virginia with a combined point differential of -53 over the two games.

Stanford came out firing, draining seven threes in the first half on a 14-3 run before going into halftime with a 32-23 lead. With six minutes left, Middle Tennessee responded with a 9-2 run to tie up the game 58-58 before the Cardinal pulled away for the victory.

Sophomore forward KZ Okpala led an offensive surge with 22 points in only 25 minutes of play, while sophomore guard Daejon Davis took charge on defense, holding Middle Tennessee guard Antonio Green scoreless from the three-point line and matching his career-high rebound total with ten boards. Stanford shot 38.2 percent overall in the tournament finale and took the game 67-54 and relegated the Blue Raiders to last place in the tournament.

Freshman Bryce Wills also saw minutes in the game, racking up three rebounds and a team-leading five assists in the win after making his debut against North Carolina earlier this month. Born on Oct. 13, 2000, Wills is the youngest player in the Pac-12 and one of the youngest in all of Division 1 college basketball.

Stanford hosts Portland State back home at Maples Pavilion this Wednesday in its first home game since the season opener. In their last contest, the Vikings defeated Stanford in the PK80 Invitational in Portland 87-78 last November before falling to the vaunted Duke Blue Devils.

 

Contact Shan Reddy at rsreddy ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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