On a Saturday night rife with statistical anomalies, malfunctioning equipment and high-percentage shooting, Stanford men’s basketball (14-11, 7-6 Pac-12) let the rest of the Pac-12 know the full extent of their potential as they blasted past the UCLA Bruins (13-13, 6-7), 104-80. Stanford’s 104 points made this game their highest-scoring affair of the season, and the first time they had eclipsed 100 points since last year’s double overtime win against UCLA.
If you want to get truly technical, this is the first time that Stanford eclipsed 100 points in regulation time of a game since November 11th, 2013, when they lost to Brigham Young University by a score of 112-103.
In response to the weather storming through campus all week long, Stanford decided to make it rain in Maples Pavilion. Stanford made ten three pointers in the game, led by freshman guard Cormac Ryan, who turned one of his best performances of the year, making 5-8 from behind the arc and contributing 19 points with an insane plus-minus of 27.
“I was mainly just happy that the team was doing well,” Ryan said of his performance. “Obviously it feels good when the shots are going in, but I try and keep passion and emotion regardless of whether they’re going in or not.”
Ryan, who has struggled since his return from injury, including an 0-5 three point performance against USC on Wednesday, truly found his shot against the Bruins, making his first four straight attempts from deep.
But perhaps the most notable event of Saturday night’s game came at halftime, after both teams had warmed up. One of the rims was found to be loose, and both basketball hoops had to be replaced. A nearly 40-minute delay in play saw fans filter out of the arena and the teams return to the locker room. But other than being a minor inconvenience, nothing truly came from the delay.
With UCLA sporting one of the biggest centers in the country in 7-foot-1 freshman Moses Brown, the Cardinal game plan worked from the perimeter from the beginning of the first half. Rather than attempt to attack Brown head on, the Cardinal created space with smart ball movement, racking up assists and open three point shots.
With 5:33 left in the first half, the Cardinal picked up their 12th assist of the night. Prior to this game, the team averaged 12.3 assists per game. The team finished with a season high 23 assists, beating their previous record of 19 from January’s contest against USC.
Sophomore point guard Daejon Davis re-entered the lineup on Saturday night after missing the past two games with an upper body injury. Davis immediately made his presence known, notching a career-high 11 assists, nearly half of the team’s total. Davis also added 12 points and three rebounds.
“It was good to have him back, for sure. He was finding guys, playing with energy, he’s a big part of the team, for sure,” Ryan said about the r teturn of his teammate.
The most impressive part of Davis’ game, however, was his assist-to turnover ratio. He completed all 11 of his assists while only turning the ball over once.
Stanford has started many of their past games sluggish, and once again, UCLA got off to a fast start. Bruins guard Jaylen Hands had seven early points in three minutes of play, putting the Bruins up 9-2 early on.
Stanford’s three-point shooting caught fire nearly six minutes into the game, when Davis and Ryan combined to make two shots, bringing the score to 14-16. The Cardinal then tied the game when senior center Josh Sharma received a dime pass from Davis in the restricted area.
Another three from Ryan gave Stanford their first lead of the game at 19-16. The Cardinal’s ensuing 14-0 run gave them a 12 point lead at 28-16, sparked in part by the long arms of sophomore forward Oscar Da Silva, who picked up a steal, a defensive rebound and a baseline layup in that order.
The Cardinal could not miss from beyond the arc towards the end of the first half, with Davis burying two and Ryan shooting his perfect 4-4. Superstar sophomore forward KZ Okpala contributed one of his own. Junior guard Marcus Sheffield, however, struggled to find his shot, missing four straight corner threes.
UCLA would not be outdone, however, as they shot 5-10 from three in the first half, including a James Harden stepback from Jules Bernard. The Bruins also made nine of their ten free throws, keeping them at least partially in the game.
The Cardinal entered the half up 49-40 after a final bucket by Okpala. Ryan led the team with 14 first half points, adding five rebounds and three assists. Despite the focus on the perimeter, the Cardinal utilized their gravity on the outside to gain an advantage in the interior, still outscoring the Bruins 22-12 in the paint.
After the lengthy extended halftime and bucket replacements, the teams came out with a deflated sort of momentum, until Davis turned a Sharma block into a fast break dunk and Maples exploded into applause. The Cardinal continued to push the pace of the game, increasing their lead to 61-42 off of a 10-0 run.
Stanford eventually turned their offense into an all-out attack on the Bruins, spearheaded by Sharma, who began to dominate Brown on both ends of the floor. Brown, who scored 17 points on 8-9 shooting when the teams met in January, was limited to 2-8 from the floor, with only seven points.
“I think it helped that I was able to stay out of foul trouble, even though I think they got me with that questionable call.” Sharma said about the matchup with Brown. “I was able to stay in the game and was more focused, more engaged.”
Meanwhile, Sharma picked up his insanely efficient shooting campaign right where he left it on Wednesday, shooting 10-11 from the field and pacing the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds. When asked about the one shot that he missed, Sharma jokingly said “I probably got fouled and they didn’t call it.”
In addition, Sharma’s .909 shooting percentage tied the seventh best individual single-game shooting percentage in Stanford history (minimum 10 attempts). He will now sit in the Stanford record books alongside Justin Davis and Curtis Borchardt.
Stanford continued to roll through the game, and pushed their lead to a game-high 23 (until the final bucket made the game a 24-point affair at 104-80) with the score at 76-53.
Despite the dominant win, UCLA’s Hands (the player, not the appendage) was still brilliant, scoring 29 points on 8-14 shooting, and getting to the free-throw line a game-high 11 times, making 10 of them.
After committing several fouls, Stanford found the lead slipping slightly, as UCLA pulled the game to 9 with 4:30 left, after Hands’ third three pointer of the night and a few free throws. A sense of complacency seemed to take over Stanford, and UCLA took full advantage, causing a scary moment of reflection for the Cardinal.
Okpala broke the Bruins 8-0 run with a layup plus a foul, but came down hard on his shoulder and exited the game. The Cardinal responded to his absence with another Sharma throwdown. Okpala would re-enter after a few more possessions.
Despite not being the focal point of the win, Okpala concluded the game with 20 points, making his presence known behind the scenes. He also drew seven fouls, and came up with six rebounds and two assists.
The Cardinal had another late game injury scare when Bryce Wills came down hard after contact, crashing into the newly installed goalpost. Wills also re-entered the game after a few possessions.
The rest of the game was a formality, as head coach Jerod Haase brought the reserves into the game and the clock wound down. Sophomore guard Isaac White hit the Cardinal’s 10th three of the game in the last minute to push the Cardinal over the 100-point marker.
With this win, Stanford is now tied for fifth place in the conference with USC, who defeated Cal earlier on Saturday. They sit one game behind Arizona State and Utah, and 1.5 games behind Oregon State. Not only have the Cardinal defeated Arizona State and Oregon State already this year, but they play Arizona State this coming Wednesday.
Additionally, the Cardinal are 5-1 in their last six games, with the only loss to Oregon, without Daejon Davis.
But as far as the future is concerned, Haase says that this isn’t even the finished product.
“It was another step forward today,” he said succinctly in his postgame press conference. “But it’s still certainly not a situation where we’ve arrived.”
His players echoed this message, emphasizing their desire to continue improving, through next week’s road trip to Arizona and beyond.
“Coach Haase’s message throughout the year has always been ‘just keep improving and we’ll be playing our best basketball come February and March,’” Sharma said. “We’ve stuck to that gameplan, and are continuing on that trend.”
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada ‘at’ stanford.edu.