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Men’s basketball looks to end two-game skid as Cougars come to town

The Cardinal eye down Washington State as the regular season draws to a close

Senior center Josh Sharma (above) is on pace to set a school single season field goal percentage record at 70.1%. Sharma and the Cardinal host two Pac-12 rivals from Washington this weekend. (JOHN TODD/isiphotos.com)

Reeling from back-to-back losses of more than 15 points each, Stanford men’s basketball (14-13, 7-8 Pac-12) will look to bounce back against conference bottom-feeder Washington State (11-16, 4-10 Pac-12) when the Cougars come to Maples at 6 p.m. Thursday for the first game in Stanford’s season-closing, three-game home stand.

The Cardinal will look to galvanize its offense after putting up a total of just 116 points in the team’s previous two games, both of which were on the road. In comparison, Stanford scored 104 points in its most recent home game, which came on Feb. 16 against UCLA.

Stanford’s 10-2 home record is one potential cause for optimism as the Cardinal head into Thursday’s game. Another reason is the Cardinal’s 78-66 win at Washington State in January.

But as winter rains besiege Stanford’s campus, an increasingly dark cloud is following the Cardinal back to Maples.

Perhaps most troubling is the recent play of widely acclaimed sophomore guard Daejon Davis, whose field goal percentage of 26.3% in the Cardinal’s previous two games is his worst in any two-game span since November 2018. Davis shot 40% in the Cardinal’s first game at Washington State, and he will look to produce similar numbers on Thursday.

Davis isn’t the only starter facing offensive struggles. Freshman guard Bryce Wills has scored only six points on 13 shots across the Cardinal’s previous two games. For reference, Wills scored 15 points in Stanford’s first game against the Cougars alone.

Senior center Josh Sharma — whose field goal percentage of 70.1% so far this season would be a Stanford record — could also return to form against the Cougars after shooting for a five-game low of only 62.5% in Stanford’s Sunday loss to Arizona. As he approaches the end of his final and most successful season with the Cardinal, Sharma needs to maintain a field goal percentage of above 67.1% to set the program record.

Though sophomore forward KZ Okpala made half of the shots he took in the Cardinal’s most recent game, he took only 10 shots total, tallying 10 points in a 54-70 loss against Arizona. More ball time for Okpala could lead to more consistent shooting for Stanford on Thursday.

While Washington State has defeated only four Pac-12 opponents this year, three of those victories have come this month, with the Cougars putting up W’s against Colorado and recent Stanford-slayers Arizona State and Arizona.

Stifling the three-pointer may be a major focus of the Cardinal’s defensive effort as it looks to hold out against a Washington State team that scores an average of 9.6 threes per game, ranking 31st in the nation. Washington State seniors forward Robert Franks and guard Viont’e Daniels both rank within the program’s top 12 in all-time three-point scoring.

Ranked 11th in the Pac-12 — above only the winless University of California, Berkeley — the Cougars are playing for their first win in Maples since Jan. 15, 2011. After eight years of losing on Cardinal turf, the big cats hope to escape with the last of their nine lives on Thursday.

Watch for high-accuracy shooting to translate to success in a potentially high-scoring contest that could also set the tone for Stanford’s season end and possible postseason run.

 

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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