The young talent of Stanford men’s basketball (15-13, 8-8 Pac-12) was on display at Maples Pavilion on Thursday night as the Cardinal blew past Washington State (11-17, 4-11 Pac-12) with a final score of 98-50, notching their sixth straight victory over the Cougars to bring the all-time record to 79-60 in the Cardinal’s favor. The win marked the team’s first win in three games, after dropping recent meetings with Arizona (54-70) and Arizona State (62-80).
Sophomore forward KZ Okpala recorded a team-leading 22 points as the Cardinal had themselves a record night on the floor, shooting a season-high 59 percent from the field.
Okpala, a finalists for the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award, dominated play on both ends of the court. He shot a perfect 2-2 from behind the arc and 7-13 on the field en route to his 14th 20-point game this season, which ranks second in the Pac-12 and is 10 more than last season.
“I thought our energy level was off the charters,” Haase said. “I loved our energy, defensively.”
Led by Okpala’s own eight boards, Stanford snagged 49 rebounds to the Cougars’ 29. Rebounding has history been a source of struggle for Washington State, who currently sits third from the bottom in the Pac-12 in average rebounds per game, a spot quite familiar to the team. One would have to go back to the 2010-2011 season, which marked the final year before the inception of the Pac-12 Conference, to find the last time the Cougars entered into the top half of the conference in terms of rebounding average.
“We tried to force some things, and we went back to those three areas that have kind of been our Achilles heel: turnovers for easy buckets, missed blockouts for easy buckets [and] bad shots for easy buckets,” Washington State head coach Ernie Kent said. “We got a little frustrated there, and the game really got away from us.”
Stanford scored 26 points from turnovers in a game that marked the largest margin of victory under head coach Jerod Haase.
It was a frustrating night for Washington State to say the least. The Cougars were without three players from their regular rotation due to injury. From the start of the game, the Cougars seemed out of sync and unable to find a rhythm. In fact, it appeared as though the Cougars lost sense of the sport they were playing. Their first two points of the game were followed by eight consecutive missed attempts.
The game was over for the Cougars before they had a chance to make any dent in Stanford’s productive night of offense. By the end of the first 20 minutes, the Cougars didn’t have much going in their direction. They were 0-8 from behind the line, 7-31 (22.58 percent) from the field and unable to score more than 15 points.
On the other side of the court, the Cardinal had themselves a night to celebrate, producing the team’s best shooting percentage and second highest scoring total of the season. By half time, the Cardinal accumulated 52 points, including seven of 12 (58 percent) from downtown. A couple of early 11-0 and 16-0 runs helped the Cardinal gain an early lead that they would never look back on.
“I made the right plays tonight,” said Okpala, who recorded 16 of his 22 points in the first half. “We were all locked in with each other. We came out and did what we had to do.”
The Cardinal held Washington State’s leading scorer CJ Elleby to just 16 points on 5-15 shooting. Washington’s dull performance offered Stanford an opportunity to give it’s younger talent more playing time.
Freshman guard Cormac Ryan added 14 points, including four three-pointers in 19 minutes of play, while sophomore guard Isaac White also contributed 14 points, including three buckets from the distance. Freshman Jaiden Delaire scored 12 points in 23 minutes of play, and freshman Lukas Kisunas saw a season-high 14 points and tied his season-best four points.
With young talent getting a chance to shine on Thursday night, the future bode’s well for Stanford, which has 15 players on the rose who are in their first or second year of playing.
The Cardinal return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Maples Pavilion against Washington in the penultimate game of the season.
Contact Alejandro Salinas at asalinas ‘at’ stanford.edu.