With just six scholarship players available, Stanford came up with its best defensive performance of the season to easily beat Oregon State 59-35 on Thursday at Maples Pavilion.
The short-handed Cardinal (9-9, 3-3 in the Pac-10) came into the week tied for last in the conference, but if it beats Oregon on Saturday at home and some results elsewhere fall into place, the Cardinal could be tied for first by Sunday.
That is how unpredictable the Pac-10 is this season, and the Cardinal is one of the Pac-10 teams supplying the surprises.
A former Stanford player provided a surprise, too. Brook Lopez, who is having an outstanding second NBA season with the New Jersey Nets, was in the house. Lopez sat in the middle of the student section, wearing the identifying black, Sixth Man Club T-shirt.
Lopez, whose Nets play the Warriors on Friday, would be a senior this season at Stanford if he had remained in school, and the Cardinal could certainly use some big men to continue its unexpected success.
Stanford was picked to finish last, and that was before it was hit with a series of injuries. The latest were foot stress fractures to 6-9 starting forward Andrew Zimmermann and freshman guard Gabriel Harris that will put them out for about a month. Stanford’s active roster on Thursday included only five players who came to Stanford on scholarship, plus Jack Trotter, who was awarded a scholarship in the offseason after being a nonscholarship player as a freshman.
Trotter was one of the Cardinal’s top performers against Oregon State (8-10, 2-4), which had beaten Stanford in three of their four meetings last season. Beavers center Roeland Schaftenaar had been a major factor in all four of those games, averaging 17.5 points against the Cardinal last season. But Trotter, who guarded Schaftenaar when the Cardinal played man-to-man, and an effective Cardinal zone defense prevented Schaftenaar from scoring a single point on Thursday.
As a team, Oregon State scored only 13 points in the second half, and five of those came in the final 2:23. The Beavers’ 35 points matched the 35 points they scored against UCLA three years ago, and Oregon State has not scored fewer points than that since the shot clock was implemented in the 1984-85 season.
“That was the best defensive performance we have had this season,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Our guys were very connected tonight.”
The Beavers shot just 36.6 from the field and turned the ball over 19 times, and some of the low output was the result of the Beavers’ sloppy play. They had a nine-minute stretch in the second half in which they did not score a point, helping the Cardinal to break away from a six-point halftime lead to crush Oregon State.
The win gave Stanford an 8-2 record at home, including 3-0 in the Pac-10, and Dawkins’ challenge now to keep everyone healthy.
With that in mind he has curtailed practice time and virtually eliminated contact during practices.
“I very rarely do that,” Dawkins said, “(but) we just can’t do that with the number of players we have and the players playing a lot of minutes.”
The Cardinal players were not extended against Oregon State. Landry Fields had 17 points and nine rebounds, but played only 29 minutes because of the lopsided score.
Jeremy Green hit a three-pointer on his first attempt just a few seconds into the game, but was just 3-for-11 from beyond the arc for the game and finished with 13 points. Trotter had 10 points and six rebounds to go along with his solid defense.
Without Zimmermann, Stanford went with a small lineup to start the game. Drew Shiller replaced Zimmermann in the starting five and formed a three-guard alignment with Green and Jarrett Mann. Fields moved from a small-forward spot to take Zimmermann’s vacated power-forward spot, with Trotter at center. Stanford has used that lineup with good results quite a bit this season, although this was the first time they started a game together.
Mann had a nice game for the Cardinal, penetrating Oregon State’s various zone defenses to create scoring opportunities for teammates. He had only two points, but added six assists with two turnovers.
“I had a talk with Jarrett about penetrating and delivering the right play,” Dawkins said. “He can get where he wants to on the floor, but that’s not the point. The point is getting where you want and then delivering right play.”
Stanford faces Oregon on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Maples.
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