GAME NOTES: After splitting the first two games on their three-game road trip, the Stanford Cardinal will try to end on a high note when they visit the Washington State Cougars for a Pac-12 Conference clash on Saturday.
Stanford defeated California (80-69), and followed that with a 64-60 loss to Washington to begin the road swing. The Cardinal are seated firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble at 15-8 overall, while their Pac-12 title hopes are not particularly strong (6-5). They will host USC and UCLA in their next two games.
Washington State's goals for the rest of the season are much less lofty than those of Stanford. The Cougars are just 9-15, including a miserable 2-10 ledger against the rest of the Pac-12. They have lost three straight and seven of their last eight games, including an 80-76 overtime decision against California on Wednesday. A three-game road trip is next, with stops at Oregon State, Oregon and rival Washington.
It was no contest when these teams met for the first time this season back on Jan. 15, with Stanford running away with an 80-48 victory. The Cardinal have won three of the last four meetings, extending their all-time series edge to 71-59.
It simply came down to offensive execution for Stanford in its recent loss to Washington. The Cardinal were outshot from the floor, 45.7 percent to 40.4 percent, and outscored from 3-point range, 21-9. Dwight Powell tallied game- highs of 18 points and nine rebounds in the losing effort.
Powell (15.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.8 apg) often leads the charge for Stanford, which is netting 75.4 ppg on a respectable 46.7 percent from the field. Powell is second on the team in scoring and rebounding and, surprisingly for a 6-foot-10 forward, leads the team in assists. Chasson Randle (18.7 ppg) is the team's go-to scorer, shooting a career-best 48.4 percent from the floor this season to rank fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring. Randle has scored in double figures in seven straight games since a season-low six points last time against Washington State. Anthony Brown (12.6 ppg) and Josh Huestis (11 ppg, 8 rpg) are also important pieces to the puzzle.
Washington State rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half to force overtime, but still came up short in the end against California. The Cougars hit on just 40.3 percent from the field, while being outscored, 34-12, in the paint. DaVonte Lacy did nail eight of their 13 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 39 points.
Shooting poorly has been an unfortunate trend for Washington State this season. The Cougars are last in the Pac-12 in scoring (63.1 ppg), assists (10.7 apg) and field goal percentage (.413). Missing so many shots has hurt even more considering the Cougars are the worst rebounding team in the conference (32.8 rpg). Lacy (19.8 ppg) has been sensational since returning from injury on Feb. 1. In the four games since, he has averaged 26.3 ppg, with a pair of 30-point performances in which he drained eight triples. However, the rest of the roster has not enjoyed such success, with Que Johnson (10.2 ppg) the only other double-digit scorer, although D.J. Shelton (9.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg) is solid down low.
Even if Lacy continues his blistering play, the Cougars' lack of reliable support will continue to let them down. Expect WSU to hang tough, but for Stanford, and its superior depth, to win out.
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