| 11-09-2023 05:00 AM PT
Photo by Stanford Athletics
Stanford avoided disaster in their opener with a late charge to knock off CSUN 88-79.
With 2:59 on the clock, Stanford trailed the Matadors by 4 points. For a team angling to return to the tournament, a loss like this would stick out as a serious blemish on any potential resume.
Coach Jerod Haase recognized that this would not have been a situation they would have pulled out last year. He spoke to his players about this scenario before the game, and placed a big emphasis on trying to make plays and getting stops when the going gets tough. With an experienced starting and finishing lineup, they provided just that.
Maxime Raynaud, the 7'1" behemoth of a junior, broke down the CSUN defense off the bounce and missed a driving layup. He was the quickest man off the floor, and was there for his own putback. On the other end, they shut down the rolling action the Matadors had run to success all night, and forced a long attempt that rimmed out. Brandon Angel got the ball going downhill, gracefully sidestepping an attempt to draw a charge, and found a wide open Michael Jones on the left wing. The sixth year masters student splashed it in to give Stanford the lead, one they would never relinquish. A couple of defensive possessions later, Jones made the biggest defensive play of the game, taking advantage of Spencer Jones funneling leading scorer De'sean Allen-Eikens baseline and coming away with a steal in help defense.
"He had 22 points on us so I had a feeling he was going to try to make a play and was able to cheat a little and and get down there and make a play," said Michael Jones.
It was an uneven game defensively for Stanford. There were scouting challenges, as CSUN sported a number of new players, and a coach coming up from the Division II level. But they did not run anything particularly exotic, and were able to find the Cardinal in bad position defensively to stop the short roll over and over. They made their way into the lane at will, finishing with an astounding 58 points in the paint.
"Most of the stuff they did they repeated and again," said Haase. "Some of the burden comes on my shoulders and some of the burden's going to go on the team of making adjustments a little bit earlier."
The good news is they had far fewer problems on the other end of the court. Although they shot just 9-29 from three, they were able to generate open looks for good shooters all night long, and their front court finished efficiently closer to the basket. A big part of the strong play was thanks to Providence grad transfer point guard Jared Bynum.
"It makes the game so much easier for a wing like me with a guy like [Jared] running the show," said Michael Jones.
The players also pointed out that Jared controlled the tempo of the game during the closing minutes, keeping them from rushing their offense and getting the plays going under control. He finished the game with 13 points, 7 assists, and 0 turnovers. He played like a sixth year point guard, and frankly could have had even more assists on a better team shooting night, not to mention the numerous hockey assists.
The Cardinal started three players using extra eligibility and two other upperclassmen. The starters combined for 79 of the team's 88 points, led by 23 points, 15 rebounds, and 3 blocks from Maxime Raynaud. He became the first Stanford player to reach those marks since Curtis Borchardt in 2002. His touch near the basket has continued to improve, and he can do things with the ball that a man his size should not be able to do.
Michael Jones had 20 points of his own, 7 coming in the final 2:20 of the contest. Brandon Angel had 18 points on 6-7 from the field in a quietly dominant performance. By most analytic measures, he was the MVP of the contest, and continues right where he left off after a jarringly efficient end to last season.
Five-star freshman Andrej Stojakovic went just 2-11, but he looked confident, and Haase has complete faith that better days are just around the corner.
"[Andrej] is an unbelievable kid," said Haase. "He's the definition of coachable, he wants to do well and he's going to do exceptionally well. The only question is how long does it take. I believe it will happen sooner rather than later because he's wired the right way."
Kanaan Carlyle missed the game for a non-injury related reason. He is considered game-to-game.
Spencer Jones is still recovering from an injured wrist, and did not make a field goal on four attempts.
--Stanford Men's Hoops National Champs '42 '91 '12 '15
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