MBB: Murray State 55, Stanford 52

F Josh Owens

Stanford couldn't find its offense for long stretches of its Thanksgiving tilt with Murray State, as the Card dropped its first game of the season, 55-52 in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

Freshman Dwight Powell scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting, and junior Josh Owens, another forward, had 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Stanford's backcourt, however, had just five points in the game's first 39 minutes, before three last-minute Jeremy Green threes snapped his 0-of-7 shooting night, but were too late to change the outcome of a game already decided.

Between the youth of Stanford's players, the sloppiness of play, and an estimated 57 fans in attendance, the viewer would be excused for thinking he was watching a high school game at times:

  • Stanford's youth is well-known to the reader.
  • As for the attendance, comparatively, Stanford Stadium versus Wazzu looked like Mecca at the start of Ramadan.
  • As for sloppiness, where to begin? Twenty-two personal fouls speaks to sloppiness, especially considering that many of the fouls were the result of mental mistakes forty feet from the hoop, and not excellent Murray State penetration or overzealous referees. Adding insult to injury, the Card's three most effective players shouldered 13 of these 22 fouls, as Powell and Green finished the game with four fouls apiece, while Owens fouled out with his full allotment of five in only 17 minutes of play. The fouls not only gave Murray State points, as the Card were ruthlessly effective in the defensive half court, but were helpless to stop the Racers from converting 18-of-23 free throws (78 percent), but the fouls also limited the minutes of Stanford's best offensive threats, and the Card are too young and not yet skilled enough to win shorthanded against an NCAA Tournament-caliber team like Murray State, two points away from a Sweet 16 bid this past March.

Give credit, of course, to a veteran Murray State team, but Stanford's 18 turnovers, many of them unforced, also speak to sloppiness. Powell (five turnovers), Owens and guard Jarrett Mann (three apiece) were the worst offenders in that department. To its credit though, Stanford did force 15 turnovers and draw 21 Murray State fouls, so neither the turnover nor foul margin truly cost Stanford the contest.

No, where Stanford lost Thanksgiving night was in the most fundamental skill of all – shooting the ball. The Card were 4-of-16 deep, and that includes Green's three last-minute threes, so a 1-of-13 start cost Stanford dearly. Overall, Stanford shot just 41 percent (19-of-46), and just 7-of-20 in the first half. And, of course, a 10-of-16 night on the free throw line isn't awful, and would actually have been quite good – if not for Jarrett Mann's 1-of-5 performance.

Still, though Stanford lost the contest, they lost a close game away from home against a seasoned, quality opponent – for their first loss of the season. The Stanford offense is going to go through some growing pains, especially in the backcourt on nights when Jeremy Green's stroke is off, but the defense looks ahead of schedule, as Stanford's length harassed the Racers all night, and kept the Card in the game despite a horrific first half offensively. The offense will come around, so if Stanford can stay successful defensively as the schedule picks up, this year's squad could surprise some folks, and the sky is the limit in the years to come.

Stanford now plays Tulsa at 8:30 p.m. PT Friday on ESPNU. With a win, the Card would play the Cal-State Northridge/DePaul winner Sunday at 1 p.m. on ESPNU. With a loss, the Card would play that contest's loser at 10:30 a.m. Sunday.


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