By: Ben Leonard
STANFORD, Calif. — Even for basketball players, finals week at Stanford is grueling.
Before overwhelming Division II Cal State East Bay 79-53 Friday night, Stanford had eight players with finals at nine o’clock in the morning, some pulling all-nighters to cram for their exams. The nearly two weeks off from games for finals period didn’t phase the Cardinal and junior forward Reid Travis, who recorded his fifth double-double of the season, scoring 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in just 22 minutes to pace Stanford.
“There’s definitely a lot of things we can work on, but I’m proud of the way we bounced back this week. We had a tough finals week, so definitely to refocus and have a game like we did tonight,” Travis said. “Defensively, offensively, we’re really starting to get our standards down and do everything we need to do to be successful in conference play.”
Stanford hadn’t played since falling 89-74 to No. 4 Kansas Dec. 3, and certainly showed some rust in the early going against the Pioneers (8-3, 0-0 CCAA). Stanford had been limited to five full practices during that time, taking several days off and only holding shootarounds on many occasions. After a dominant 18-3 run to start the game, the Cardinal (7-3, 0-0 Pac-12) lapsed on defense, allowing Cal State East Bay to cut the lead to 22-16.
But Travis and the Cardinal quickly became too much for the undersized Pioneers to handle. Led by eight points from the 6-foot-8, 245-pound forward, including a clean dish from sophomore guard Robert Cartwright for a thunderous dunk, the former McDonald’s American and the Cardinal surged to on a 15-0 run to take a commanding lead, never looking back.
Travis’ physicality, a product of an unmatched, almost excessive work ethic that ex-Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins in part attributed to his missing 22 games last season with a stress reaction in his left leg, paid off Friday, simply too much for the Pioneers to match. Only one of the Pioneers’ top six scorers was above 6-foot-5, presenting huge matchup problems for the lower-division squad.
Although they took just seven 3-point attempts, making one, Stanford dominated in scoring through the post, outscoring the Pioneers 42-20 in the paint and winning the rebound battle 42-30.
“Our identity is a team that gets the ball inside first by dribble or pass, hopefully gets some things in transition and on offensive rebounds, but we have to work from the inside out,” Stanford head coach Jerod Haase said. “Because it was working well and effectively, we didn’t have to go to the second part of that, which is shooting from the perimeter. As time moves on, we are going to have to shoot from the perimeter. We have to be more efficient than we have been from the perimeter.”
The Cardinal’s leader in 3-point scoring percentage, junior guard Dorian Pickens, made Stanford’s lone 3-pointer Friday in his only attempt. He was the only other Cardinal player to score in double-digits, scoring 11 points in 21 minutes on 3-of-5 shooting. The Phoenix native helped buoy a Stanford offense that shot 55.3% from the field (26-of-47 FG’s), even without contributions from one of their key contributors.
After starting all nine of the team’s previous contests, a familiar name was out of the starting lineup Friday: junior forward Michael Humphrey. The Phoenix native had seen his field goal percentage dip from nearly .500 to a meager .429 mark this season and his rebounds per game fall by two, which prompted Hasse to sit Humphrey and play him for just 12 minutes Friday, replacing him with senior center Grant Verhoeven.
“(The goal was) hopefully to light a little fire under Michael,” Haase said. “It’s not a secret, Michael isn’t playing his top performances right now. Grant has earned that right as well. He’s been a consistent performer and played well.”
Humphrey was effective in limited time, matching Verhoeven’s scoring total with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting and grabbing three rebounds.
On the whole, Verhoeven thought it was fairly solid showing for the Cardinal, albeit a work in progress before it takes on a talented SMU squad (8-3, 0-0 AAC) on Monday.
“It’s good to have a game like this where we can just focus on getting better, working on our offense and defense,” Verhoeven said. “There was a lot out there that wasn’t pretty on our end of the court, but we have a lot we can work on in these next couple days before our game against SMU.”
Cover Image: Stanford’s Reid Travis (22) scores against Cal State East Bay during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in Stanford, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)