All week long, the buzz out of UConn's team has been how important this game was to their season. Beating Stanford, in Palo Alto, would be a major resume booster for their NCAA Tournament bid. Coming off a loss to Tulsa, UConn came out with a big time energy and Kevin Ollie displayed some new looks for this game.
The biggest change was to the starting lineup. Ollie inserted Omar Calhoun in place of Rodney Purvis and that move has paid off brilliantly. Calhoun nailed two three pointers, and Purvis was UConn's best player. Coming off the bench, he led the team in points (9) and rebounds (3).
Ollie was committed to playing a small ball lineup against the Cardinal. Oftentimes, he would have 4 guards on the floor. This approach led to an outstanding shooting half from his squad, but it left the Huskies exposed on the glass. Stanford dominated the boards, with a 10 rebound advantage. They had a 12-0 advantage on the offensive glass, which led to 5 second chance points. UConn's initial defense was strong. The four guard lineup enables them to play faster and with more aggression, but in order for it to work, they must do a better job rebounding. Whether it's Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah or Phil Nolan on the floor, UConn needs end possessions with the ball.
This has been a monster half from Stanford's leading scorer, Chasson Randle. The senior has really brought it the Huskies, setting the tone with 12 points to lead all scorers. This game had the potential of being a duel between Boatright and Randle. The problem is nobody told Boat. UConn's captain was absent for much of the half, scoring only 2 points. He needs to show up in the second half.
The next 20 minutes loom large for UConn's season. Trailing by just 3, UConn is in good position to steal this game. Finding a way to keep the Cardinal off the glass and getting to the foul line need to be the priority coming out.
As UConn enters their final regular season non conference game, they find themselves in Palo Alto to take on the Stanford Cardinal. The Huskies (9-6, 2-2 AAC) are coming off 66-58 defeat at Tulsa. UConn has won won three of their last four games and sport a 2-1 record in true road games.
Stanford (12-4, 4-1 Pac 12) enters tonight's contest playing really good basketball. They have won six of their last seven games. In their last game, they defeated Cal-Berkley 69-59.
The Cardinal are lead by a trio of seniors. Guard Chasson Randle, who is averaging over 19 points per game. Randlehas already posted two 30+ point games this season. Also, both Anthony Brown (15.2) and Stefan Nasic (13.9) average over double digits.
As for the Huskies, this game is an opportunity to make a statement. A victory would bring their nonconference record to 8-4, which includes two buzzer beater loses. Stanford is looking to be an NCAA Tournament team and UConn is currently lacking in signature victories this season.
In order to get this victory, the Huskies need to bring more discipline to the floor. Against Tulsa, the Huskies committed 23 personal fouls and 15 turnovers, which contributed to Tulsa's offense. It starts with Ryan Boatright. He has to be more disciplined with the basketball and set the offense up to generate chances.
UConn is entering dangerous territory with Stanford. The Cardinal defeated the Huskies in their last meeting, 53-51 in 2013 in Hartford. UConn holds the all time advantage 4-1.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 at 9 p.m. Follow me along on Twitter @ElanDeCarlo for updates. Check out TheUConnBlog.com for more coverage