Stanford played an exhibition game against UNC Pembroke on Sunday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, and here are five thoughts on the Cardinal’s performance.
- Too close for comfort? The final score read Stanford 85, UNC Pembroke 71, but it was a single-digit game for most of the way, and Stanford actually trailed the Braves 8-2 about six minutes into the game. As we discussed with Washington’s exhibition nail-biter, however, the closeness of the game doesn’t really mean too much. Also, Stanford’s Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic didn’t play in this game for undisclosed reasons. Don’t judge this team before the November 9 opener against San Francisco.
- John Gage has diversified his game. The official roster says Gage has put on 10 pounds from last year to this year, and it showed in the way he plays. The junior known for his shooting touch held his own strength-wise against a 255-pound UNC Pembroke post player and had a sequence in the first half where he blocked a shot, stole a post entry pass, got a couple of rebounds, and hit a three. These are exactly the kind of things Gage needs to do to earn more minutes on the floor. As one of the tallest guys on the team, Gage will need to prove he can play in the post and body up with the likes of a Kaleb Tarczewski, Aziz N’Diaye or Josh Smith. If he can hold his own on the defensive end, Gage will be rewarded with more time and hence more opportunities to unleash it from deep on the offensive end. At the end of the day, Gage amassed 11 points and seven rebounds to go along with two blocks and two steals.
- Josh Huestis is more confident with the rock. The shooting stroke was already there for Huestis last year, but he was hardly consistent from outside of the key. While he didn’t connect on three three-point attempts, he showed more assertiveness in his jump shot and connected on 50 percent of his field goal attempts, not all of which were bunnies (one left wing 18-footer comes to mind). He also did all the other things that makes Huestis so valuable to the team, grabbing 12 rebounds and swatting away a shot.
- It will take some time for the freshmen to get adjusted. Each of the three new guys (Rosco Allen, Christian Sanders and Grant Verhoeven) showed why they were sought by Johnny Dawkins and his staff, but they will all understandably need at least a few games to be able to contribute in a meaningful manner to the Cardinal lineup. The biggest positive for the freshmen is that none of them seemed to shy away from the moment — Sanders swished a jumper on his second offensive possession of the game, Allen calmly stroked a 17-footer, and Verhoeven — as advertised — didn’t mind getting dirty down low and collecting an offensive rebound to go along with six points and two assists.
- Free throws. This team only shot 67 percent from the free throw line last year, often missing key tries late in games to keep the opposition alive. It wasn’t any better against the Braves yesterday, as the Cardinal made just 21 of its 33 free throw attempts for the game (64 percent). Yes, it was just an exhibition game and yes, there were probably some first-game jitters involved, but that percentage needs to be around 70% to give the Cardinal the best chance to pull out close games in the regular season.