The Stanford team that walloped Washington State on Thursday night looked different from the way it had looked in its previous two games.
And not just because it won.
The Cardinal blew out the Cougars, 84-54, dominating from tipoff to garbage time. It was Stanford’s first Pac-12 victory in five tries this season as it transitions from former coach Johnny Dawkins to new guy Jerod Haase.
But it marked the return of junior forward Reid Travis, the team’s leading scorer and most talented player, after he missed two games due to a shoulder injury.
Travis played only 20 minutes but scored 17 points on 8-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds, a stat line befitting his season averages of 17.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.
On Saturday, it will be Washington’s turn to try to contain him in a 5 p.m. game at Maples Pavilion.
“They’re an entirely different team” with Travis back in the lineup, UW coach Lorenzo Romar said.
“They have one of the most physical low-post scorers in the league when he’s in there,” Romar said. “He’s a guy in the post you can count on to produce. He’s not an up-and-down, inconsistent kind of guy. He brings it every game.”
So the Huskies (8-8, 1-3 Pac-12) hope they fare better against him than they did against California forward Ivan Rabb, who banged for 20 points and 14 rebounds in Cal’s 69-59 victory Thursday in Berkeley.
In that game, Cal stormed the backboards for 18 offensive rebounds and 22 second-chance points. Travis possesses the tenacity and physical frame to give the Huskies similar fits, though Stanford’s overall size — no rotation players taller than 6-foot-9 — won’t be nearly as much of a hassle.
Nor will the Cardinal’s defense. Cal, one of the nation’s most efficient defensive teams, held UW to 35.5 percent shooting from the field and allowed the Huskies to make only one shot during the decisive final four minutes.
Stanford (9-8, 1-4), though, ranks 10th in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense (ahead of UW and Arizona State), and represents one of Washington’s most viable opportunities this season for a conference road victory.
The Huskies have lost six consecutive Pac-12 road games dating to last season, their last victory an 86-84 triumph at UCLA on Jan. 28, 2016. A loss Saturday would drop them below .500 through the first 17 games of the season for the first time since 2002-03, Romar’s first year at Washington.
Despite Thursday’s defeat, the Huskies seem to feel better about the way they’ve been playing recently, particularly on defense. They held Cal to 39.1 percent shooting from the field, one game after holding Oregon State to 41.8 percent in an 87-61 victory. On average, opponents shoot 44.2 percent against the Huskies.
Against Cal, sophomore forward Noah Dickerson said, “we just had a different look in our eyes coming into our first real away game for conference, and we just realized it’s us against everybody. And we were encouraging each other, we were talking on defense, we were alive.
“Everything we do in practice, we were doing in the game, so it translated. That’s why we did such a good job holding them.”
Still, it’s getting late early for the Huskies, who badly need a victory Saturday before returning home for games against Colorado and Utah.
“It would be great for our guys, great for psyche, confidence, all of it. It would be really good,” Romar said. “But I think we have to concentrate on coming into the game, playing with the mindset we had against Oregon State and Cal. … That’s fine to say it would be great, but what would be necessary for us to see that happen? We’re going to have to have that same mindset.”
WASHINGTON (8-8, 1-3 PAC-12) AT STANFORD (9-8, 1-4)
5 p.m. Saturday, Maples Pavilion, Stanford, California
TV: Pac-12 Network. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: Stanford leads, 74-71.
15 Marcus Allen, G (6-3, sr.): 4.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg.
2 Robert Cartwright, G (6-2, so.): 7.4 ppg, 3.4 apg.
11 Dorian Pickens, G (6-5, jr.): 13.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg.
22 Reid Travis, F (6-8, jr.): 17.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg.
10 Michael Humphrey, F (6-9, jr.): 8.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg.
20 Markelle Fultz, G (6-4, fr.): 21.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 5.8 rpg.
1 David Crisp, G (6-0, so.): 14.2 ppg, 2.8 apg.
4 Matisse Thybulle, G (6-5, so.): 10.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg.
33 Sam Timmins, F (6-10, fr.): 3.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg.
15 Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, so.): 11.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg.
Scouting report: Media representatives covering the Pac-12 picked Stanford to finish 10th in the league in a preseason poll. … KenPom.com ranks Stanford 102nd in the country and Washington 118th, eighth and ninth in the Pac-12, respectively. … The Cardinal, under first-year coach Jerod Haase, played a rigorous nonconference schedule, losing to Miami, Kansas, Saint Mary’s and Southern Methodist. Then Stanford lost its first four Pac-12 games before beating Washington State by 30 points on Thursday. … Stanford fired coach Johnny Dawkins after last season’s 15-15 finish. Washington handed the Cardinal its final defeat last season, a 91-68 blowout in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. … Haase, a former Kansas guard, was the coach at Alabama-Birmingham in the previous four seasons, compiling an 80-53 record with one NCAA Tournament appearance. … Stanford recently regained its best player, Travis, after he missed two games because of a shoulder injury. Travis is one of only two Cardinal players who average double figures in scoring. Pickens is the other. … Stanford is the worst shooting team in the conference, both from the field (43.3 percent) and from 3-point range (31.7 percent), and ranks 11th in the league in scoring offense and scoring margin. The Cardinal rank 10th in the Pac-12 in field-goal percentage defense.