SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The wounds Washington State suffered during Saturday’s loss to Stanford could be divided into two categories: those that were inflicted by the Cougars themselves and those that were inflicted by Oscar da Silva.
The Cougars could have cut down on their season-high 17 turnovers, made a few more shots and probably offered stronger resistance on defense in a 75-60 loss to the Cardinal Saturday afternoon at Kaiser Permanente Arena, but in many ways, they looked helpless against Stanford’s veteran forward, who led all scorers with 27 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots as the Cardinal extended a win streak over the Cougars that spans nine games and five seasons.
Even as the Cougars have changed coaches, players and strategies at both ends of the floor, nobody’s been a tougher opponent for WSU than Stanford, which has won the last nine games by an average margin of 19.5 points.
Only two have been decided by single digits and Saturday’s game was the sixth decided by at least 15 points, although Stanford didn’t begin to pull away until late in the second half and the teams were still tied with 5:59 to play.
No player in the conference has proven to be a tougher matchup than da Silva, a senior who has scored in double figures his past four games against WSU, averaging 18.2 points and 7.7 rebounds, and came into the game averaging 19.1 points and 6.8 rebounds for the season.
“That guy’s had our number, but I think he’s had the whole league’s number, too,” WSU coach Kyle Smith said. “I think he’s in contention for being player of the year in the league and played like it tonight, because we threw a lot of different things at him and he kept coming at you. It’s hard, because they’re smart the way they play.”
Da Silva’s play impacted WSU’s chances of winning, but arguably not as much as a first-half injury to Noah Williams, who was undercut by a Stanford player on a drive to the basket, falling to his back and sitting for the remainder of the game. The severity of Williams’ injury is unknown at this point.
“Noah gives us a lot of our competitiveness and our fearlessness. … I was proud of the way our guys responded,” Smith said. “Take Noah out of the equation, they pushed us around a lot inside. … Our bigs just weren’t up for the challenge and they responded.”
The Cardinal led by as many as 12 points in the first half and took a 41-30 lead into the halftime break. WSU matched its season high with 11 first-half turnovers – something achieved two days earlier at California – and allowed Stanford to shoot 70% inside the 3-point line.
The Cougars committed just six turnovers in the second half and tightened up their defense, even with their best on-ball defender watching from the bench. They briefly held the lead, thanks in part to the 3-point shooting of freshmen Andrej Jakimovski and Efe Abogidi, and senior Isaac Bonton, who combined to go 11 of 19 from deep.
Jakimovski set a season and career high with five 3s and led the Cougars with 19 points. For just the second time in 11 games, Bonton shot better than 50% from the field, going 7 of 13 from the field with 18 points. The point guard also had seven assists, four steals, four turnovers and three rebounds.
“I felt good,” Jakimovski said. “Every game when I shoot the ball, my focus is to get the ball in. That’s my mentality and my approach to shooting the ball, and today the ball just went in.”
When Abogidi made his second 3-pointer of the half, the Cougars took their first lead of the game, at 55-53.
But da Silva watched his 3-pointer fall to restore Stanford’s advantage and went on to score 13 consecutive points, helping the Cardinal close the game on a 22-5 run.
“We knew he was going to score some points and we prepares for his high-post game,” Jakimovski said of da Silva. “… We know he’s a big player, but I think we could’ve done a better job on defense.”
Stanford freshman phenom Ziaire Williams, a projected NBA lottery pick, punched down an impressive SportsCenter Top 10-caliber alley-oop dunk on an inbound play in the second half and finished with 16 points and three rebounds.
Both teams were shorthanded as WSU played without guard Ryan Rapp and forwards DJ Rodman and Brandton Chatfield, who didn’t travel with the Cougars due to COVID-19 protocol.
Stanford was missing two starting guards to injury: Seattle native and former Garfield High star Daejon Davis and Bryce Wills.
The Cougars (9-2, 2-2) will close out their four-game road stretch next week in Southern California before returning to Pullman.
WSU visits UCLA at 2 p.m. Thursday (FS1) before playing USC at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (Pac-12 Networks).
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