The Opening Tip
Stanford faces arguably its biggest challenge of the non-conference season so far when Northwestern (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten) arrives at Maples Pavilion on Saturday night for its third road game of the year. The Cardinal continues to navigate through an NBA-like stretch that includes seven games to be played over 19 days. Stanford is coming off a 66-57 win over Northern Arizona on Wednesday night.
Saturday's game can be heard live on KTRB AM 860 and Stanford's official athletics website, www.gostanford.com. Dave Flemming handles play-by-play duties while John Platz offers color commentary. KZSU 90.1 FM provides coverage with Mark Friese (play-by-play) and Chris Fitzgerald (analyst).
Time for some home-cooking. Stanford will play five of its next six games at Maples Pavilion. The Cardinal is 4-0 on its home court.
Northwestern (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten) has collected wins over Florida State and DePaul and its only loss of the year came in the form of a 57-53 setback at Butler. The Wildcats do it with defense, outscoring their opponents by 17.1 points per game while limiting foes to 37.3 percent shooting from the field and 29.0 percent shooting from long distance. They also take care of the basketball, as evidenced by a +4.6 turnover margin. Not bad for a club that finished 8-22 overall and 1-17 in the Big Ten last year. Northwestern has won four in a row and is 1-1 away from home this year. Keep an eye on: Kevin Coble (15.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg), Craig Moore (14.5 ppg, 51.4 percent shooting, 24 assists, 27-56 three-pointers) and Michael Thompson (10.3 ppg, 32 assists, 77.3 percent free throws). Head coach Bill Carmody is in his ninth year.
Stanford All-Time vs. Northwestern
Stanford and Northwestern have played four games in the all-time series, with the Cardinal winning three times. The Wildcats won the first meeting 62-61 back on Dec. 26, 1962, but the Cardinal owns a three-game winning streak. This will be the third straight year Stanford and Northwestern have hooked up, with the Cardinal winning 58-53 at home in 2006 and 71-60 on the road last year.
Cardinal Looks To Stay Perfect
Stanford is off to its best start since winning 26 straight games to open the 2003-04 campaign. One of 13 remaining undefeated teams in Division 1 competition as of Dec. 19, Stanford sits atop the Pac-10 standings as the conference's lone unbeaten squad.
Finding Scoring Balance
Stanford has placed at least four players in double-figure scoring on four different occasions this year. In three of those instances, the Cardinal has been paced by a different leading scorer. Stanford is already halfway to matching last year's total of eight games where at least four players scored in double-figures.
Paul In, Shiller Out
Stanford's frontline received a boost with the return of Will Paul, who made his return to the court on Dec. 14 at Colorado State after missing this year's first four games with a stress reaction following a redshirt season. Unfortunately, the backcourt will be without Drew Shiller, who is unavailable for the next weeks as he recovers from a right thumb sprain suffered in practice earlier this week.
Stanford Opening Up On Offense
Coming into this year, head coach Johnny Dawkins promised a more up-tempo offensive attack due to increased team speed and experienced guard play. And so far, he's been right on. Stanford leads the Pac-10 in scoring 78.3 points per game and ranked 27th in the nation in that same category at the start of the week. Stanford scored at least 70 points in five straight games to begin the year, representing the first time that has happened since a five-game stretch at the end of the 2001-02 campaign.
Dialing Long Distance, Opponents Not So Much
Stanford is averaging 7.2 three-pointers per game and shooting 37.7 percent from beyond the arc, totals that rank third and fifth in the Pac-10, respectively. Anthony Goods has been the leading sharpshooter so far, connecting on 17-42 attempts. Meanwhile, opponents have made just 27.6 percent from three-point territory. Stanford has now made at least one triple in 226 consecutive games.
Cashing In At The Charity Stripe
Getting to the line is one thing, but for the most part the Cardinal has converted on its free throw opportunities with a 75.2 percent clip. In fact, Stanford is 115-153 from the charity stripe and has attempted 62 more freebies then its opponents (55-91). Landry Fields (18-26), Anthony Goods (33-40), Mitch Johnson (11-16) and Lawrence Hill (16-23) are all above 68 percent while Josh Owens has been impressive at 20-25 and was perfect in his first 15 chances to begin the year.
Share The Ball, Force Mistakes
Two of Stanford's trademarks have been the ability to share the basketball and force opponents into making mistakes. The Cardinal has tallied more assists than its opponent in every game. Even more impressively, Stanford leads the Pac-10 and ranks 10th in the country in turnover margin with a +5.8 clip. It's been a different story for opponents, as Stanford has forced at least 15 turnovers in every game.
Battle Of The Boards
One of the top rebounding teams in the nation last year with nearly 40 boards per game, Stanford is averaging only 32.8 rebounds in four contests. Not that there have been many shots to clean up, as Stanford is shooting 45.6 percent from the field while opponents are connecting at a 48 percent rate.
Delivering The Goods
Anthony Goods has emerged as Stanford's top scoring threat, averaging a team-best 19.0 points per game in six starts. He is shooting 42.7 percent overall but has been even more impressive with team-high marks from three-point territory (17-42, 40.5 percent) and the free throw line (33-40, 82.5 percent). Goods led all scorers with 23 points in a win at Colorado State on Dec. 14 for his third 20-point game of the year. Entering this season, Goods had recorded only five 20-point games in his career.
Hill Returning To All-League Form
Another early-season positive has been the performance of Lawrence Hill, an All-Pac-10 selection two years ago as a sophomore when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. Hill ranks second on the club in scoring (14.2 ppg) and leads the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg). In the season opener at Yale, Hill notched a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds and his production has been a major plus for Stanford.
Fields, Owens Excelling In Starting Roles
Landry Fields and Josh Owens have been penciled into the starting lineup for the first time in their careers and the results have been solid. After coming off the bench in his first 63 games, Fields is averaging 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent. Fields matched a career-high with 18 points against Air Force on Nov. 26. After averaging just 5.8 minutes of playing time last year, Owens has emerged as a force for the Cardinal in the paint. He is averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while establishing career-high totals in points (21), rebounds (8), field goals (8) and minutes (33) in a win over Colorado on Nov. 29.