Stanford hasn’t been tested yet in its own tournament, but that could change on Sunday.
The No. 23 Cardinal look to open 3-0 for the first time in four years when they host high-scoring Alex Harris and UC Santa Barbara in the finale of the Basketball Travelers Classic.
Stanford hasn’t begun the season with three straight wins since a school-best 26-0 start in 2003-04. The Cardinal have won their first two games of this round-robin event by an average of 47 points after a 97-58 rout of Northwestern State on Saturday.
“Two games, so far. It’s encouraging, refreshing,” said Stanford coach Trent Johnson, whose team opened the tournament Friday with a 111-56 win over Harvard. “As well as we’ve played in terms of our effort and our energy, we can rebound better. We’re sharing the ball well and playing with a high level of intensity. In the past we’ve played to the level of our opponents. We’re playing to our level.”
Stanford has placed five players in double figures in both of its games. Lawrence Hill and Drew Shiller each scored 15 points on Saturday as the Cardinal made 12 of their first 14 shots to quickly turn the game into a rout.
Shiller, a sophomore reserve guard, is off to an especially strong start. He’s made 7-of-9 3-pointers while averaging 16.5 points - a sharp increase from his 4.4 points per game last season.
The Cardinal are playing without academically ineligible 7-footer Brook Lopez during the fall quarter, but It hasn’t mattered in the first two games.
“We talked about really spreading the floor, penetrating, kicking and getting open shots,” guard Mitch Johnson said. “We did a good job of spacing the floor and making them help and recover and we were able to get in the gaps.”
Stanford will try to slow down Harris, an Alameda, Calif. native who averaged 21.1 points to lead the Big West in scoring a season ago. He’s picking up where he left off, averaging 25.5 points to help the Gauchos win their first two games of the season.
The 6-foot-6 senior guard had 24 points and seven rebounds as UC Santa Barbara beat Harvard 79-61 on Saturday. The Gauchos used a 23-4 run late in the second half to break open a tight game.
“We really settled into a rhythm in the second half,” coach Bob Williams said. “I thought we were rushing things and making poor decisions in the first half and early in the second half, but we played with a lot of energy late and made some big plays. I was happy with the way we closed things out tonight.”
UC Santa Barbara had three players foul out, including starting forward Chris Devine - who scored 13 points for the second straight game.
Stanford has won five of eight meetings with UC Santa Barbara, including a 62-49 win on Nov. 20, 1999, in the most recent matchup.