GAME NOTES: The Stanford Cardinal and the Michigan Wolverines will square off at the Barclays Center on Saturday night as part of the Brooklyn Holiday Hoops Invitational.
Stanford made a splash on Wednesday night when it faced off against 10th- ranked UConn and pulled off the 53-51 upset, giving the Cardinal three straight victories. This will be the Cardinal's third matchup at the Barclays Center this season, as they defeated Houston (86-76) and lost to Pittsburgh (88-67) in last month's Legends Classic.
After starting the season as the nation's seventh-ranked team, Michigan has slowly slipped all the way out of the Top 25 by suffering four losses in its first 10 games. It's been tough sledding for the Wolverines in December, as they are just 1-2 this month with a pair of losses at nationally-ranked Duke (79-69) and most recently at home versus No. 1 Arizona last Saturday (72-70).
Stanford leads Michigan in the all-time series, 3-1, although this marks the first matchup in the past 54 years.
The Cardinal appeared to be on their way to a loss earlier in the week when they found themselves down by 13 at UConn, but a 14-0 burst got them back into the game, and they held on for the victory by allowing the Huskies to score just two points over the final 7:59. They barely outshot UConn from the field in the low-scoring affair (35 percent to 31.7 percent) and were led by Chasson Randle's 22 points. Dwight Powell stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and two steals, while Josh Huestis also registered a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.
Although Stanford struggled from the field against a stingy UConn defense, it is typically much more efficient shooting the ball, as it makes 48.8 percent of its field goal attempts for 79.0 points per game, nearly 10 points more than it allows. Randle (18.6 ppg) and Anthony Brown (15.2 ppg) both shoot greater than 52 percent from the floor, with Brown showing deadly marksmanship from beyond the arc (22-of-38). Powell (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.2 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.1 bpg) is one of the nation's most well-rounded forwards, while Huestis (11.9 ppg, 7.9 rpg) is also an integral frontcourt piece.
Michigan was up to the challenge of hosting the No. 1 team in their most recent game, as it led by nine at the half, but it could not hold off a late Arizona surge as it suffered the heartbreaking two-point setback. It shot an impressive 50 percent from the field, but it was ultimately done in by a poor showing on the glass, as Arizona grabbed 17 offensive rebounds compared to just six for the hosts. Glenn Robinson III was nearly perfect in spite of the loss, shooting 8-of-9 from the field for 20 points. Caris LeVert netted 15 points, Nik Stauskas had 14 points and Spike Albrecht tallied 10 points off the bench on 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
Despite their relatively disappointing early-season record, the Wolverines still boast some very impressive numbers, as they live comfortably in the green in terms of their scoring (+16.2), rebounding (+4.0) and turnover (+3.0) margins, while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor and 39.2 percent from 3- point range. Stauskas (18.3 ppg) does most of his damage from long distance (25-of-52). LeVert (14.0 ppg) and Robinson (13.0 ppg) are also solid scorers, while Mitch McGary brings 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game to the table.
Although Michigan has looked great at times this season, it has come up small on multiple occasions when the spotlight gets turned up against strong teams. With Stanford rolling after its upset victory on Wednesday, expect for it to ride that momentum into Brooklyn to take down another top-tier team.
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