New Mexico State and Saint Mary’s met early Tuesday morning, and something that wasn’t an issue for either team was energy as both teams played hard from the start. What was an issue, however, was the teams’ ability to execute offensively as the Aggies and Gaels combined to commit 38 turnovers. Saint Mary’s was the better of the two teams in regards to how they executed when they didn’t turn the ball over, shooting 54.2% from the field in the 83-71 victory.
Randy Bennett’s Gaels managed to score 1.1 points per possession despite turning the ball over on 29 percent of their possessions, with the team assisting on just over 69 percent of its made baskets. Emmett Naar (seven assists) and Kerry Carter (six) were responsible for 13 of Saint Mary’s 18 assists, with Carter also accounting for 12 points, nine rebounds and three steals as he just missed out on his second double-double in as many games.
By comparison New Mexico State shot just 36 percent from the field, with reigning WAC Player of the Year Daniel Mullings scoring a team-best 18 points to lead Marvin Menzies’ Aggies.
Mullings was one of three headliners to be hampered by early foul trouble, with teammate Tshilidzi Nephawe and Saint Mary’s forward Brad Waldow also picking up two first-half fouls. And while Nephawe was unable to get going in the second half the same couldn’t be said for Waldow, with the All-WCC player tallying 14 points and ten rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
Waldow finished the game with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and that performance combined with those of guards Carter and Aaron Bright (21 points, four assists) and forward Garrett Jackson (16 points, six rebounds) proved to be too much for the visitors from Las Cruces to overcome.
Saint Mary’s will undoubtedly look to clean things up offensively moving forward, as they committed 22 turnovers on the night. But even with that being the case, the Gaels’ work when they were able to take care of the basketball proved to be the difference.
Bright, the 5-foor-11 guard, will use the graduate transfer rule to be eligible at Saint Mary’s next season after graduating from Stanford this year. He’ll have one year remaining after dislocating his shoulder in early December and having season-ending surgery.
Bright played seven games and was averaging 5.9 points per game after putting up 9.3 points and 3.4 assists up last season.
It’s a big blow for the Cardinals, who are dealing with a lack of perimeter depth as it is and have been forced to use a bigger lineup. But here’s the kicker for Bright: he’s going to have to transfer after the season if he wants to remain on scholarship.
According to a report, Bright will apply for a medical redshirt, but since he’s a senior this season and Stanford has already committed their four open scholarships for next season Bright will have to transfer if he wants to take advantage of that fifth year of eligibility.
Bright will undergo surgery on January 3rd. The MVP of the 2012 NIT and the 10th all-time assist leader in Stanford history, Bright will be eligible immediately wherever he ends up as a graduate transfer.
Stanford senior guard Aaron Bright will be sidelined for the remainder of the season with a dislocated right shoulder he injured in practice last week.
After averaging better than 30 minutes per game a season ago, Bright had been playing a smaller role on this year’s team coming off the bench and playing 19.3 minutes per game and averaging 5.9 points. Still, this is a significant loss for Stanford.
“Aaron has played an important role within our program during his career, which makes the timing of this injury so unfortunate,” head coach Johnny Dawkins said in a release by the Stanford athletic department. “Aaron has been a leader for us on and off the court.
“It’s a really tough blow,” said Bright. “I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t want to play and battle on the court with anyone else other than the guys in that locker room. We have created such a bond. I’m so grateful to have had Coach Dawkins and such a prestigious group of coaches guide me to become a better basketball player.”
For his career, Bright tallied 316 assists, which ranks tenth in program history.
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.
“Next year, there’s no reason why we can’t get to where we want to be and have the opportunity to make a run in this thing. Coach is in his sixth year. There’s a reason why he was hired to be our Stanford guy, and I have full confidence he can get us there.”
Those were the words of Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir in a story written by Jeff Faraudo of the Bay Area News Group back in March, with the Cardinals on their way to the Postseason NIT and missing out on the NCAA tournament for the fifth consecutive season. Despite having the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player in forward Dwight Powell and other key contributors such as guards Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle and forward Josh Huestis, Stanford couldn’t get over the hump. With more than 90% of the scoring and rebounding from last season’s team back on The Farm the expectations are straightforward, both within and outside of the Stanford program.
“We have high expectations,” Powell told NBC Sports. “None of the guys on the team right now have played in the Big Dance, and I think that’s the dream of everyone who’s ever picked up a basketball. That’s one of our biggest goals, to get to the tournament and play on that stage and play against that level of competition. That’s our major goal.”
The 6-foot-10 senior from Toronto will be an integral part of the rotation for the Cardinal, and he’s coming off of a busy summer that included playing for Canada in the World University Games. Playing alongside the likes of Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim and Baylor’s Brady Heslip, Powell shot 61.9% from the field and posted averages of 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as Canada finished fourth in the event. That performance came on the heels of Powell’s best season at Stanford, as he led the Cardinal in scoring (14.9 ppg) and finished second on the team in rebounding (8.4 rpg). He’ll be asked to lead the way for what should be a balanced club, and he’s got a highly dependable front court sidekick in junior Josh Huestis (10.5, 9.0).
“Their versatility is what makes them so special for us,” Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins told NBC Sports. “We play a system in which they’re not relegated to playing one set position on the floor. With that being the case they have to be skilled; they have to be able to pass, shoot and handle the basketball some. They’re both good enough at those things to be productive in our system. They’re both long, can rebound and block shots as well.”
The backcourt will possess depth, talent and experience, with veteran returnees Bright and Randle combining for 67 of a possible 68 starts a season ago. Randle was Stanford’s second-leading scorer (13.6 ppg), and he was second on the team in assist rate (18.7%) while factoring into more than 24% of Stanford’s possessions (only Powell and Stefan Nastic rated higher in possession percentage, per kenpom.com). And Bright led the team in assists while also averaging nearly ten points per game.
The Cardinal will add freshman twins Malcolm and Marcus Allen as well as Anthony Brown (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg in 2011-12), who returns to the lineup after a hip injury forced him to redshirt last season. And the return of Brown is important, especially when considering the fact that Andy Brown (no relation) had to retire this past offseason after suffering yet another knee injury. While the loss of Andy shouldn’t be glossed over, as he started 19 games last season and shot 49% from the field the return of Anthony, who was a Pac-12 All-Freshman Team selection in 2010-11, will give Stanford a needed boost.
“We lose a man with a really good basketball IQ who would have given us a lot of experience and leadership, and his return was an inspirational story to our guys,” Dawkins said of Andy Brown, who suffered four knee injuries before being forced to retire. “Both Andy and Anthony are versatile players for us, and having Anthony back gives us the ability to mitigate that loss somewhat. It’s tough to lose Andy, but having Anthony come back does help.”
Another returnee of note is sophomore forward Rosco Allen, who gained some valuable experience this summer playing with Hungary’s Under-20 team in the U-20 European Championships. Currently out with a shin injury, Allen averaged 14.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game for Hungary and earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team. A player with a great amount of talent, Allen’s still in the process of “finding out who he is as a player” according to Dawkins and he can be a major asset to the Cardinal once healthy. Overall there’s no shortage of options at each position for the Cardinal, but the question is a simple one entering 2013-14: will it all click?
Of Stanford’s nine conference losses in 2012-13 five were by five points or less, including two losses to USC by a combined three points. Games like those can come down to one or two possessions at any stage in the contest, with the ability to take care of every “minor” detail proving to be the difference between a win and a loss. That’s the area Stanford will need to address as they prepare to make a run at the program’s first NCAA tournament berth since 2008.
“I think most of those games came down to paying attention to detail,” said Powell. “Because any game you lose that’s within three, four or five points, that comes down to who wanted it more in regards to the little things. Whether it’s a loose ball or a long rebound that wasn’t chased down.
“Our focus has definitely been to just keep a strong attention to detail and reinforce that in practice, to make sure we’re maintaining a high standard of excellence and always focusing on each individual play,” continued Powell. “Because ultimately if it comes down to two points, it could have been an offensive rebound from the first half that ended up giving momentum to the other team that puts you in that situation.”
Turn around a few of those close losses and Stanford may have been able to earn a trip to the NCAA tournament last season, but that wasn’t the case in the end. The talent and experience are certainly there for Stanford to make a return to the NCAA tournament, and the expectations are present as well. How Stanford manages them will ultimately decide the program’s fate.