Uploaded: Thursday, January 17, 2013, 4:48 PM
Stanford men need a win over Cal for some momentum
|By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford's postseason basketball hopes are on the line this weekend when California and former Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery visit Maples Pavilion on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The Cardinal (1-3 in the Pac-12, 10-7 overall) has gotten off to an awkward start in conference play and is looking to regain some momentum heading into the heart of the conference schedule.
Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell have been consistently providing Stanford with solid efforts all year. Guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright need to return to the level of consistency they displayed in the Cardinal run to the NIT championship last season.
The Bears (2-2, 10-6) have been struggling to gain some consistency this year as well, providing Stanford with the perfect opportunity to slide back into the Pac-12 race.
The Bay Area rivals each split their games last week, beating Washington State and losing to Washington. Stanford beat the Cougars, 78-67, and dropped a 65-60 decision to the Huskies.
Randle and Bright were exceptional against Washington State but not so much against Washington.
California, picked to finish third in the conference, started the year 6-0 but has won back-to-back games only once since then, with three losses over its last five games.
Stanford had two separate three-game winning streaks and were 7-3 after 10 games. The Cardinal has lost three of its last four games.
Huestis, who has started all 17 games this year, is averaging 9.0 points and a team-best 9.0 rebounds per game. Huestis could become the fifth player to average a double-double for the season, and the first since Curtis Borchardt did it in 2002, over the past 50 years of Stanford men's basketball.
"I want to be a defensive presence for my team," Huestis said. "The role I have been given is to be somebody that rebounds and not everyone welcomes that. Every time a shot goes up, that's something that I love. So when I go out there, I try to focus on that because it helps the team."
Huestis had four consecutive games of double figures in rebounding, only the fourth player to grab at least 10 or more rebounds in four straight games during the last decade and the first since Brook Lopez in 2008.
"I like the physicality, contact and how you have to fight for it," Huestis said. "It's like a mini-competition within the game."
Huestis, the team leader in blocked shots, has 87 for his career. He needs three more to surpass Jason Collins for eighth on the all-time list. The 10 blocks he recorded against Seattle was the second-best performance in school history to Brook Lopez's 12 against USC in 2007.
Stanford opened the Pac-12 season 5-1 last year before finishing 10-8. While the Cardinal is behind last year's pace, there's still plenty of time to get back into the race.
It just depends on consistency.
Nationally No. 2 Stanford travels for the first time this season when it takes on No. 8 USC and No. 4 Pepperdine in Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action this weekend.
Stanford (1-0 in the MPSF, 4-0 overall) is coming off a dramatic comeback victory over Pacific in an MPSF opener Saturday. The Cardinal fought off six match points after falling behind 14-11 in the fifth set, and rallied to victory, extending its home winning streak to nine.
Friday's Stanford-USC match marks the men's volleyball debut for the Pac-12 Networks. Stanford will appear four times this season and the Networks will air eight matches overall.
Stanford has stuggled in its MPSF road openers in recent years. Other than two victories over Pacific (in 2012 and 2009), Stanford has not won a conference road opener since 2002. The Cardinal is 0-7 in non-MPSF road openers in that span.
Stanford will have a quick turnaround this weekend, hosting Air Force on Friday at 6 p.m. and then traveling to Oregon State for a Pac-12 dual meet on Saturday.
The Cardinal completed its East Coast swing with a 24-14 loss at American on Sunday, falling to 4-10 overall this season.
Redshirt freshman Evan Silver upset a ranked opponent, but Stanford fell to Brown (16-15), No. 21 Maryland (27-12) and Harvard (28-9) on Saturday.
Silver won all three of his bouts at 125 pounds Saturday, including a 4-2 victory over No. 17 Shane Gentry of Maryland. He won his other matches by identical 3-2 scores.
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