Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins made a bold change to his starting lineup against UCLA on Saturday, going with a one-guard alignment, but it could not disguise what has been the Cardinal's problem all season: It can't shoot.
Stanford shot just 34.4 percent from the floor in a 68-60 loss to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, two days after shooting 39 percent in a 71-69 loss to USC on Thursday.
As a result, the Cardinal is 9-6 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12, but things should get better next week when Stanford plays home games against Washington State on Wednesday and Washington on Saturday.
What Stanford's starting lineup will look like for those games is a major question at this point, though.
Against UCLA, Andy Brown and John Gage made their first starts of the season, mainly because they were the only Cardinal players who made shots consistently against USC on Thursday. It left Stanford with an odd lineup of three forwards - Brown, Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis - along with one center - Gage - and just one guard - Chasson Randle. And Dawkins stayed with that one-guard lineup for much of the first half, substituting Aaron Bright for Randle. So while many teams are going with three-guard and four-guard lineups these days, Dawkins went the other way.
Randle bounced back from his 0-for-6 game against USC on Thursday, when he went scoreless for the first time in his career, by scoring 17 points against the Bruins (12-3, 2-0). But Randle hardly looks like the confident player he was a year ago. He was just 7-for-19 from the field, and missed four uncontested point-blank layups. Missing one such layup can happen to anyone, and two represents a bad day. But four such misses is symbolic of a player who has lost his confidence. The fact that he was just 1-for-4 on free throws, including misses on the front end of two one-and-one situations late in the game when the Cardinal was trying to make a comeback, brought further attention to his shooting troubles.
Randle is a good player, perhaps the best player on the team, and he continues to be aggressive. He scored 13 of his 17 points in the final 5:10, helping him avoid another disastrous offensive outing and helping the Cardinal cut a deficit that had been 15 points with six minutes to go down to five with 48 seconds remaining.
At some point, you would assume he would regain his shooting touch and confidence. The same is probably true for Bright, who was 1-for-4 from the field Saturday and scored just three points. He too has struggled with his shot this season.
Perhaps a bigger concern is that Bright and Randle combined for just one assist -- none by Randle -- even though each was the only guard on the court for much of the game.
Dwight Powell had a productive game with 17 points and 13 rebounds, but Brown was unable to match his career-high 17 points of Thursday, scoring just two points on 1-for-8 shooting against UCLA,
UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad scored a game-high 23 points, including 17 after halftime and seven in the first four minutes of the second half when the Bruins took a 10-point lead. After beating Cal on Thursday, the Bruins may be close to moving back into the top 25 next week.