Opponent Preview: Stanford

Stanford has picked the right time of the season to begin playing its best basketball. The Cardinal beat Massachusetts 74-64 on Tuesday in Madison Square Garden to advance to the NIT final. Stanford (25-11) will play Minnesota (23-14) on Thursday for the championship.

The team-effort approach that has worked for the Cardinal continued in New York, as sophomore Anthony Brown's season-best 18 points were a team high. Senior forward Josh Owens added 15 points and 12 rebounds, the latter matching his career best.

Massachusetts (25-12) got 19 points from sophomore guard Chaz Williams, below the 22.7 points he had been producing during the tournament. Stanford limited him to 7-for-18 shooting.

The Cardinal also clamped down on the Minutemen's second-leading scorer, Raphiael Putney. The sophomore forward shot 3-for-11 from the floor and scored eight points.

Overall, Massachusetts shot just 33.8 percent (23-for-68), and just 22.7 percent (5-for-22) from 3-point range.

The Cardinal didn't sizzle the nets either, shooting 36.9 percent (24-for-65) overall and 31.3 percent (5-for-16) on 3-pointers.

Stanford now has a chance to duplicate the NIT crown it won in 1991.

The Cardinal's guards are shooting as they have no other time all season.

"It's special to still be playing basketball right now. A lot of teams, their season's done," Owens said prior to the trip to New York.

"We want to be champions," coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We want to be able to put a banner up in Maples."

That could happen if the Cardinal continues to play the way it did in home victories over Illinois State and Nevada. The Cardinal shot a combined 20-for-34 (58.8 percent) from the 3-point arc in those two games.

Sophomore Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle combined to score 99 points through the club's first three NIT games.

NOTES, QUOTES

--In the NIT quarterfinals, playing before 3,020 fans (many of them cheering for Nevada), the Cardinal set a school record with its 17th home victory. Its overall win total is the program's highest in four years.

--Stanford joins Notre Dame (1999-2000), Syracuse (2001-02) and Ohio State (2007-08) as the only teams to play in the preseason and postseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinal beat Oklahoma State and lost to then-No. 5 Syracuse in November in the World's Most Famous Arena.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is the most important time of the year. It's all about what you do in March. Nobody wants their season to end right now." -- Stanford sophomore F Josh Huestis.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

SCOUTING REPORT: The Cardinal is big and deep. Size is always an advantage, but the roster numbers have sometimes posed an unusual problem. Coach Johnny Dawkins doesn't always seem to know which of his players are ready to go. He has used 14 different starting lineups, trying to find combinations that work well together, and trying to reward those players who are performing. Consistency has not been the Cardinal's strong suit. Certainly G Chasson Randle, named to the Pac-12 all-freshman team, has been excellent. Senior PF Josh Owens has been solid most of the season, although his performance has tailed off a bit recently. Sophomores Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown, two of the team's most gifted players, have battled nagging injuries and have rarely developed consistency. Sophomore Aaron Bright no longer is a full-time starter, but he provides a lift at either guard spot.

REGULAR SEASON REVIEW: For much of the early portion of the season, Stanford owned one of the Pac-12's most impressive performances -- and it was a defeat. The Cardinal lost 69-63 to Syracuse, a narrow defeat that grew in value as the Orange continued to win. The problem was Stanford had no notable victories to go with a high-profile defeat. Once in the Pac-12, the Cardinal opened 5-1 and shared first place before losing three in a row to fall into the middle of the pack. Stanford beat Cal on the final day of the regular season to deny the Bears a share of the Pac-10 title, but it had not won more than two games in a row since December before winning three in a row in the NIT to reach the semifinals.

ROSTER REPORT:

--Sophomore G Aaron Bright scored a career-high 29 points in the Cardinal's 92-88 overtime win over Illinois State in the second-round NIT game. He is averaging 17.3 points off the bench through four NIT games.

--Freshman G Chasson Randle had 15 points in the NIT quarterfinal win over Nevada after scoring 19, including the go-ahead 3-pointer in overtime, vs. Illinois State. He is averaging 13.8 points in the NIT heading to the final.

--Sophomore F Dwight Powell scored a season-high 18 points against Illinois State. He was shooting 77.8 percent (14-for-18) from the floor in the NIT through the quarterfinals, but he went 1-for-5 and scored six points against Massachusetts.

--Senior PF Josh Owens had his third 15-point performance of the NIT during the Cardinal's semifinal win over UMass. He added a game-high 12 rebounds, tying his career high.


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