Anthony Brown overslept on Saturday morning. The Stanford Cardinal sleepwalked through much of Saturday afternoon. But the rusty Card woke up in time to knock off a pesky opponent.
After taking nearly two weeks off for finals, Stanford knocked off Denver, 49-43. The Cardinal (5-2) were led by 17 points from Brown, ten points and four blocks from Stefan Nastic, and a gutty defensive effort.
The Card’s win over the Pioneers (4-5) was no beauty pageant. Both teams suffered critical turnovers. Both teams missed point-blank shots. The Pioneers had the lead for the game’s first 32 minutes.
But midway through the second half, Anthony Brown helped lead Stanford’s awakening. His steal and slam cut Denver’s lead to 31-29. More importantly, it jolted the Cardinal and woke up Maples Pavilion. After Robert Cartwright’s three put Stanford ahead for the first time, 34-33 with 8:15 left, Brown struck with another steal and layup.
“If I have to get steals, be more aggressive, gamble a little bit more, that’s what I’ve got to do,” Brown said after the game. “I wasn’t going to let us lose this game. There was no way, not after the last game we played.” Brown’s assertive style paid off, as he added four steals and six rebounds to his point total.
After Brown’s second steal, Denver responded with two three-pointers, and the Pioneers held a 39-36 lead. But Chasson Randle was fouled while his runner fell through, and he converted the three-point play to give Stanford a 40-39 lead with 3:28 left. The Card never trailed again.
Brown’s steals punctuated a stellar defensive performance that forced eleven Pioneer turnovers. “That’s one of the best defensive efforts we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins beamed afterwards. “We’ve always talked about being a program that embraces doing it on the defensive end, because defense is how you win big. Our guys embraced it tonight.”
It didn’t start that way. The Pioneers hit five of their first six shots en route to a 13-2 lead. Stanford looked like a team that was playing its first game in 13 days. “In the first five minutes, the energy was really low,” Brown admitted.
Dawkins noticed the rust right away. “When you don’t play for two straight weeks, there is no way you can simulate that in practice,” he said. “And then when you have your guys going through finals and preparation for finals and study groups, not to make any excuses for them, but you get a little out of sync. You get out of rhythm.”
The Card fought back to tie the game at 15 apiece, but Denver closed the half with a flourish, taking a 25-17 lead into the locker room. The Pioneers’ 27-19 lead was their largest of the second half before the Cardinal finally made their move.
Brown finished the day as Stanford’s leading scorer. But he didn’t start the game because he started the day as the Cardinal’s missing man. “I had my alarm set for 8 p.m. instead of 8 a.m.,” Brown confessed. “They called me and I woke up at nine. I got to the gym and Coach told me, ‘we have a policy here, so you’re not going to start.’ I was fine with that.”
Even though rules are rules, Dawkins was fine with it, too. “He’s a fifth-year senior with us, and that’s the first time he’s been late for anything,” Dawkins said. “It was very difficult for me as a coach because you have policies in place that you want to implement. That’s tough. [But] we’re all human beings. I’ve been very proud of him for being very professional.”
Chasson Randle showed up to Maples on time, but missed his first eight shots and didn’t score in the game’s first 23 minutes. He finished with nine points, but shot 2-of-14 from the floor. Marcus Allen started in Brown’s place. As a team, Stanford shot just 32%, and they had more turnovers (7) than assists (6).
Stanford’s next challenge comes Wednesday night, when Loyola Marymount visits Maples for a 6 p.m. tipoff. Lions are known for napping, but the Cardinal hope to be wide awake for all 40 minutes.********** ********** **********
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