With six minutes left in the second half, Robert Cartwright lobbed an entry pass for Stefan Nastic underneath the basket. One problem: the pass was too high. But, no problem: it went in. Three points for Stanford. Just like they drew it up.
It was that kind of night for Stanford, where just about anything they threw up seemed to go in. The Cardinal rode a nearly-flawless first-half offensive performance to an 89-70 victory over Arizona State.
Stanford (14-5, 5-2 Pac-12) got back in the win column, salvaging a split against the Arizona schools. Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown scored 21 points each. Nastic chipped in with 20 points, and Marcus Allen sparked the Cardinal with six assists and six rebounds. The Sun Devils (10-10, 2-5) ran out of gas early and could not come away with their third straight win.
“After that tough loss on Thursday, we seniors made sure that we wanted to set the tone early,” Brown said after the game. “We wanted to be aggressive. Guys were making assists. It was a team effort.”
Stanford was aggressive from the start, especially on offense, but the first half was still a mixed bag for the Cardinal. The good news: they hit 19 of 27 shots from the floor, a whopping 70% clip. The meh news: six of their missed field goals were from point-blank range (four from Nastic alone). The not-so-good news: Arizona State hit eight three-pointers before halftime and took advantage of Stanford’s occasional defensive lapses.
The result was a teeter-totter first half. Arizona State erased a 17-10 hole by going on an 8-0 run themselves. Stanford answered by scoring the game’s next seven points, then the Sun Devils fought to tie it at 24.
But with less than five minutes to go and the score tied at 37, Stanford finally got separation. Brown hit a three, Randle’s dunk converted a steal by Marcus Allen, then Randle drove to the cup again for two more. Five straight points by Nastic, and a layup by Rosco Allen completed the half. The Card’s 14-4 run resulted in a 51-41 halftime lead.
Two nights after holding Cal to 13 first-half points (and 44 for the entire game), the Sun Devils were dissected by the Cardinal. With 2:14 left in the half, Chasson Randle uncorked a questionable three-pointer that missed. As it turned out, that was the only bad shot the Cardinal took the entire first half. The rest were point-blank layups and open jumpers.
But while the Card offense was the talk of halftime, Dawkins was far more concerned about his team’s defense. “We couldn’t continue to play that way,” he admitted after the game. “What we needed to do was to focus on what we hang our hat on, and that’s defending. We didn’t want to try to outscore them, we wanted to try to defend them, because you never know if you’re going to shoot like that again.”
With that renewed focus, the Cardinal were never threatened in the second half, stretching their lead to 23 points. The Sun Devils spent much of the second half missing layups and turning over the ball. They also did not make a single three-pointer after halftime.
Saturday’s game tipped off at 9:10 p.m. Pacific time, giving Maples Pavilion a slumber party-type vibe to the 4,009 fans that came through the gates. Forty minutes before tipoff, a man stretched across the top row of Maples, sleeping. To complete the slumber party vibe, there was even a group of kids who spent the game’s waning minutes running amok unsupervised in section 13.
While the late tip seemed strange, Johnny Dawkins was non-plussed. “I like a 9 p.m. tipoff when we win them,” he laughed. “It doesn’t bother me. They give you the time to play, and your job is to have them prepared. In some ways, after having a head-fought game against Arizona, having a few extra hours was good for our team.”
Stanford hustled on the defensive boards, grabbing 30 to Arizona State’s 18. They also dished 21 assists on 31 made shots. “We had a lot of assists today,” Anthony Brown noted. “We made a lot of connecting plays. Guys were just making shots.”
Brown’s high level of play continued against the Sun Devils. He has scored at least 18 points in his last six games, and is averaging over eight rebounds per game during that span.
“I’m getting more and more confident each game,” said Brown. “Coach always says, ‘it’s your last year, so have no regrets and let it fly.’ He’s given me a lot of confidence to do what I can do.”
With the homestand complete, Stanford goes on the road again to face Washington (14-4, 3-3 Pac-12; RPI #47) in Seattle on Wednesday night. After beating the Huskies in overtime on January 4, the Card will try for a regular season sweep. Thanks to Andrew Andrews’ jumper with one second left, the Huskies are coming off a Husky victory over Colorado on Thursday night. Washington meets Utah in Salt Lake City on Sunday.
Stanford may have some reinforcements on its front line coming soon. When asked for the latest on Reid Travis (thigh), Dawkins revealed, “if everything goes well, I’m anticipating he’ll have a chance to go on that trip with us and play. I can’t say for sure, because he has to keep progressing. But there’s a chance that he could be with us playing on the Washington trip.”********** ********** **********
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