Stanford is used to the postseason. UC Davis is not. When both teams met on Tuesday night, it showed.
In front of an intimate gathering of 1,436 at Maples Pavilion, Stanford’s second-half surge led to a 77-64 victory over UC Davis in the opening round of the NIT. The Cardinal began its fourth straight postseason tournament by ending the Aggies’ first postseason trip of any kind in 15 years.
“When you’re disappointed that you didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, you can go one of two ways,” Cardinal head coach Johnny Dawkins said afterwards. “You can either say, ‘I’m ready for the season to be over,’ or you can say, ‘you know what? We still have something to play for.’ Our guys are excited that we still had a chance to play in the NIT. Our kids want to play. They want to win.”
Stanford (20-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #58) won largely behind the efforts of Marcus Allen, who slashed his way to a team- and career-high 22 points. Chasson Randle scored 18 points. Reid Travis added a double-double, scoring ten points and grabbing ten rebounds. UC Davis (25-7, 14-2 Big West; RPI #75) got 34 points from Corey Hawkins, but little else from anyone else when it mattered.
Stanford was not a one-man show, but no Cardinal player stood out more than Marcus Allen, who hit ten of twelve shots on the night. “They spaced the floor more for me, and I was able to find lanes,” Marcus Allen said of his performance. “When they kicked it out, I was ready to shoot. I think my teammates put me in great positions to score tonight.”
Marcus Allen helped Stanford take control for good in the second half, personally turning a one-point halftime lead into an eight-point Cardinal advantage with two driving layups and a three-pointer. Minutes later with the Card ahead 49-42, Stanford put together another run. Brown scored on a drive and a putback, Reid Travis got a cleanup bucket, and Marcus Allen laid one in after getting the steal on defense.
That sequence put the Cardinal ahead, 57-42 with 11:57 left. The Aggies never seriously threatened from there, as different Cardinal players repeatedly took turns killing the Aggies with drives to the hoop. Meanwhile, UC Davis, so deadly from three-point range, made just four of 12 from beyond the arc after halftime, and 38% for the game.
Dawkins was pleased with what he saw from Marcus Allen. “I’m happy to see his development,” the coach said afterwards. “He’s a weapon. He’s a capable three-point shooter, so you can’t just leave him out there. That sets up his ability to drive. I see a young man who is gaining confidence.”
The game started with the Aggies missing shots and Marcus Allen weaving through wide-open lanes in the Aggie defense for layups. Stanford led, 27-15 with 7:26 left. But midway through the first half, Stefan Nastic picked up his second foul and headed to the bench until halftime. Simultaneously, the game turned into The Corey Hawkins Show. The Big West Player of the Year exploded with an impressive array of drives, spinners, and layups.
UC Davis – which led the nation in three-point shooting – had missed its first five treys against Stanford. Hawkins ended that trend by hitting back-to-back three-pointers. His second trey capped a run of 14 straight points. He ended up with 21 points by halftime.
The Aggies eventually tied the game at 30, but never led in the first half. Rosco Allen’s three-pointer saw to that, and Stanford held a 37-36 advantage at the half.
“I wouldn’t say we were worried. We had a little slip in energy towards the end [of the half],” Marcus Allen said of the team's mood at the half. “The main emphasis when we came in the locker room was to come out with more energy, and to get out and run more transition. I think those two main things helped us get the lead out to where we wanted it to be.”
Many in attendance wore the blue and gold of the Aggies. No one in attendance sat in any of the upper sections, which were roped off to all. With Finals Week in full swing on campus, a sparse Sixth Man Club offered the best support that it could, but were often drowned out by the UC Davis fans and band.
With the win, Stanford faces No. 3-seed Rhode Island (23-9, 13-5 Atlantic-10; RPI #66) in the NIT’s second. Earlier on Tuesday night, the Rams knocked off No. 6-seed Iona, 88-75. The site, time, and date are to be announced on Wednesday.********** ********** **********
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