Entering Sunday night at Maples Pavilion, Stanford had won all three of its previous games against Rhode Island by a combined total of five points.
In the fourth meeting, there was no such drama. Behind a virtuoso effort from Chasson Randle and a bevy of whistles against the Rams, the Cardinal ran away from Rhode Island in the second half for the 74-65 win. For Stanford (21-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59), the second-round win now means a date with Vanderbilt in the NIT quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Chasson Randle finished with 35 points, a career-high. Anthony Brown recovered from oh-for-six shooting from the floor in the first half to finish with 16 points. The Cardinal shot just 34% from the floor, but Rhode Island (23-10, 13-5 Atlantic 10; RPI #66) was whistled for a whopping 35 fouls. As a result, Stanford shot 49 mind-boggling free throws.
“It’s not always going to be pretty,” Stanford center Stefan Nastic told the Cardinal Sports Network afterwards. “You just have to find a way. You just have to keep playing to the best of your ability and play hard together.”
The Cardinal worked out to a 13-point lead with 2:31 left in the first half, but a 9-0 run by the Rams whittled it down to a 31-27 Stanford lead at the break. Rhode Island kept in striking distance in the first few minutes of the second half, but never took the lead.
Chasson Randle helped see to that personally, hitting a three-pointer to give Stanford a 39-35 lead, and driving for a layup two minutes later. Then Marcus Allen went to work, hitting three free throws, then converting a layup to put Stanford ahead, 56-46. For Rhode Island, the angle only got steeper from there.
Nastic, who pulled down 11 rebounds, was glad to see Randle assume a starring role again. “It definitely puts pressure on a defense,” Nastic explained. “It helps me for offensive rebounds, and it gets the opposing team’s foul count up. Chasson has a great mentality. It’s something we all need to have.”
In front of an announced crowd of 1,235 at Maples Pavilion, Stanford did not have its best shooting night from the floor. The Card made just two of 13 from beyond the arc. But the missed shots did not deter Stanford from trying to execute its game plan.
“Coach never mentioned anything about us missing shots, surprisingly,” Nastic said. “He just kept saying that he believed in us as individual players, and he continued to run plays for us. We’re the type of team where if we’re missing shots, we just have to keep being aggressive and giving good effort on the defensive end.”
With the win, Stanford is one win closer to Madison Square Garden. On Tuesday, the Card will host Vanderbilt (21-13, 9-9 SEC; RPI #104) for the right to head to New York. This will be the Commodores’ second trip to the Bay Area in a week, as their NIT run began with a 75-64 win at St. Mary’s. In the second round, Vanderbilt knocked out South Dakota State, 92-77.********** ********** **********
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