The shots for the Cardinal would not fall early, and even with a rash of offensive rebounds to boot, the Card mustered just four field goals for nine points in the first six minutes of the game. Rice trailed in the early going, but passed the ball patiently to find open pockets in the middle of the Stanford defense. A transition bucket gave the Owls there first lead of the night at 11-9, but Stanford charged back. A driving Julius Barnes laid the ball off the glass to tie the game at 11.
Early substitutions included Nick Robinson for Josh Childress, who picked up his second foul before the first TV timeout, and Joe Kirchofer for Rob Little. It was Kirchofer who used his signature hook shot at the edge of the key to break the tie, and then the scoring heated up. Matt Lottich unleashed two quick three-point bombs (giving him three treys in the first ten minutes of the game) to push the Cardinal's tally to 19, but the Owls became more aggressive in their penetration and shot selection, pulling the score to 19-18 at the 9:34 mark for the game's second TV timeout.
Said Lottich after the game of the open looks he saw for his three-point shots, "Early on, they went to a zone and really packed it in. They must have scouted the Boston game and gave us open looks."
Both teams at that point gave their starters some rest, including Stanford's substitution of all three freshmen in to the game. Only Julius Barnes continued as a Stanford starter on the floor, and he moved to the shooting guard position while Jason Haas manned the point. Barnes not only assumed Lottich's spot on the floor, he also assumed his role in the offense, quickly hitting three three-pointers to provide another lift to the Stanford offense. But the Owls brought reserve guard Brock Gillespie in the game, a poor man's Dan Dickau, and he added a spark, with flashy ballhandling, passing and shooting. The game stood tied at 28 until Joe Kirchofer drew a foul on a defensive rebound, the seventh Rice foul of the half. He took a trip to the free throw line, where he hit one of two shots, but then received a second chance to rewrite his miss on a lane violation. He hit the stroke, giving Stanford a 30-28 lead.
The next defensive possession saw the Cardinal's best intensity of the first half, trapping the ball on the perimeter and stymieing the Rice motion offense. That effort produced a shot clock violation, and drew a huge cheering lift from the Maples crowd. But the visitors would come back and continue their aggressive attack of the Stanford defense. The Card dropped into their 1-1-3 zone late in the half, but Rice still managed shots and took a late 39-38 lead before a late Childress lay-up pushed Stanford back on top to a 40-39 margin at the half.
At halftime, Montgomery challenged his senior guard to continue the ball movement that had enabled the big first half three's from Barnes and Lottich. Montgomery recounted later, "I told him: 'Julius, you have to pass the ball and make others better.' He's got to have confidence in his teammates and not dribble the ball so much." It would pay off in spades, with Stanford whipping the ball around the perimeter with great precision and purpose, yielding 13 assists for the 15 second half baskets. For the game, Stanford recorded 21 assists for 27 baskets, which brought Montgomery great joy.
"In the second half, they moved the ball a whole lot better, which gave us our shots," beamed the Stanford coach. "I think Julius genuinely knows that he wants to do the right thing, though he doesn't always know what that is."
Barnes also noted the success of that push in the second half, and gave a prediction for the direction this offense will take. "Coach got on me at halftime to not dribble so much. We got the ball moving and had some wide-open shots. We learned a lot from that half, swinging the ball around and getting great shots. I think you'll see a lot more of that from us in upcoming games," he opined.
The second half opened up nip and tuck, with the two teams trading leads eight times to the 15-minute mark. But then the Cardinal three-pointing machine hit another gear, with Julius Barnes and Matt Lottich taking turns blistering the twine from the outside. Both started out hot with a trio each of treys in the first half (leading Stanford scoring with 13 and 11 points, respectively). Lottich broke the game back in Stanford's favor, erasing Rice's last lead of the game, with a spot-up jumper from outside at the 13:33 mark. Two possessions later, Rob Little blocked a shot in the paint, which was rebounded by Josh Childress. The outlet found its way to Barnes, who put up a dagger that extended the Stanford lead to five. By the 7-minute mark, Barnes had hit four second-half threes and Lottich had drained three, pushing a tight game to a 17-point lead. Stanford also started winning the rebounding war, including back-to-back Josh Childress one-handed defensive boards to initiate Stanford breaks. Barnes would chip in one more trey before the end of the night, bringing his game total to 8-for-11 from behind the arc (tying a Stanford record for three-pointers made in a game). Add to that Lottich's 6-for-10 shooting from three-point land, and you get the total 14 three's hit by Stanford on the night. No other Cardinal sunk a shot from that distance, with Josh Childress, Nick Robinson and Dan Grunfeld combining on six missed shots.
With that second half sharpshooting, Rice was literally bombed out of the gym, never recovering and never making any serious late run. After the Owls hit at the top of their game with 50% shooting from outside the arc in the opening half, they could hit just 11% in the second stanza on 1-for-9 shooting. Missed Owl shots were seldom reclaimed, with Stanford picking up 15 defensive boards to Rice's five offensive grabs in the half. The momentum had clearly swung to the Cardinal.
With Barnes hitting for 28 points and Lottich hitting for 22, both career highs, this was a very unbalanced scoring night for the Cardinal. The next two highest scoring teammates were Rob Little (8) and Justin Davis (6). The ball certainly spent much of the game on the perimeter, not working the inside game, though Davis had a lot of touches deep in the paint that he just could not convert. It was unfortunately shades of his problems last year, where he would get great position and a good look at the basket, but the ball would too often miss the iron or bounce out off the glass. Though his 3-for-10 shooting is disappointing, Davis worked the glass hard for nine rebounds. Little did a good job converting his few touches low in the paint, hitting 4-for-5 and all four of his mak