Tonight the Cardinal was looking to maintain one streak while breaking another. In beating Irvine 84-57, the Cardinal won their 22nd in a row over a Big West foe, while snapping their own two game losing streak. Irvine looked like trouble for the Card: they had beaten Pepperdine, winners of the Stanford Invite, and looked balanced and deep. That, however, was before the tip off.
Stanford went on an early 10-4 run to turn a four-point lead into a ten point advantage at the next timeout. The run was keyed by eight points from Julius Barnes who finished the game with 24 points on 9-13 shooting, including 4-6 from behind the arc. He was especially unstoppable in the first half when he put up 17 points on 7-8 shooting. That kind of touch was contagious, as Stanford finished the half shooting a scorching 71% from the field, for a sixteen point halftime advantage.
Just as importantly, Stanford picked up the defensive intensity which had been so sorely lacking during the losses to Montana and Richmond. The Card came out aggressively in their traditional man-to-man holding Irvine to 31% from the field in the first half, while forcing 11 turnovers. Before the game, the Stanford coaches emphasized that each player had to take pride in their effort and in stopping their man. The players listened.
The second half was all Stanford as the Card extended their 16 point halftime lead to 30 in just three and half furious minutes. This time it was a barrage of threes from Barnes, Josh Childress and Matt Lottich on the outside and the same stifling defense from the first half. With sixteen minutes to go, the game was over, and Stanford finally had a laugher on their hands.
Dan Grunfeld chipped in a career high twelve points, all in the second half, to finish second to Julius Barnes on the team. Childress and Rob Little both had eleven points, while the former added ten boards and four assists.
There was significant NBA presence in the arena tonight. Curtis Borchardt was took a break from rehabbing his foot to watch his good friend Julius Barnes have one of his best games of the season. Mike Dunleavy, formerly of Dook and currently of the Warriors came out to watch his good friend Dan Grunfeld.