Coming off a buzzer-beating loss is never easy for a team to do. It becomes incrementally harder when the nation's eyes are not focused on what's going on at your home arena, but rather on the football stadium next door. The Stanford Cardinal had both of these factors play into their mindset as they prepared for today's early afternoon game versus the Florida A&M Rattlers, their second game of four spanning a week's worth of contests as part of the Cancun Challenge. While the Cardinal weren't getting much love in the way of fans in the stands, Stanford paid close attention to the task at hand on the court as they overcame a sluggish start and ran away from the Rattlers midway through the first stanza, tallying a 99-69 victory at Maples Pavilion. Stanford moves to 2-2 on the season while Florida A&M falls to 0-4.
Stanford started the game off with a different lineup, inserting Jeremy Green for Drew Shiller and Jarrett Mann for Da'Veed Dildy, who was out of Stanford's last game with plantar fasciitis, but could not get off to a fast start against their opponents out of Tallahassee, Florida. In fact, after the first media timeout, it was hard to tell who had more to gain in this contest as the Rattlers opened up an early 7-3 lead with the help of some off-the-mark shooting by the Cardinal coupled with second chance opportunities of their own. Coming out of the break, though, Stanford seemed to come out of their autumn-induced slumber, ratcheting up the defense and getting 11 straight points, highlighted by a three-pointer from the left wing for Green. FAMU, though, was not fazed as they came back with an 8-0 run of their own, getting back the lead at 15-14 with just under 10 minutes left in the game.
The run continued after the break as Dale Hughes was left wide open from the left side for a three-pointer that hit the front rim, off the top of the backboard, and bounced on the rim twice before falling in for the Rattlers. A Drew Shiller long two-pointer stopped the bleeding and brought the Cardinal back to within a possession before Green got one to go down to knot the score up at 18. After a travelling call against Florida A&M, the defense lost Green who was left open on the right wing coming out of the baseline throw in. The shot was good, giving the Cardinal their own 7-0 spurt and a three-point lead heading into the second-to-last media timeout of the first half.
Stanford didn't let their foot off the gas pedal as the Rattlers were still missing contested shots while the Cardinal were making their open looks, scoring nine more in a row before making a three-pointer to stop the impressive streak at 16. Stanford would up the lead to 16, 39-23, with the help of senior walk-on Emmanuel Igbinosa's eight points, including two long balls during the run and lengthening of the advantage. Florida A&M would hit two shots in a row to cut the lead down to a dozen, but Stanford would not let them get any close, finishing the first half up 16, 47-31.
At the half, Stanford shot 47% from the field (after a very rough start of 5-18), including 39% from outside and 80% from the free throw line. Florida A&M finished the half at an 44% overall, made two of their four three-point attempts, but was just three-for-six from the charity stripe. The Cardinal held a 22-17 rebounding advantage and had 11 assists to just six turnovers. The Rattlers had 12 turnovers and passed around only six assists.
Stanford was led by Green's 11 points on 3-6 shooting, followed by Fields with 10 points and a team high nine rebounds. Larry Jackson led the way for Florida A&M, netting seven points for the visitors.
Any thoughts of a Florida A&M comeback were quickly thwarted by Stanford as the Cardinal started off the second 20 minutes of play making some long shots, specifically Green, who hit two three-pointers to help Stanford get out to a 24-point advantage, 60-36, at the first media timeout. Dildy, who did not start the game, but did see some quality minutes despite his foot problems, then hit a long ball of his own, followed by a lay-in to make the score 65-41 at the 13:42 mark.
Before the second media timeout of the second half, Shiller decided to get in on the action as he hit back-to-back threes to help keep the lead at a large advantage of the home team, 73-45, with 10:58 to go in the game. After the break, both teams traded shots with the lead never wavering enough to give Stanford any cause to concern. A three-point play by Fields with a nice drive down the baseline helped keep any possibility of a comeback by Florida A&M far away at bay. Mann continued to show his prowess on the floor midway through the second half, penetrating into the lane for layup opportunities, helping Stanford extend their lead to 34, 86-52, with 7:38 to go in the contest.
Stanford and Florida A&M played out the rest of the game, trading baskets as often as they changed players on the floor. The only questions left on the minds of most people at Maples Pavilion were whether or not Stanford could score 100 points and if the last two walk-ons off the bench, Peter Abraham and Chris Ebersole would see any time/make any shots. The Cardinal looked like a good bet for the former as they hit 88 on the scoreboard with 5:30 left in the game, but their offense slowly went south the rest of the contest. However, fans of the remaining players off the bench were in for a treat as both Abraham and Ebersole did come into the game with under three minutes remaining. In fact, Abraham put up the last made three-pointer of the afternoon, draining one from the left wing with no one in his face, while Ebersole tallied two assists, including one on the Abraham three, sending Cardinal fans happy with both the result and play of their team on the afternoon.
For the contest, Stanford's shot 51% from the floor (55% in the second half), including 41% from outside. The Cardinal also made 20 out of 23 (87%) from the free throw line. Florida A&M finished the game making 42% of their attempts overall, hitting 31% of their long balls, and shot 71% from the charity stripe. The Cardinal won the battle of the boards, outrebounding Florida A&M 40-32 (9-6 on the offensive end). The Cardinal and Rattlers nearly had mirror images when it came to assist-to-turnover ratios as Stanford dished out 21 assists to Florida A&M's 13 and turned the ball over 14 times to FAMU's final tally of 21.
Stanford had six players in double-digits, led by Green's 21 points on 6-10 shooting. He was followed by Shiller and Fields who scored 15 each, the latter getting a double-double with 11 rebounds, along with six assists and zero turnovers. Florida A&M was led by Yannick Crowder who scored 14 points. Crowder was the only player who scored more than eight points for the Rattlers.
After the contest, the players and head coach Johnny Dawkins spoke well of their opponents, saying they "came in and competed," but that "our guys responded" to the challenge. They (Dawkins, Shiller, and Green) also spoke of the growing chemistry that is happening, including great leadership from Fields.
Stanford continues their play in the Cancun Challenge, heading to Mexico to
take on the Virginia Cavaliers, led by former Washington State Cougars head
coach Tony Bennett, at 4:00pm on Tuesday afternoon.
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