While the football team drew the hype—and the crowds—over the weekend, the Stanford men’s basketball team tipped off its season in style with a 91-52 blowout victory over Central Arkansas on Friday night in Maples Pavilion.
Sophomore point guard Aaron Bright had a game-high 16 points, making him one of five Cardinal players in double figures as Stanford (1-0) looked solid on both sides of the floor after some initial shakiness on the offensive end early on. Central Arkansas (0-1) had a very tough season a year ago—finishing 5-24 overall and winning one league game in the Southland Conference—and it was a little tough to gauge how well Stanford will match up against some of the better competition it will see this year.
But the Cardinal certainly had stretches on offense that showed signs of real promise for the year.
As hard as it was for the Bears to find their shooting touch all night long, it was three times harder for the Cardinal to miss, at least by the end of the half. While Stanford came out looking a bit nervous and firing up numerous bricks, the team found its groove six or seven minutes after the opening tip.
And thanks to that torrid stretch to close out the final 12 minutes of the period—the only missed shots came on a last-second three-point shot by freshman guard Chasson Randle, a botched layup by Bright and a long jump shot from junior guard Gabe Harris—Stanford finished the first half shooting a robust 17-for-30 from the field.
Many of those points came on easy layups, and it looked like head coach Johnny Dawkins had his players much more active in the lane compared to last year, when stationary one-on-one isolations were very common.
It definitely helped that Stanford’s shooters were making jump shots to stretch the defense—sophomore forward Anthony Brown went 6-for-11 from the field, and Bright hit five of his eight three-point attempts.
The highly touted Randle performed well in his collegiate debut—the 2010 Illinois Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year scored 15 points on 4-for-9 shooting, pulled down six rebounds and dished out four assists while playing a game-high 28 minutes.
There were, however, also some glaring holes in the Cardinal’s all-around game. Without Bright, the rest of the team went just 1-for-9 from behind the arc, and the team’s free-throw shooting was, on the whole, abysmal. Stanford needed a second-half surge to push its free-throw percentage barely past its field-goal percentage—57.9 percent from the stripe and 54.2 percent on field goals.
But even without sophomore forward Dwight Powell, who sprained his ankle in practice on Wednesday, the interior defense was an improvement over last season. The Cardinal also owned the glass all night long—Stanford won the battle on the boards 49-29 with four players grabbing six rebounds apiece.
Tonight, the Card takes on Fresno State (1-0) looking to prove that it is on track to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008. The matchup televised on ESPNU as part of the Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off will be a better measuring stick for Stanford, if only because the Bulldogs will play four other Pac-12 opponents in the preseason.
Tip-off from Maples Pavilion is set for 8 p.m. tonight.