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M. Basketball: Card must avoid letdown before Madison Square Garden

(IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

Fresh off a big win over Colorado State at Maples Pavilion earlier this week, the Stanford men’s basketball team is back on the hardwood tonight, heading just up the road to take on UC-Davis in a non-league game.

The Cardinal (3-0) is riding high after sweeping the first two games of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Tuesday night’s 64-52 win over the Rams earned Stanford a trip to New York City for next week’s semifinal round of the Tip-Off–and a nationally televised game at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday against Oklahoma State.

Junior guard Gabriel Harris gave the Card a boost against Colorado State with a 60-foot halftime buzzer-beater, and Stanford overcame an early deficit to pull away in the second half thanks to the same improved outside shooting that gave it the victories against Central Arkansas and Fresno State to open the season.

Although Stanford shot just 43 percent for the game, the team cashed in on several open jump shots that last year never seemed to drop.

Harris finished with 12 points, three back of redshirt senior forward Josh Owens for the team high. And sophomore guard Aaron Bright continued his impressive start to the season with 12 points, his third straight double-digit scoring night.

It will be important for Stanford not to overlook the Aggies (1-3) after the emotional uplift of the win over Colorado State. While Davis’ record hasn’t been all that impressive in the early going, all three losses were very good games–including a one-point loss to Southern Utah and a game against San Diego State in which the Aggies held the Aztecs scoreless for the opening three minutes.

And if the Aggies’ Josh Ritchart heats up from the outside, watch out. Last year’s Big West Co-Freshman of the Year likes to line it up from behind the arc, and at 6-foot-9 he has the extension to shoot over smaller guards. As a team, Davis is also shooting 36 percent from behind the arc, with some good guard play on the whole.

But they can still do some damage down low, if they have to. Harrison Dupont made his season debut for the Aggs in their win over UC-Santa Cruz, scoring 15 points with five boards in just 15 minutes. Dupont was a McDonald’s All-American in high school, but sat out last season after transferring from the Citadel to play for Davis.

It will be up to Owens, along with sophomores Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, to neutralize Ritchart and the Aggies’ wing play with their length and athleticism. Powell is coming off an ankle sprain from last week, playing only sparingly against the Rams, but Huestis has really shined as a force on the glass.

Freshman guard Chasson Randle has also looked good early on, but Stanford is still searching for the man to run the offense, as Bright appears to be more of a spot-up shooter than a true distributor, and Randle is most effective as a slashing combo guard.

Tonight’s matchup should serve to be a good time to tune things up for the offense before it heads to MSG next week, as the defense has looked relatively strong so far this season, albeit against some suspect offenses. Tip-off from the Pavilion is slated for 7 p.m.

About Miles Bennett-Smith

Miles Bennett-Smith is Chief Operating Officer at The Daily. An avid sports fan from Penryn, Calif., Miles graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in American Studies. He has previously served as the Editor in Chief and President at The Daily. He has also worked as a reporter for The Sacramento Bee. Email him at eic@stanforddaily.com