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M. Basketball: Cardinal squeezes by feisty Beavers

 

The Stanford men’s basketball team’s last meeting with Oregon State was filled with drama—a four-overtime thriller in which the Cardinal barely prevailed. The Beavers stuck with Stanford again Thursday night, but a strong second half helped the Cardinal pull away and secure an 87-82 victory.

 

The 87 points was the Cardinal’s third-highest output of the season, only surpassed by its last matchup with Oregon State (15-11, 5-9 Pac-12) and season opener against Central Arkansas. The shooting woes that Stanford (18-8, 8-6) has faced of late seemingly vanished, as the Cardinal shot 52.9 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from behind the arc.

Sophomore Aaron Bright (above) had one of his best games of the season by scoring 20 points to help the Cardinal narrowly defeat Oregon State 87-82 in Corvallis. (IAN GARCIA-DOTY/The Stanford Daily)

 

The Cardinal stormed to an early lead behind the hot hand of freshman guard Chasson Randle, who hit two three-pointers in the first three minutes as the Cardinal took a 8-2 lead. The Beavers kept themselves in it, however, behind guard Roberto Nelson. The sophomore scored 15 of his 19 points in the last 12 minutes of the first half, giving Oregon State a 41-40 lead at the break.

 

The teams remained close to start the second half, but Stanford began to pull away behind the strong play of sophomore guard Aaron Bright. With the teams deadlocked at 45, Bright assisted a three by sophomore forward John Gage to give the Cardinal a lead it would not relinquish for the rest of the game. He then added two additional three-pointers and assisted an Anthony Brown jumper to put the Cardinal up 56-47.

 

In his second game coming off the bench, Bright had one of his best games of the season. The sophomore scored 20 points and added seven assists and two steals.

 

The Beavers refused to go away, however, and cut the lead to three before Randle took over again. The freshman hit two threes to halt any momentum the Beavers gained, despite being consistently swarmed by the Oregon State defense.

 

Randle had a third straight exceptional game, with 24 points and 5 assists. His point total was a career-high, breaking his record of 20, which was set against Oregon State. The freshman is averaging 18.7 points over his last three contests, while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and an unbelievable 76.4 percent from three-point range. He hit six of seven threes against the Beavers, despite being contested on almost all of them.

 

“I’m very happy we won and glad the shots went down,” Randle said afterward. “Honestly, all that matters is that we won the game.”

 

Oregon State still kept themselves in the game, however, with a combination of tough defense and incredible play on the offensive end. Threes by Nelson and 6-foot-10 junior center Angus Brandt cut the Stanford lead to just three with 15 seconds left. Two subsequent free throws by Brown managed to ice the game for the Cardinal, giving the sophomore 11 points for the night.

 

Throughout the game, the Cardinal demonstrated the form that had it cruising to the top of the Pac-12 standings earlier this year. Stanford again dominated the boards, with 33 rebounds to Oregon State’s 24. The offensive rebound differential was just as striking, with a 10-4 Cardinal advantage.

 

The quality win wasn’t perfect, however, as the Cardinal struggled taking care of the ball, committing 18 turnovers. While the program definitely has a bright future with all its young talent, the inexperience of the squad was evident at times. The team made up for it with tremendous play on the offensive end and its typical strong defense.

 

Currently two and a half games back from conference leaders California and Washington, Stanford hopes to continue its strong play on Saturday against Oregon. The Ducks sit right above the Cardinal in the standings, and a victory over Oregon is crucial in Stanford’s quest to finish the regular season in the top four of the conference. The top four teams in the Pac-12 earn a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, meaning the Cardinal would be one step closer to earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Stanford and Oregon tip off Sunday at Maples Pavilion at 4:30 p.m.