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M. Basketball: Close shave as Stanford pulls away from Seattle late

After coming up short in three out of four games over Thanksgiving break, the men’s basketball team desperately needed a win against the Seattle University Redhawks on Wednesday night. That’s exactly what they got, surviving a sloppy first half and coming on strong late to win going away, 68-57.

Gabriel Harris goes up for a dunk in Stanford’s 68-57 win against Seattle on Wednesday night. (LEIGH KINNEY/The Stanford Daily)

Stanford (5-3, 0-0 Pac-12) has not necessarily played poorly to open the year, but a few costly mistakes had turned a potential 6-1 or 7-0 record into a subpar 4-3 mark at the start of the night. With high expectations for both Pac-12 and national play, the Cardinal needed to start playing the basketball that many ESPN analysts were predicting during the preseason. The squad took a step in the right direction against Seattle (2-2, 0-0 WAC) in front of a Maples Pavilion crowd of 4,381.

Early on it appeared that the Card didn’t have an answer for the Redhawks’ leading scorer, freshman transfer Clarence Trent, who scored three easy baskets to give his team a 16-10 advantage with 13:11 remaining in the first half. Stanford would battle back, scoring a quick six unanswered points to tie the game.

Still, the Card looked sluggish, failing to keep up with Seattle’s fast-paced scoring attack. Trent struck again with four minutes left before the break, knocking down a deep three-pointer to put Seattle up 26-20.

Stanford managed to cut the lead to three before halftime, as sophomore guard Chasson Randle picked up a steal and found senior Andy Brown on the fast break for an easy layup. Randle then scored a bucket of his own, driving to the basket and finishing in the paint. The Cardinal ended an underwhelming first half down 30-27, in what appeared to be another disappointing performance.

The shooting woes that plagued Stanford in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last week were still apparent. The Card went 9-of-31 shooting in the first half.

However, this game would prove to be a tale of two halves, as Stanford looked like an entirely different team in the second half. Seattle managed to keep it interesting for the first 10 minutes, trading buckets with a Stanford team that couldn’t quite find its rhythm. With Stanford down four points, freshman Christian Sanders drove to the basket and scored, drawing a foul in the process. After knocking down the free throw, he put the team within one point in what would prove to be the turning point of the game.

Stanford finally started playing well, working the paint to find easy shots and earn trips to the free-throw line. After a Louis Green jumper tied the game at 50-50 with 4:41 remaining, Stanford ended the game on an 18-7 run to pick up a much-needed 68-57 victory.

Brown led the way for the Cardinal, scoring a career-high 17 points on the same day head coach Johnny Dawkins announced that junior Anthony Brown would miss the rest of the season with a hip injury. The elder Brown–who has torn his ACL three times since his senior year of high school–certainly chose a good night to step up, as Stanford needed his strong effort.

“I’m excited about Andy Brown and what he’s doing,” Dawkins said after the game. “I’m excited about Robbie Lemons and what he’s giving us. Rosco [Allen] today played really well for us. It’s great to see guys, when someone goes down–their opportunity is there and you prepare for your opportunity. So far when guys have gone down for us with Aaron and Anthony, we’ve had guys step up and give us something.”

Randle, the Card’s leading scorer, was not far behind Brown with 15 points of his own. Junior Dwight Powell turned in another strong performance in what has been a great start to the season for him, grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds. He also pitched in with eight points, just a bucket shy of another double-double.

And the crowd was very enthused by the monstrous defensive effort of junior Josh Huestis, who finished with a career-high 10 blocks, two short of the program record of 12 set by Brook Lopez in 2007.

“That’s what we try to make our living off–defense,” Huestis said. “We want to be one of the best defensive teams in the country. Shots aren’t going to fall every night but defense can be there, so tonight we held them to 57 points, which is great. Guys got after it. We really dug in defensively and that helped us grind out this win.”

Stanford will look to carry its momentum into its next game, as the University of Denver travels to the Farm this Sunday for another non-conference contest.