All season long, forward Dwight Powell has managed to alternate between foul trouble and electric scoring performances. On Saturday he managed to combine them both.
Powell collected two fouls in as many minutes to begin his afternoon, spent the rest of the opening period on the bench and returned with 20 points in the second half to electrify Stanford to a 75-52 win against UC-Davis at Maples Pavilion.
“I stayed engaged as much as possible throughout the first half,” Powell said. “I tried to keep myself ready.”
Josh Huestis’ 14 points and Chasson Randle’s 12 helped the Cardinal (7-3) pull away from the Aggies (1-6), who benefited from a career-high 23-point performance by sophomore J.T. Adenrele.
Stanford dominated the boards, outrebounding UC-Davis 45-30 and hauling in 17 on offense as Huestis fell just a rebound shy of a double-double. The gritty performance was enough to overshadow another poor shooting night at home for the Cardinal, with guards Randle and Aaron Bright combining for a 3-for-16 clip from behind the arc.
“It was a great game coming off the break,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “Our defense is ahead of our offense right now.
“I believe in our guys, I know we have some good shooters. Look, if we’re defending like we’re defending right now, I’ll take it. The way we’re defending, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win against everyone every night, and we haven’t shot the ball to the level I know we’re capable of.”
Even without Powell, Stanford jumped out to an early 22-10 lead as Huestis contributed 10 of his points in the game’s first nine minutes.
The Aggies narrowed Stanford’s 40-29 halftime lead to single digits before Powell took over, slamming an emphatic left-handed dunk over Adenrele.
“In years past, if Dwight had a half where he got in foul trouble and only played two minutes, he wouldn’t have bounced back to the level he bounced back tonight,” Dawkins said. “He showed a lot of maturity to have 20 points in the second half against a good team, so I was really proud of that.”
Dawkins also credited Powell with honoring his mother, who passed away last summer. Friday would have been her birthday.
Powell’s physicality has taken a noticeable uptick over last year, when he was limited due to a nagging ankle injury. That has led to more fouls — a team-leading 31 — and more points — a team-leading 148 — and it has everything to do with new assistant coach Mark Madsen, a former Stanford great and NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“He brings a lot to the table with his experience,” Powell said. “He’s able to get into drills with us sometimes and bang with us.”
Stanford will now go on the road to face No. 25 N.C. State, a team the Cardinal came from behind and narrowly beat last season, in a 6 p.m. tip on Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.