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Stanford men’s basketball beats Wazzu for first Pac-12 victory

Stanford won its first Pac-12 game of the season and ended a two-game losing streak in the process by defeating Washington State (9-2, 0-2 Pac 12) 78-67 on Wednesday night at Maples Pavilion. Stanford (10-6, 1-2) won its conference opener for the fourth year in a row and improved to 8-1 at home this season.

Junior Aaron Bright (2).

A 14-point Cardinal run late in the second half made the difference in the game, as Stanford turned a 57-54 deficit into a 57-67 lead with two minutes left in the game.

“I think we just played off each other’s energy,” said Dwight Powell, who finished the game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. “A great crowd was here, and we made as many stops as we could in a row. Guys were hitting shots.”

The Cardinal had its best all-around shooting night of the season, going 24-of-26 from the free throw line, including making its first 24 free throws before Andy Brown missed two in garbage time. The squad was also a season high 8-of-12 from three-point range and 23-of-44 from the field.

“Well, it was good to see the ball go in,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “Guys did a really good job tonight of moving the basketball, keeping good spacing and shooting the basketball, and that was a good thing for us.”

Aaron Bright had a season high 21 points in what Dawkins called a breakout game for him. He made all eight of his free throws to go along with 3-of-4 shooting from behind the arc. The junior guard had been averaging under 10 points per game and was shooting .265 from downtown coming into the game.

Chasson Randle, who in the previous two games had some of his worst performances of the year, stepped up as well with 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

“We were kind of just freelancing. Chasson and I were just trying to create plays out there as opposed to coming down and dumping it in, standing and watching Dwight or Josh go,” said Bright.

In the first half, the offenses looked stale and both teams struggled to create plays in their half court offense. Stanford led 27-23 at halftime while limiting Washington State’s leading scorer Brock Motum to eight points on 3-of-10 shooting.

Motum began the second half by making a jumper off a designed play in Washington State’s first possession. Finishing with a game-high 29 points, he scored 21 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer that gave the Cougars the lead with 10:02 to play.

Stanford’s balanced scoring against Washington State’s Pac-12 leading defense kept the game close until they could pull away during the 14-0 run. The run started with a momentum-changing put-back dunk by Powell, who crashed in from the perimeter and soared over three players for the jam.

“[Dwight] was terrific,” commented Dawkins. “As we talked about him in the locker room, he was a man tonight.”