After a frustrating 88-67 loss to Pittsburgh last week in the championship game of the Progressive Legends Classic, the Stanford men’s basketball team was able to exorcise some of its demons on Sunday night with a 92-60 rout of the South Dakota State (SDSU) Jackrabbits in the final game of the Classic at Maples Pavilion. The win sent the team into the two-week finals break on a positive note and delivered head coach Johnny Dawkins his 100th career victory.
After being outplayed from start to finish by Pitt in the game last Tuesday, Stanford (6-2) looked to jump out to a quick start in Sunday’s contest. The Cardinal had started slowly in almost every game this season but reversed that trend this time around, scoring the first 13 points of the game en route to an early 19-3 lead.
The Cardinal widened the gap behind hot shooting and equally cold marksmanship from the Jackrabbits (3-6). Stanford shot a blistering 66.7 percent from the field in the first half while holding SDSU to just 30 percent. It marked the best defensive half of the season for Stanford from both a points (24) and shooting-percentage standpoint.
“I thought we got off to just a very good start. Right from the beginning our guys were ready to go,” Dawkins said. “Something we had talked about was seeing if we could start games better, and our kids did a great job of it today.”
Junior Chasson Randle led the charge in the first half with 17 points and three assists for Stanford, while seniors Anthony Brown and Josh Huestis added 14 and 10 points respectively. Stanford dominated just about every aspect of the game in racing out to a 34-point halftime lead (58-24), having outshot, outrebounded and out-assisted SDSU.
SDSU, which was a 25-win NCAA-tournament team a season ago, is clearly not the same without current Milwaukee Bucks guard Nate Wolters. Wolters, a third-team All-American for the 2013 season, was the leader of a team that never quit and could shoot the lights out on any given night. With their former leader gone, it is clear that—at least in the early part of this season—the Jackrabbits are still searching for their identity. The lone bright spot for the Jackrabbits was the play of seniors Brayden Carlson and Jordan Dykstra, who finished with 16 and 20 points respectively.
For the Cardinal, Randle’s 21 points marked the fifth straight game and sixth time this season that a Stanford player had tallied at least 20 points in a game. Brown finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists to continue the strong start to his comeback season, while Huestis contributed 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a solid all-around effort.
“I think we worked really hard in the past couple days after we came back from Brooklyn,” Randle said. “[We] really tried to focus on what’s our identity and getting stops on the defensive end.”
While the game was an ordinary event for most of the Cardinal contingent, it will be a memorable night for Stanford freshmen Marcus and Malcolm Allen. With a little more than two minutes left to play, Marcus’ steal led to a fast break dunk for twin Malcolm, rousing the few diehard fans that were still around to witness it. It was just that kind of night for Stanford, which saw 10 of its 11 players in action register at least one point.
The Cardinal will have the two-week break to figure out how it can improve its performances against opponents of a similar talent level. Thus far, Stanford has fallen short in its two marquee non-conference matchups against BYU and Pitt. After UC-Davis on Dec. 14, the Cardinal will have opportunities against UConn on Dec. 18 and Michigan on Dec. 21 to prove that it can hang with the big boys.
Contact Daniel Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.