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Cardinal basketball blows out Washington State

For the first 16 minutes of the game, it looked like the same old Stanford men’s basketball team. A lesser opponent was hanging around with the Cardinal when it had no business doing so. With about four minutes left to play in the half and the score tied at 27, that all changed. The bench made contributions. The Cardinal didn’t allow any second-chance points. Turnovers were limited. The zone defense was tight. A 13-2 run to end the half ensued, and Stanford never looked back.

(Frank Chen/The Stanford Daily)

Senior forward Josh Huestis (above) matched a team-high with 15 points, his highest total in a game since December 14. (FRANK CHEN/The Stanford Daily)

The Cardinal (11-5, 2-2 Pac-12) defeated the Washington State Cougars (8-9, 1-4) 80-48 on Wednesday night, its second consecutive conference victory after dropping the first two games of its Pac-12 slate. The 32-point margin of victory tied Stanford’s best effort this season, when the Cardinal dismantled South Dakota State 92-60 on Dec. 1. It was a complete team performance from start to finish, with seven different players tallying at least six points apiece.

Senior forwards Josh Huestis — sporting a new haircut — and Dwight Powell led the way for the Cardinal, thrilling the crowd with one vicious put-back dunk after another. Huestis finished with 15 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Powell added 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the win. After the game, Huestis attributed his first double-digit scoring effort of the conference season to the new look.

“The past few games I have been struggling, putting too much pressure on myself and just trying to find my place, but I cut my hair just to signal a new mindset and a new beginning,” Huestis said. “It looked like it worked.”

Senior guard Anthony Brown, whose similar style to that of Huestis confused many coaches in practice today, also chipped in offensively, adding 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Freshman guard Marcus Allen also chipped in 11 points, the first double-digit scoring effort of his Stanford career.

Que Johnson had 21 points in the defeat for the Cougars, who were clearly undermanned without the services of injured star player and leading scorer DaVonte Lacy. After a strong first half in which Johnson scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, he was held to just six points on 2-of-8 shooting in the second half. Lacy’s backcourt mate Royce Woolridge was the only other Cougar to reach double figures with 13 points.

“Without Lacy in the game — he’s a terrific scorer — we try to turn our attention to the other scorers, Que Johnson being one of them and Kernich-Drew being another one,” said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. “We really just wanted to slow those guys down and maybe get them off their rhythm a little bit. I think we were able to do that in spot moments tonight.”

Stanford marched its way to victory behind stifling defense and dominance on the interior. The Cardinal held the Cougars to just 37 percent shooting for the game, including just 29.6 percent in the second half, while manhandling WSU inside. Stanford out-rebounded the visitors 37-23 and outscored them 34-12 in the paint.

The other notable aspect of Stanford’s blowout victory — in addition to the team’s strong defense and interior play — was the contributions of the bench. Saddled by injuries to four experienced players who were supposed to be key components of the rotation, the Cardinal has struggled to receive any sort of meaningful contributions from its bench this season.

Wednesday night was a different story, as the Stanford reserves exploded for 28 points behind the strong play of Allen and senior guard Robbie Lemons, who sparked Stanford’s run in the first half.

Despite the lopsided final score, the shorthanded Cougars hung tough with the Cardinal for the first 15:46 of the game, as the score was tied at 27 apiece after a Dexter Kernich-Drew 3-pointer with 4:14 left in the half. Free throws by Powell, a three by Brown, two threes by Lemons and a layup by senior Chasson Randle before the buzzer gave Stanford an 11-point lead and clear momentum heading into the second half, neither of which the Cardinal would relinquish.

The Cardinal will now turn its attention to the Washington Huskies on Saturday in what should be a stiffer test. Tipoff is at 8 p.m.

Contact Daniel E. Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.