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M. Basketball: Fight to the finish

With the final four games of the season quickly approaching, the Stanford men’s basketball team has few remaining chances to snap the recent losing streak and conclude the year with a winning record.

The Cardinal (13-13, 6-9 Pac-10) will face Oregon State (9-16, 4-10 Pac-10) Thursday night in Corvallis, with the opportunity to complete a season sweep of the Beavers and gain a little momentum for the matchup with Oregon on Saturday.

Freshman forward John Gage (above) made his first start of the season at USC. (SIMON WARBY/ The Stanford Daily)

The prospect of finishing sixth in the Pac-10 is within Stanford’s reach, but the team will have to produce some strong road finishes to earn the spot.

In order for Stanford to pull off a victory, the team will have to make serious adjustments to the offensive effort it displayed against USC last Saturday.

The Card went just 6-for-30 from the floor in the second half and scored a mere 22 points in the final 20 minutes, causing Stanford to fall short of the Trojans by a wide margin of 69-53.

The loss to USC, along with two previous losses to UCLA and Washington, has put the Cardinal in a rut, but Oregon State has faced the same recent misfortune and is riding a four-game losing streak. In fact, the Beavers are just 2-10 since sweeping the Arizona schools during the very first weekend of conference play.

Defense is not Oregon State’s strong suit, as the Beavers have allowed an average of 71.8 points per game, as well as 45.7 percent shooting from its opponents.

Stanford looks to capitalize on this by feeding the ball to freshman guard Anthony Brown and freshman forward Dwight Powell, who put up a solid offensive showing against the Beavers the first time around. Brown secured eight rebounds and racked 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and Powell was 3-for-3 with nine points in the matchup back on Jan. 29.

The pair of rookies, along with several other Cardinal freshmen, has been especially key for Stanford in recent weeks, filling the starting rotation and coming off the bench to combine for 52 points and 36 rebounds over the last two games.

At one point during Saturday’s game with USC, head coach Johnny Dawkins had five freshmen on the court at the same time. Dawkins has also incorporated at least two freshmen in the starting lineup for over half of Stanford’s games.

Finding the right starting combination has proven to be a struggle for the Card, as there has been little game-to-game consistency for the first five to step on the floor. In fact, Saturday’s combination of junior Jarrett Mann, junior Jeremy Green, Brown, freshman John Gage and junior Josh Owens was the eighth different starting lineup of the season.

Dawkins is expected to utilize this same group against the Beavers, especially because of Gage’s success in his first outing as a starter. They will look to put an early stop in the efforts of Jared Cunningham (13.5 ppg, 49 assists, 71 steals) and Calvin Haynes (9.8 ppg, 79.1 FT shooting), who will be the main offensive forces for the Beavers.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. PST in Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.

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