With a dominant second-half performance on Tuesday, the Stanford men’s basketball team captured its first postseason win in three years with a 76-65 victory over Cleveland State in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Led by sophomore guard Aaron Bright’s 17 points and complimented by sophomore Anthony Brown and senior forward Josh Owens, who both added 15 points, the Cardinal (22-11, 10-8 Pac-12) blew away the Vikings (22-11, 12-6 Horizon) down the stretch to cruise to the second round of the nation’s second-best postseason tournament.
After Viking guard Tim Kamczyc made a three-pointer to give Cleveland State a 33-31 lead just 11 seconds into the second half, Stanford rode the trio of Bright, Brown and Owens on a 27-9 run over the next 10 minutes to bury the Vikings for good.
Bright gave the Cardinal a much-needed spark on Tuesday, racking up all 17 of his points in the second half by going 4-for-7 from the field and 8-for-10 from the free-throw line, while also adding three assists and two steals to his stat line.
Bright’s quality performance off the pine may have been the only one that outshone Brown, though, as the sophomore from Fountain Valley, Calif., added a career-high 12 rebounds to his 15 points and had three assists of his own.
On the whole, the Cardinal had one of its most efficient offensive nights all season, going 24-of-49 from the floor, even though it was out-rebounded by 40-31 margin, including a 13-5 differential on the offensive glass.
While Bright, Brown and Owens were rock solid all night, the Vikings also were their own worst enemy on Tuesday night, as they turned the ball over 21 times, a number that stood in stark contrast to the Cardinal’s 12 turnovers. Additionally, Cleveland State may have been hampered by the loss of senior guard Trey Harmon, who limped off the court early in the second half, although he was a dismal 0-for-7 from the floor before he headed to the locker room.
The Vikings turned the ball over nine times in the game’s first 12 minutes, while the Cardinal took advantage of those mistakes to get off to a hot start. Just six minutes into the game, Stanford held a 17-7 lead, but Cleveland State answered with a rally of its own moments later. Led by guard Jeremy Montgomery, who finished the day with 15 points, the Vikings tied the score at 18 just four minutes later. From there, the teams traded baskets until freshman guard Chasson Randle hit a three with 10 seconds left in the half to give Stanford a 31-30 lead going into the break.
The Cardinal will now play the winner of Mississippi and Illinois State, but must wait until tonight to find out whether it will travel to Oxford, Miss., to play the No. 1 seed Rebels or welcome the No. 8 seed Redbirds into Maples next week. Mississippi and Illinois State play tonight in Oxford at 6:30 p.m. PST.