While the backcourt duo of Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright has received plenty of attention this offseason as keys to the future of Cardinal basketball, the rest of the Stanford team clearly wants to make sure that we don’t forget about them. Thanks to a balanced effort, the Cardinal pulled away from Cal State-Fullerton in the second half Monday night’s home opener to win 81-68.
While Friday night’s win over the Dons might have been the Dwight Powell show, as the 6-foot-10 junior scored a career-high 27 points, Monday’s offensive attack at Maples Pavilion came from all over. The Titans were coming off an impressive 86-47 exhibition win against Cal State-Los Angeles, and were looking for the opportunity to start their regular season off with a matchup against a Pac-12 contender.
Neither team managed to grab a comfortable lead in the first half, as the two squads looked to be evenly matched. A Chasson Randle layup with 8:13 to go in the period gave Stanford its largest lead, as it went up 23-15. The Titans would battle back, as a jumper from D.J. Seeley and a 3-pointer by Kwame Vaughn pulled Fullerton to within three points, forcing Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins to call a timeout. It did little to stem the tide, however, as the Titans quickly tied the game at 23 apiece.
Neither team managed to force the upper hand, going into the halftime break tied at 31. Titans assistant head coach Julius Hicks, the acting head coach while interim head coach Andy Newman serves a two-game suspension, was pleased with the way his team played but not fully satisfied.
“We had a lot of room for improvement in the first half, but we were fortunate to come out of it tied,” Hicks said.
It looked as if the second half was going to be a similar story, as the Cardinal couldn’t seem to find its offensive rhythm. With just under 14 minutes remaining in the game, the two squads were all knotted up at 48-48. However, at that point Stanford finally decided to kick it into gear. The Card picked up the defensive intensity and started moving the ball around more on the offensive end, helping it jump out to a 54-48 lead after a pair of free throws from Aaron Bright. Soon after, Josh Huestis decided to make his mark on the game, throwing down a huge dunk and drawing a foul. After knocking down the free throw, Stanford went up by nine. Just a minute later, and Huestis was at it again, dunking once more to give Stanford a 67-54 lead.
Dawkins noted that Stanford continued to wear down the Titans as the game went on. “I thought it was a combination of [our speed and size],” he said. “I thought our guys did a good job defensively in the first half. We tried to make them take some difficult shots. They made some tough shots, they have some very good guards and it showed. I thought really the spark came from Andy [Brown] and Christian [Sanders]. I thought those two guys, when we inserted them into the game, they gave us energy, they both made plays, and they kind of made our run when those two kids started to really insert themselves into the game.”
The Card then closed the door on the Titans, scoring 10 unanswered points and forcing Fullerton’s coach Julius Hicks to call a timeout.
“Teams are going to make runs; it’s a long game,” Hicks said. “We didn’t expect to have success the entire game. They’re a good team and well-coached, so they’re going to go on runs. It’s part of the game. Where we got in trouble was when we just didn’t play together. We have a very thin margin for error.”
It was a margin that proved insurmountable, as the Cardinal went on to win 81-68. While Stanford has plenty of room for improvement, they have to be pleased with a 2-0 record.
Bright said that the depth of the team should prove to be one of the Cardinal’s greatest strengths as the season goes on.
“I think we have guys who should be able to play consistently throughout the year, you know, and I think nights like Dwight had the other night could be normal. Him putting up 20 points, Chasson putting up 20-plus points, I think we have guys who are able to play like that consistently throughout the year.”
Next week, the Card will look to improve its record to 4-0 with games against Alcorn State and Belmont University.