Two minutes into the game, Rosco Allen picked up his second foul on a drive to the rim.
Stanford’s struggling offense would need someone else to step up with Allen — the Cardinal’s leading scorer and most consistent offensive weapon — heading to the bench.
Cue Dorian Pickens.
The sophomore guard poured in 25 in an electrifying performance to lead Stanford (14-12, 7-8 Pac-12) to an 84-64 blowout win over the USC Trojans (19-9, 8-7).
Pickens did most of his damage in a blistering first half. He hit 7 of his 8 shots, including 4 of 5 from three-point land, en route to 22 first-half points — the most points scored by any Stanford player in a half this season. The Cardinal topped the 80-point mark for the first time in Pac-12 play.
“I felt like I just had it going,” Pickens said. “I wanted to come out in the first half aggressively, especially when Rosco went out with his two quick fouls. We knew as a team we had to pick up the slack offensively for sure.”
Stanford’s defense, the team’s bread and butter in conference play, was able to hold USC to 64 points despite the Trojans coming in averaging 82.4 points per game. The Trojans’ starting backcourt of Jordan McLaughlin and Julian Jacobs were held to 5 total points on a combined 2-11 from the field.
Dawkins credits his team’s intensity from the get-go for Stanford’s first-half success.
“I thought we just got off to a very good start to today’s game. I thought our guys did a really good job right from the tip,” he said. “There was a really good focus, especially on the defensive end. Guys were really active, and I think that got us off to a good start.”
Sophomore Michael Humphrey played a big role in anchoring the Cardinal defense. Humphrey stood strong in the face of the Trojans’ penetration and looked comfortable in the paint after struggling with a thigh injury in recent games. Despite having no points in the first half, Humphrey finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks.
USC struggled to get the ball in the hoop in the opening period. After netting 14 points in the first eight minutes, the Trojans managed only 11 more through the remainder of the half. Meanwhile, Stanford ripped off a 30-11 run behind Pickens’ hot shooting.
The Cardinal were up 20 with two minutes left before half when USC scored five quick points. Pickens was rolling, however, and drew a foul from behind the arc with less than one tick left on the clock. He would go on to sink all three free throws.
The Trojans once again made a run in the second half but failed to pull out a victory as Rosco Allen dashed any hopes of a USC comeback. A Bennie Boatwright three sliced the Stanford lead to 12, but Stanford countered with Allen, who sank a three of his own in the first possession after checking back into the game with seven minutes remaining. Stanford would expand its lead to as high as 26 before coasting towards a win.
Allen tallied 17 points on the night after being held scoreless in five minutes of play in the first half.
Stanford is now one win away from pulling up to .500 in the Pac-12. The Cardinal have three games left on their slate, hosting UCLA (15-13, 6-9) next on Saturday.
UCLA is already in the Bay, having lost to Cal 75-63 on Thursday night. After a promising start to the season, including wins over then-No. 1 Kentucky and No. 20 Gonzaga, the Bruins have struggled in conference play, losing six of their last nine to drop to 10th in the conference.
UCLA is led by its strong backcourt, made up of junior guards Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford, who average 17 and 16.1 points per game respectively, and who together account for more than half of the team’s assists. Hamilton has been particularly potent offensively, shooting .497 from the field and over 40 percent from downtown.
Stanford, currently on the bubble to make the NIT, will look to finish strong in order to lock up a spot in the tournament. Finishing the season with a couple of wins will also be crucial for the team in order to improve their Pac-12 standing for the conference tournament in early March.
Tip-off against the Bruins is at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’ stanford.edu.