Cardinal beats Bison in season opener

Nov. 9, 2013, 9:23 p.m.

The Stanford men’s basketball team opened its season with a 72-68 victory over the Bucknell Bison on Friday night, in front of a raucous Sixth Man student section that was undoubtedly still riding high from Thursday night’s epic football victory over Oregon. The students also left this game content, as the Cardinal (1-0) were able to hold off the Bison (0-1) with some clutch three-point shooting down the stretch.

In a game that was close throughout, it was the timely shooting of senior guards Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown that proved to be the difference. With the Cardinal leading by five with 7:03 remaining, Bright hit a three on a kick-out from junior guard Chasson Randle to give the Cardinal an eight-point advantage.

Bucknell—a 28-win NCAA tournament team from last season—showed its resilience and continued to fight its way back into the game, narrowing the deficit to one with 4:24 remaining after a three by guard Ryan Frazier. After the two teams traded points, Brown made the biggest shot of the game on an inside-out pass from senior center Stefan Nastic to give Stanford a four-point advantage with 2:37 remaining. A layup by senior Dwight Powell with 39 seconds left was enough to seal the deal for the Cardinal, which played enough defense down the stretch to preserve the victory and offset some shaky free-throw shooting in the final moments.

Senior forward Dwight Powell (#33) led the Cardinal to victory on Friday evening with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Senior forward Dwight Powell (#33) led the Cardinal to victory on Friday evening with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. (HECTOR GARCIA-MOLINA/Stanford Photo)

Stanford was led in the game by Powell, who finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on 8-of-17 shooting, and Randle, who contributed 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting to go with four rebounds and two assists. In addition, Brown contributed 14 points, five rebounds and some excellent perimeter defense in his first official game since injuring his hip early last season. He held Bucknell star guard Cameron Ayers to 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting.

“It felt great, you know, just going out there and competing with my teammates,” said Brown.

Coach Johnny Dawkins was impressed with Brown’s effort. “He did what we wanted him to do, [which] is to be our stopper on the perimeter.”

Although Brown played well, it was the defensive end of the floor that gave the Cardinal the most trouble. The team particularly struggled while playing zone, a switch the coaching staff undoubtedly made to combat the new hand-check rules in place for this season. Regardless, it was ineffective at times, a particularly worrisome trend considering the Cardinal was both bigger and more athletic than the Bison. Stanford registered just one steal for the game and turned Bucknell over a paltry seven times. Point guard Steven Kaspar was extremely effective in his role solving the zone, as he tallied 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. Indubitably, defensive awareness will be a point of emphasis in practice moving forward.

“[We’ve] got to study our personnel better and be ready to attack them on defense and take away what they like to do from the start,” Powell said. “[We have to] be more active in our zone, be more active in the full-court press.”

Despite the uncomfortably close result, Stanford fans can take heart in the fact that the Cardinal were able to pull out the close game, something the team did not do well a year ago. Last season, Stanford was just 6-12 in games decided by single digits.

“We were in those situations a number of times last year, and we came up empty a number of times,” said Dawkins. “So here’s a night where we’re in the same situation and it’s a four-point game for us. So, to me, that shows improvement. That shows our guys are learning how to close games.”

The Cardinal will face another close game on Monday night, when the BYU Cougars (1-0) come to town in the opening game of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. Stanford would be wise to shore up its defense before it takes on the Cougars, because sharpshooter Tyler Haws and company averaged 77.1 points per game last season during a 24-win season.

“We would really appreciate all the support [the students] could give us,” said Dawkins.


There was excitement around the Stanford’s men’s basketball program yesterday even before the team registered the victory, as the Cardinal received word that five-star power forward recruit Reid Travis of Minneapolis had committed to the team. Travis—who is ranked by ESPN as the fifth-best power forward and the 23rd-best overall recruit in next year’s class—joins two other Top 100 recruits, forward/center Michael Humphrey of Phoenix and point guard Robert Cartwright of La Canada, Calif., to form an exciting core for the team’s future.


Contact Daniel Lupin at delupin’at’

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