Halfway through the second half in Stanford’s Saturday night game against Arizona State, freshman point guard Robert Cartwright attempted a lob pass inside to Stefan Nastic. The ball instead made it through the hoop without any help from Nastic, a three-pointer that extended the Cardinal’s lead to 23.
It was that kind of night for Stanford (14-5, 5-2 Pac-12) against an Arizona State team (10-10, 2-5) fresh off a 35-point win at Cal. The Cardinal scored 89 points, matching their season high, en route to their blowout 89-70 win over the Sun Devils.
Stanford leaned on its senior Big 3 – Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown, and Stefan Nastic – in order to avoid back-to-back losses after falling narrowly to No. 7 Arizona in Maples Pavilion on Thursday.
Head coach Johnny Dawkins had high expectations before the game: “Coming off the tough loss, you have to bounce back, and you’re expecting your most experienced players — your seniors — to set the pace.”
They delivered exceptionally well, putting the Cardinal’s offensive prowess on full display. Randle, Brown and Nastic combined for 61 points on an extremely efficient shooting night. Randle netted 21 points despite attempting just eight field goals, and fifth-year senior Anthony Brown also put up 21 on just 11 shots.
Randle and Brown ran a fluid offense on the perimeter. If they weren’t feeding Nastic on the block, they were whipping the ball from side-to-side and opening up good looks for the shooters on the court with their dribble penetration.
Brown was especially dominant, doing most of his damage in the first half. Dawkins’ sets usually gave him the ball on the left wing. From there, Brown excelled at reading the ASU defense, driving to the rim when the lane was clear and shooting the open 3 whenever it was available.
Brown attributed his success in this game to confidence: “[I’m] getting more and more confident each game. Like coach always says, this is your last year, so have no regrets. Go out there and let it fly. He’s given me a lot of confidence letting me do what I can do, and I’m just going out there and playing.”
The Card shot a sizzling 70.4 percent from the field in the first half, draining five of their six threes. Arizona State survived the Cardinal’s superb shooting thanks to their own flurry of threes from seniors Jonathan Gilling and Bo Barnes to close out the half and were within 10 heading to the locker room.
Dawkins recognized the Sun Devils’ ability to catch fire at any moment and emphasized defensive effort going into the second half.
“You have to really try to focus in on that in the second half and make sure you try to do your best to identify where they are on the floor and hopefully slow them down some,” he said.
Stanford came out of halftime and flexed its muscles, holding ASU to 38.7 percent shooting while scoring on 12 of their own 26 attempts. Stefan Nastic held his ground inside even when Arizona State fed 6-foot-10, 255-pound Eric Jacobson in the post on four of the first five possessions to start the half. The perimeter defense was stifling thanks to Randle and Cartwright’s tenacity and positioning: Twice, Cartwright switched onto Jacobson in the paint, but ASU failed to capitalize in either case since the Cardinal clogged the passing lanes.
All the while, the Cardinal continued to execute on the offensive end. The 10-point lead soon ballooned to a 20-point lead, and Stanford closed out the game strong to improve to 14-5 overall.
“I mentioned it to our seniors after the game just how proud I was of them,” Dawkins said. “I thought all three of them came out really focused and set the tone right from the start and it carried over all 40 minutes.”
The team hits the road this week, traveling to Washington to take on Washington and Washington State on Wednesday and Saturday. The Card will look to build off their recent wins and are counting on their experienced players to continue to lead the team going forward.
Contact Irving Rodriguez at irodriguez ‘at’ stanford.edu.