Despite an off night from almost the whole Stanford squad, Chasson Randle carried the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal (21-13) to a 74-65 defeat of the No. 3 Rhode Island Rams (23-10) in the second round of the 2015 NIT at Maples Pavilion.
Stanford will advance to the quarterfinals to take on high-powered No. 5 Vanderbilt, which is coming off of a victory over South Dakota State.
“I challenged them before the game,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “‘Are we up to it?’ I’m just proud that we really were. For 40 minutes, we just matched their physicality and we were able to still play our game.”
Randle was magnificent for the Cardinal with a career-high 35 points, outdueling his counterpart, guard E.C. Matthews of Rhode Island, who finished with 23 before fouling out. Anthony Brown was Stanford’s second-leading scorer with 16 — of which 9 came on free throws — and Stefan Nastic led all players in rebounds with 11.
Randle was the only Stanford player that was effective from the field with his 9-of-16 shooting. The other Cardinal starters combined to shoot just 8-of-30 from the field. He now has 2,310 career points, just 26 shy of the all-time Stanford record, held by Todd Lichti (2,336).
“My teammates just told me to stay aggressive from the beginning and I just tried to follow their advice,” Randle said. “They told me they were going to lean on me and I was just trying to will them to a win.
“I just want to keep winning,” he added. “It would be a great achievement to be the all-time leading scorer but I just want to go out on a right note with this team… We just want to keep playing games.”
It was an ugly and chippy game, with bad shooting combining with hard fouls such that the game never really settled into a rhythm. Stanford converted just 18 field goals in the contest while netting a whopping 36 free throws in 49 opportunities.
The Cardinal relied almost exclusively on Randle from start to finish. No other Cardinal player managed a bucket in the first eight minutes of the game; the rest of the team started off 0-of-15 from the field and continued to struggle the rest of the game. In fact, Randle scored Stanford’s first 12 points of the game with a variety of step-back jumpers and aggressive drives.
Despite the field goal drought in the first half, Stanford remained assertive on both ends of the floor. The team forced five early turnovers and was in the bonus at the halfway point of the first period. The Cardinal made 12 of 14 attempts from the charity stripe to build a 10-point lead with 90 seconds left in the half. However, Rhode Island mounted a 9-0 run to close the half, including a buzzer-beating layup by Matthews, to draw within 4 heading into the locker room.
Randle continued his relentless play after halftime, scoring nearly at will from all over the court. His jumper was money all night, opening up driving lanes once his man stepped up to take away his shot. He used his first step to blow by his defender and get to the rim, where he saw plenty of contact. Randle sank 15 of his 19 free-throw attempts at the line.
Thanks to Randle’s scoring, Stanford built a 10-point lead after a Marcus Allen fast break with six minutes to go in the game. Rhode Island never again got within 8 as the Cardinal closed out the win at home with free throws.
Reid Travis was excellent once again; the freshman forward tallied 3 offensive rebounds, marking his fifth straight game with at least one offensive board. Nastic and Travis did an excellent job of rebounding and challenging at the rim, particularly in the second half. Travis blocked Matthews with two minutes remaining to squash any comeback hopes. He finished with 3 blocks and 7 total rebounds on the night.
“They’re not ready for this season to be over,” Dawkins said. “A lot of times because of the grind of a season…there are teams that are just finished. They’re running on fumes. Our team — they’re not performing that way.
“We’ve had moments that have been very good that shows that our guys have not mailed it in. They want a chance to compete for a championship. This gives us an opportunity.”
Stanford and Vanderbilt will match up on Tuesday at Maples Pavilion.
Contact Do-Hyoung Park at dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.