By Matthew T.F. Harrington
STANFORD, Calif. — If Monday night’s contest against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the barometer to gauge the Stanford’s readiness heading into the start conference play, consider the Cardinal prepared…and then some.
The Cardinal romped its guests from the Southwestern Athletic Conference 74-39 at Maples Pavilion, at one point leading 19-1, riding an absurd shooting touch and airtight defense to the blowout victory.
Stanford (8-3) has now made statements in back-to-back contests after losing to BYU earlier this month. In the most recent outing, the Cardinal picked up the biggest decision it has posted this season. Stanford upset ninth-ranked Texas 74-71 in overtime in Austin the day before Christmas Eve.
“With Texas, it was more than getting a resume win, it was knowing we belong,” said Cardinal guard Anthony Brown. “Knowing we’re a tournament team, especially for the younger guys. It’s their first opportunity to get a big signature win. It gives you a little bit more confidence.”
Monday night, the men in home whites made it far less interesting.
“Coming off the Christmas break, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. “You never know where your team is going to be. We were pretty sharp.”
Stanford, prepping for its initial Pac-12 contest against Washington State on Friday, displayed all the hallmarks of a dominant squad against UAPB (3-11), exceling on both sides of the ball.
“Defensively we did a good job,” said Brown. “Obviously it’s nice to get a win before heading into conference. It’s important to have momentum heading into the Pac-12.”
In terms of confidence, the Cardinal shot 51 percent from the field.
“You have nights where you hit them all and nights where you miss them,” said Dawkins. “That’s just part of our game. I’m just looking at the quality of shot, that’s what I grade. I thought our guys took great shots, not good shots.”
Defensively, Stanford suffocated the Golden Lions to only 13 baskets on 41 attempts from the floor, forcing 25 turnovers while swiping 13 steals.
“I’m really proud of us defensively,” said Dawkins. “That’s something we really hang our hat on. They have a lot of guards, perimeter guys who can beat you off the dribble and make plays. We did a really good job on containing penetration. We challenged a lot of shots. To hold any team to 39 points, I don’t care who you’re playing against, you’re doing a heck of a job defensively.”
Want three-point shooting? The Cardinal received it in droves, hitting 11 shots from beyond the arc. Worried Stanford’s depth behind the starting five won’t produce if called upon? Five different reserves combined to post 24 points, including a thunderous dunk from junior Rosco Allen that drew many a gasp of awe from the Maples crowd.
“Every minute is important,” said Brown. “There will be games where the score is close and we can’t give up runs. There might be a time in the game where people are in foul trouble and the bench has to produce.”
About the only thing Stanford didn’t do well was manage the ball, turning it over 14 times. That may just have been because the Cardinal owned the rock all night and had more chances to cough it up by sheer volume or due to some bench players gaining an increased role.
“I think they’re in the top ten or so in steals even though they play zone,” said Dawkins of Pine Bluff. “I thought we did a really good job of valuing the basketball against a team that plays the zone as good as anybody.”
Fifth-year senior Anthony Brown led the baller barrage with 16 points, including an eye-popping four treys hit on five attempts. In fact, Brown came just one first-half three shy of matching Pine Bluff’s total field goals made in the entire period (5).
Teammates Stefan Nastic (13) and Chasson Randle (11) joined Brown in double-digit scoring, all despite seeing somewhat limited minutes with the rout firmly on. Golden Lions star Marcel Mosley posted a game-high 25 points, including 17 second-half tallies.
The Cardinal don’t expect to have it this easy when the welcome the Cougars to The Farm Friday afternoon, nor do they expect Sunday’s contest against no. 19 Washington to be uneventful.
“In our conference, every night is going to be the same,” said Dawkins “It’s going to be a grind every night. All these coaches and teams have pride. They come to compete, so we have to do the same.”