By Matthew Harrington
STANFORD, CALIFORNIA- The buzzword around Maples Pavilion Thursday night was “inside-out” as the Stanford Cardinal downed visiting Northwestern University 71-58 in a non-conference showdown. The Cardinal turned Monday’s lackluster defensive effort that saw Brigham Young University hang 112 points on Stanford inside-out to hold their Big Ten foe Thursday to a season-low 58 points while flipping the trend on what has been a historically tight match-up.
“We should never give up that many points, regardless of who we play,” said senior forward Josh Huestis of Monday’s loss to BYU. “Defense is something we take pride in. We were embarrassed Monday night so we got back to our roots and worked on defense. We made sure that was what we fell back on. That’s what we need to do to be successful.”
The Cardinal were so successful on defense that its offensive contributions were almost overshadowed. Stanford worked the ball from the outside in to help Huestis and center Stefan Nastic crack double-digits in scoring then worked the ball outside to Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown at the guard positions who put the ball inside the basket to the tune of 14 and 12 points respectively. Dwight Powell was the only one of the five Cardinal starters to not break double figures. The forward ended the night one-point shy with nine in the scoring column.
“We like to play inside-out,” said Brown. “Anytime (Nastic) can get easy baskets then the defense has to start sinking in and we can start making easy threes.”
Nastic, a junior, matched a career-high with 11 points while Huestis lead all Cardinal shooters with 18 points. Wildcat guard JerShon Cobb led all scorers with 19 points while teammate Drew Crawford added 15 on 6 of 15 from the field.
“We knew coming in to this game he was a guy we had to look out for,” said Huestis of Crawford. “He got going early. At half-time we made it a point to talk about that. We had to make sure we took him out of the game in order for us to be successful tonight.”
Crawford had a then game-high 13 points going at the half on 5 of 7 field goal attempts in a wild first half that saw the lead change hands six times , but Stanford went in to the locker room with a 29-27 lead that it would not relinquish.
“He’s the guy who gets them going,” said Brown. “If we can cut the head off then a lot of people have to step up. One of their guys stepped up and started make threes but other than that they started to fall apart.”
The Cardinal defense held Crawford to just two second-half points on eight attempts. With Crawford’s output diminished, so too went the Wildcat offense. From Nikola Cerina’s lay-up with 3:04 left in the first half to Cobb’s three-pointer with 9:33 left to play, the hosts held their opponents to six points on 14 attempts. In that span Stanford saw its lead grow from the slim two points to a comfortable 50-39 margin.
“I’m really happy with our guys defensively,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. “I’ve really challenged them the last few days. I really liked the way they responded. (Northwestern) can really shoot the basketball. Coach Collins (of Northwestern) inherited a Princeton offense so they’re all capable shooters. We knew we had to guard the perimeter. They knocked some down but for the most part we really contained their three-point shooters.”
Tonight marked the first meeting between Stanford and Northwestern in eight games where the final score was decided by more than 11 points. The 13-point margin of victory certainly eclipsed Stanford’s slim two-point advantage when the two teams met last season in Evanston. Stanford was victorious 70-68. Stanford now holds a commanding edge in the series 6-2.
The Cardinal will now leave the friendly confines of the Farm for its first road trip this season. They head to Denver to face the Pioneers in a Sunday morning tilt where coach Dawkins will surely hope they keep their defense from flipping outside-in while the offense continues to thrive from the inside to out on the perimeters.