By: Ben Leonard
If Stanford thought Thursday’s game against mediocre Oregon State (17-11, 8-8) was going to be a walk in the park, they were dead wrong. They eventually won handily by a 75-48 margin, but Cardinal (18-9, 9-6) had to overcome their own struggles early on, playing sloppy basketball against the Beavers. The Pac-12’s sixth ranked team had lost three of their last four coming into Thursday, but Stanford struggled to make shots in the first half. This has been a recurring issue for the Cardinal, who trailed at halftime in their previous five games before Saturday’s victory over Cal.
Oregon State lead by as many as nine points in the first half, buoyed by Gary Payton II’s 10 points. Stanford needed this win desperately to have a shot to make the NCAA tournament, and seemed to be wilting under the pressure, making just 29.2% of their field goal attempts in the first half. Pac-12 opponents had been averaging 19.9 points in first half in first meeting against Beavers this season, and Thursday was not much different, as the Cardinal trailed by two at the half. For guard Anthony Brown, the first half forced Dawkins to ask his team at half time “what they wanted for this season…challeng[ing] us (Stanford)” to play to their caliber. A loss would have all but spelled doom for their tournament hopes, but Brown’s solid effort, 13 points and eight rebounds, helped prevent such a fortune.
Head coach Johnny Dawkins was quick to credit Oregon State for doing a “great job” with their “defensive schemes,” specifically “identifying scorers and taking them out of the game.” His remedy was to instruct his team to “focus” and “follow” his “game plan,” albeit with language too strong for Dawkins or his players to describe.
Despite all of their problems in the first half, the second half was an entirely different story. Marcus Allen hit a huge three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Beavers’ lead to 30-28, swinging the momentum in Stanford’s favor. Brown noted that the three was “big for momentum, for confidence, and [for]…g[iving] us some energy going into half time.” After halftime, Dawkins’ team “believe[d]” in what they were doing” and the “energy picked up.”
After that key moment, shots started to fall for the Cardinal, especially for Michael Humphrey. The freshman big man pulled down a career 15 high rebounds, notching his second straight double-double by scoring 14 points. He lead the Cardinal to outscore the Beavers by a whopping 47-18 margin in the second half, giving his squad a reliable physical presence down low. Stanford out-rebounded Oregon State 46-22, and Humphrey was a big reason why.
On what changed in the second half for his team, Humphrey noted that his team “got the right mindset.” Dawkins’ “intense practices in the last few weeks” have been the difference that gave the freshman Humphrey confidence. Dawkins thinks that the freshman sensation has “com[e] into his own” and he “still has a ton of potential” as just a freshman.
The game turned into a laugher, with Dawkins opting to sit many of his regulars with the result well in hand. After trailing by seven in the first, the Cardinal went on a 56-22 run, giving the Selection Committee a reason to excuse their struggles early in games. In one of the “best second halves” of the season for Dawkins’ Cardinal, Stanford held Oregon State to just 18 points, a “heck of an effort.” Unlike Thursday, Stanford will have to play a complete game if they want to defend their home court on Sunday against Oregon, the Pac-12’s third place team.
Chasson Randle’s 15 point effort on Thursday moved him into 6th place all-time on the Pac-12/10/8 scoring list, passing former Beaver Gary Payton…Payton was in attendance along with a crowd of 4,012 at Maples Pavilion on Thursday…Payton’s son, Gary Payton II plays for the Beavers and scored 17 points…Dawkins called Randle a “role model off the court, deserving of his accolades,” including being named an Academic All-American on Thursday, and a “special young man”….Dawkins noted that injured forward Rosco Allen participated in a shootaround Thursday, and will practice Friday to “get a feel” for where he is…