Dec. 17, 2011
STANFORD, Calif.- Head coach Johnny Dawkins counts his current group as the most talented defensive team of his four-year tenure coaching Stanford.
That's why Dawkins and his players were rather disappointed to give up 34 second-half points.
Josh Owens scored 17 points and the entire roster contributed on both ends of the floor in a balanced 75-55 victory by the Cardinal over San Diego on Saturday night. Not that they were celebrating much afterward.
"We had some lulls offensively but defensively it was unacceptable," Owens said. "We definitely didn't play the way we needed to play, specifically on defense. That's our identity. Defensively, we can bring it all the time and we didn't have the defensive game we should have."
Dawkins appreciated his senior leader taking accountability for a Stanford team that has high hopes of a strong showing in the wide-open Pac-12 Conference.
Chasson Randle added 15 points and hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the waning minutes for the surprising Cardinal (9-1), which is off to its best start since opening 10-0 in Dawkins' first season of 2008-09. They continue to make a case for being included in the Top 25, though the Cardinal might need a victory against a higher-profile team before jumping into the poll.
"We have to get better," Dawkins said. "Defense has been an identity for us. We did not defend well. Our offensive execution can still get better. I think it's the best defensive team that I've coached here. It's something we've wanted the entire time. They're buying into it, they understand the importance of it and they enjoy doing it."
Anthony Brown had nine points and Stanford shot 51 percent, including 56.5 percent in the second half. Everybody but one who played Saturday had at least one rebound and all but two also scored in the team's fourth straight win since a 69-63 loss to now-No. 1 Syracuse on Nov. 25.
Johnny Dee scored 12 points to lead San Diego (5-6), which lost for the fifth time in six games after a 4-1 start. The Toreros kicked off a stretch with three straight away from home before a key matchup with West Coast Conference rival Saint Mary's in San Diego on Jan. 5.
Stanford, which entered the game allowing only 56.2 points per game, returned from a 13-day break for final exams to post a solid win against a team picked to place near the bottom of the West Coast Conference. The Cardinal held its seventh opponent below 60 points and improved to 36-11 in non-conference games under Dawkins.
After San Diego jumped out to a 6-2 lead, Jack Trotter hit a 10-foot jumper as Stanford answered with a 17-0 outburst over a six-minute span to take control before Dee's basket at the 9:45 mark of the first half. The entire run was accomplished by reserve players after Dawkins rotated in five new faces at once after the slow start.
The Toreros began the game 4 for 14 and senior Darian Norris missed all seven of his first-half attempts as San Diego trailed 33-21 at the break. Norris made his first field goal at the 16:43 mark of the second half to finish with eight points and also dished out five assists but also committed five turnovers. The Toreros were outrebounded 34-26 and allowed Stanford to score 21 points off 17 turnovers.
"I thought they did a nice job physically moving our posts out off of the block," San Diego coach Bill Grier said. "We just didn't get anything from our interior guys tonight. If you're not getting that and they're locking (Dee) down, face-guarding him, it's really hard to score. If they're that pressured out on the perimeter, you're one-on-one in the post and we just didn't do a good enough job of being strong in there when we did get it and we didn't fight hard enough for position."
Stanford leads the all-time series between the schools 5-2 and also beat San Diego 68-64 in its season opener last year.
Bethune-Cookman visits Maples Pavilion on Monday and NCAA runner-up Butler on Thursday before Stanford begins the inaugural season of Pac-12 play at home against UCLA on Dec. 29. The Cardinal are picked to place sixth in the conference.
While Dawkins appreciated the boost he got from his bench, he would like to get his rotation down to nine or 10 players soon.
"I don't believe in going 12 deep," he said. "What we've said to our guys is, `When everyone's playing at a high level, we'll find ways to play you.'"
- Janie McCauley, Associated Press