Dec. 22, 2011
STANFORD, Calif.- Brad Stevens has learned not to look too much into Butler's record at this stage. The Bulldogs endured a February funk last season only to return to the NCAA title game before falling to Connecticut.
Over the past week, Butler beat Stanford and Purdue and lost a tough one at Gonzaga. Stevens sees progress.
Ronald Nored scored 18 points, Jackson Aldridge had six straight points late in the game to finish with 15 and Butler ended Stanford's perfect start at home with a 71-66 victory Thursday night.
Nored knocked down a 3-pointer under pressure as the shot clock expired with 3:26 remaining after Stanford's John Gage hit a 3 on the other end to pull the Cardinal within 59-55.
"I was really proud of a lot of guys," Stevens said. "I thought Jackson Aldridge hit some humongous shots for a freshman."
Josh Owens had 17 points and nine rebounds for Stanford (10-2), which had its 15-game non-conference winning streak snapped in addition to a five-game winning streak this season. The Cardinal hadn't lost at home outside of league play since a 71-70 defeat to Oklahoma State on Dec. 16, 2009.
"It was a heck of a game, it was hard fought," Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said. "I thought they made a lot of plays both offensively and defensively, on the boards. Our defense wasn't what it needed to be."
Thursday's game featured 12 lead changes and five ties.
Aldridge hit a 3 with 8:20 left and then converted a go-ahead three-point play at the 7:01 mark for Butler (6-7), the reigning two-time NCAA tournament runner-up that had lost four of its last five games.
Roosevelt Jones scored with 6:04 remaining to make it a 55-50 game and Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins called timeout after Andrew Smith scored for the Bulldogs the next time down to make it 57-50.
Smith also scored on a lay-in with 51 seconds left as the shot clock expired when he collected the ball after it ricocheted hard off the backboard on a long pass. Nored shot 5-8 with three 3-pointers and also had five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
"We've been working on that off-the-backboard pass and that last millisecond 3, and finally it's going down for us," Stevens joked. "We got some fortuitous bounces. We didn't do a very good job at the very end of stopping them. They kind of kept around, and we had to make free throws to ultimately win it. We need to do a better job of closing out the game."
Chasson Randle added 16 points and Aaron Bright 11 as Stanford dropped to 7-1 at home. The Cardinal was on the verge of breaking back into the Top-25 poll and a win in this game might have done it in the team's final tune-up before kicking off the inaugural season of Pac-12 play at home against UCLA next Thursday.
This was a far cry from the rout Butler pulled off against Stanford a year ago -- an 83-50 victory last December in the first nationally televised game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Cardinal's defeat was their most lopsided loss in two seasons since falling 97-63 at UCLA on Jan. 31, 2009. They shot 31.4 percent in last year's meeting and went 3 for 17 from long range.
The Bulldogs bounced back from a 71-55 loss Tuesday night at Gonzaga in the first game of their West Coast swing. They open Horizon League play at home against Green Bay next Thursday.
"I think we're really growing. We still have so much more room to go," Nored said. "I'm happy with the direction we're moving in. It's been up and down and it's been difficult for those of us who have been here the last few years and experienced so much good stuff."
Butler built a 20-17 lead before Stanford closed the first half on a 14-6 run for a 31-26 edge at the break.
Dawkins said Stanford gave up too many plays on both ends down the stretch.
"Some of our breakdowns were due to a lack of communication," Dawkins said. "It's a great game for us. I think we'll learn a lot from the tape and get better from the experience. Their culture's intact and the tradition is there. They lost a lot of games to highly ranked teams and learned from those games."
The Cardinal outshot Butler 49 percent to 46.4 percent but were outrebounded 34-29 and committed 17 turnovers. Stanford also went just 13 for 21 from the free throw line.
"They made winning plays. We didn't necessarily make the winning plays we needed," Owens said. "It's plays like that that can determine the game. They're a great defensive team and they're a physical team. We needed to bring that physical battle right to them."
Stanford missed its first three shots before Dwight Powell scored at the 14:44 mark of the first half. The Cardinal took their first lead of the game, 15-14, on Bright's free throw with 8:30 left in the opening half.
Stanford beat Bethune-Cookman on Monday night to become the fastest team in program history to reach the 10-win mark.
Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck, coach David Shaw and Stanford's Fiesta Bowl-bound football team received a rousing ovation when honored at halftime. The team travels to Arizona on Monday ahead of the Jan. 2 game with Oklahoma.
- Janie McCauley, Associated Press
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NOTES: Josh Owens scored in double figures for the fourth straight game and ninth overall. Owens has led Stanford in scoring six times ... Stanford wrapped up non-conference play with a 10-2 mark, its highest win total in such games since finishing 13-0 against non-league foes during the 2008-09 campaign ... Stanford was outrebounded for only the second time this year, as Butler held a 34-29 edge. The Cardinal entered Thursday's game ranked ninth in the country in rebounding margin at +9.5 ... Chasson Randle missed his first free throw attempt of the game, snapping a streak of 14 consecutive made free throws dating back to Nov. 23 against Oklahoma State ... John Gage added a career-high 12 points off the bench, making 4-5 from the field and 3-5 from three-point territory ... Josh Huestis entered the game having made only four turnovers in 225 minutes. Huestis finished with three turnovers in 13 minutes on Thursday ... Butler made 10 three-pointers, the most for a Stanford opponent since Oklahoma State nailed 11 triples on Dec. 21, 2010 ... Stanford completes its six-game homestand next week, hosting UCLA (Thursday, Dec. 29 at 8 p.m.) and USC (Saturday, Dec. 31 at 3:30 p.m.).
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Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins
"It was a heck of a game. It was hard-fought. They made a lot of plays, both offensively and defensively on the boards, they outrebounded us but our defense wasn't what it needed to be. It gave up way too many points and a high shooting percentage, and those are areas we have to improve on."
On shooting 13-21 from the line...
"It was different. We've been shooting free throws well over the past five games, shooting 75 percent and to shoot 61 percent today was difficult. Those are momentum-changing plays. To get to the line and make one or two gives the team new life."
On moving into Pac-12 play on a losing note...
"I think we'll learn a lot from the tape and I think we'll get better from the experience. We've got guys with strong belief that we can compete and we've just got to get better."
Butler head coach Brad Stevens
On tonight's win...
"It's good for our guys to win a road game before league play. Think about our week: We beat Purdue, we beat Stanford ... it was a good week. I don't even remember what happened Tuesday night (Butler lost to Gonzaga 71-55. Nah, I'm kidding, they (Gonzaga) were awesome. What a week to play those three games in five days."
"Josh Owens is very physical, hard to keep off the block and he initiates a lot of contact. You can only take so many charges, and he's going to get to where he wants to go. And then I think the guards are really good. I told our staff I think the Randle kid is a great, great freshman. If there are better freshman guards on the West Coast than [Gonzaga's Kevin] Pangos that we played the other day and Randle, then there are some good guards out here."
On coming back from a seven-point second-half deficit...
"I thought we moved the ball, shared the ball and looked to find the right shot instead of forcing it. I think when you get down, like we did against Gonzaga, sometimes you try to hit home runs instead of singles. Tonight we didn't do that."
On the last seven minutes, when Butler turned a 50-50 game with 7:34 left in to a 64-55 lead with 3:30 left...
"Well, we've been working on that off-the-backboard pass and the last-millisecond three, and finally it's going down for us (laughter). We got some fortuitous bounces. We didn't do a very good job at the very end of stopping them. They kind of kept around, and we had to make free throws to ultimately win it. We need to do a better job of closing out the game."