March 21, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Josh Owens will end his career on a high note no matter what else happens.
After enduring a medical redshirt season and then a losing season, he's on the brink of helping to bring home a championship banner.
Owens and Chasson Randle each scored 15 points to help Stanford rout Nevada 84-56 on Wednesday night, earning the Cardinal a spot in the NIT semifinals.
"It's special to still be playing basketball right now," Owens said. "There are a lot of teams who'd like to be playing right now."
Josh Huestis added 12 points for the Cardinal (24-11), which will meet UMass at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Aaron Bright had 10 points for Stanford, which has won nine more games than it did a year ago.
"The most important thing is to have a successful run," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We want to be champions and we still have that chance. We want to put up a banner in Maples Pavilion."
Owens, a freshman on the 2008 Sweet 16 team that included three future NBA players, is the final link to the Cardinal's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
"It's been an amazing five years, the last four under Coach Dawkins," Owens said. "He's a teacher of the game who has seen it at every level."
Malik Story scored 14 points to lead the Wolf Pack (28-7), who had won six of their previous seven games. Deonte Burton added 13 points and Olek Czyz had 11.
"They came out and established tempo and we didn't respond very well," Nevada coach David Carter said. "We seemed to be a step behind them the whole time. This is still a young team and it was the first time we had a chance to play on a big stage."
The Wolf Pack more than doubled their win total of a year ago.
"It's disappointing when you have a chance to do something special but come up short," Nevada senior Dario Hunt said. "But I can't be disappointed about the season. We were 13-19 last year. I'm proud of my guys to come back the way they did. The future's bright for this team. I'll look forward to seeing how they do next year."
The Cardinal, which was ahead 42-27 at the break and led by as many as 32, set a school record with its 17th win at home.
Hunt, Nevada's leading rebounder, was called for a pair of fouls in the first eight minutes and was 0 of 3 from the floor as the Wolf Pack shot 36 percent in the first half and trailed by as many as 18 points. He finished with two points and four rebounds.
Stanford shot over 53 percent for the game, including 57 percent from long range, and outscored the Wolf Pack 21-5 in points off turnovers.
"This was our best game of the season on both ends of the court," Dawkins said. "The seniors were able to celebrate a win in their last game here.
- Rick Eymer, Associated Press
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NOTES: Stanford becomes the fourth team to play at Madison Square Garden in both the Preseason and Postseason NIT during the same season, joining Notre Dame (1999-00), Syracuse (2001-02) and Ohio State (2007-08). The Cardinal earned a runner-up finish in the Preseason NIT, knocking off Oklahoma State before falling to No. 5/5 Syracuse ... The Cardinal is 24-11, compiling its most wins since a 28-8 finish in 2007-08 ... Stanford's 24 victories are tied for the most of any Pac-12 team ... The Cardinal secured its school-record 17th home victory, surpassing the 16 home wins recorded in 2007-08 ... Stanford is now 21-9 all-time against Nevada ... Stanford shot 53.4 percent overall, including 65.4 percent in the first half ... Stanford outrebounded Nevada 35-30, representing the first time in four games the Cardinal bested its opponent on the glass ... Josh Huestis scored in double figures (12 points) for the first time since pouring in 13 points against Colorado back on Jan. 14. He also added a team-high seven rebounds ... The Cardinal's biggest lead was 32 points, ahead 81-49 with 3:07 remaining in the game.
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Stanford Head Coach Johnny Dawkins
General comments on the game...
"I thought it was one of the best games that our guys have played all season, on both ends of the floor. I thought defensively, we were as good as we've been, against a very good offensive team. Offensively, our guys really made a lot of connecting plays. We had 17 assists. That's been high for us, and only nine turnovers. We were about as efficient as we've been all year on both ends of the floor."
"I'm just really proud of our guys, especially our seniors. (For them) to be able to celebrate with a win in their last game here was special. I think you saw the emotion in them when they came off the court, just what it meant to them to finish up the way they did here. I'm just really proud of them and what they've done for our team and our program."
On what it could mean to his program to have this extended NIT run...
"The most important thing for us is, just to have a successful run in the tournament. We're in the final four. We want to be champions. We want to be able to put a banner up in Maples. That was our goal, and we still have that opportunity. We're excited to still be playing. What it means down the road for our program and our players, I think it's been great for these guys to gain tournament experience against some very good basketball teams. I think the additional practices have been terrific for our kids. It's a win-win for our group. We've grown. If you look at some of our players throughout the tournament, you actually can see them growing through these games. That's been exciting for me as a coach. I'm sure it's exciting for them as players."
On the advantage of having already played at Madison Square Garden this season...
"We have a good feel for the type of environment it's going to be. It's a great environment. It's one of the best places to play in the world. You're fortunate to have the opportunity to compete in that area, so we'll be excited. Other than that, planning the trip will be the same, and our preparation will be the same."
On tonight's frontcourt matchup with Nevada...
"I thought we did a terrific job defending their frontcourt. Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt are two terrific low-post players. J.O. (senior Josh Owens) and (senior Andrew) Zimmermann started the game (for us), and they were great. They really made it difficult for them (Nevada) to get the ball inside. On the offensive end, I thought we did a good job of going to our big men and trying to put Nevada in positions where they had to defend. That combination really helped us. Our guys were very mature tonight. They played big, and I'm very proud of them."
On getting the sense that his seniors don't want their collegiate careers to end...
"They don't. Like I've said all season long, our leadership has been terrific. I'm very proud of this group. Every one of them has led in their own different way, but they all have given us something that we can take with us going forward as a program. Whether it's J.O. (Josh Owens) with his stern,' when I speak, everyone listens' (demeanor). Whether it's Jarrett (Mann) in our perimeter guys' ears, giving them little nuances of the game, both offensively and defensively from his experiences. Whether it's Andrew (Zimmermann), who's always talking, just giving us great leadership. He's the bearded one for us. He's been amazing as a leader. And Jack Trotter, who has been our politician. He's been great with everyone on our team. He's given us a great lift both on and off the court with things he's said to our guys. I've just really been proud of them. They are going to be missed, but the thing they have done is they have laid a good foundation for the young players to know what it takes to put a culture together that we want to have here, so I'm excited about that."
Senior Josh Owens
On the opportunity to head to New York City to complete his collegiate career...
"It's special. It's just special to still be playing basketball right now. There are a lot of teams that, their season is done, and so I'm thankful and blessed to still be playing right now."
On how important it was to get so many people involved in the offense...
"For us, it's all about making connecting plays, and when you make connecting plays, the game is a lot easier. Things flow smoothly, you start hitting on all cylinders, and everybody starts playing well. When everybody's playing well, the game is always fun. It comes easy, and that's how it was (tonight)."
Sophomore Josh Huestis
On Coach Dawkins' assessment of this being their most complete game of the season...
"This is the most important time of the year in terms of when you need to perform, because up until now, nothing else matters. It's all about what you do here in March. We're blessed to have the opportunity to keep playing. Guys know that every single team that we're going to go against is going to come out (with passion). Nobody wants their season to end right now. We expected them (Nevada) to come out firing. They're a good team. We're just playing our best basketball right now, like Coach (Dawkins) said."
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Nevada Head Coach David Carter
General thoughts on the game...
"It was a very physical game and we didn't respond well. We weren't in sync all night, and we weren't very aggressive for most of the game. They were in sync all night. We seemed to be a step behind them the whole time. This is still a young team. It was the first time we had a chance to play on a big stage. We got hit in the mouth and didn't respond. Our bench played well, but not well enough. We were frustrated at times tonight, and we sort of lost our composure. But give Stanford credit, they deserved the win."
On Nevada's 28 wins as second best in school history...
"The bar has been set high now. After winning 13 last year, I told the guys who are coming back that they are going to have to work harder to keep that standard. We had a lot of positives this year. We'll look at the tape from tonight's game and learn from it. The work for next year starts next week."
Senior Dario Hunt
General thoughts on the game...
"They're (Stanford) big and physical; we let them hit us too much. And we didn't fight back enough. We were out of character. I never got into a rhythm tonight. I got a couple of fouls early and that affected my game. It was tough to lose tonight, but I can't be too disappointed. We were 13-19 last year. I'm proud of my guys to come back the way they did. The future's bright for this team. I'll look forward to seeing how they do next year."