STANFORD, Calif.- Energized by a remarkable shot at the end of the first half, Stanford picked up its defensive pressure and created enough offense to earn a trip to New York City.
Josh Owens scored four of his game-high 15 points over the final 1:54 to lead Stanford past Colorado State 64-52 in the second round of the Dick's Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off Tuesday night at Maples Pavilion.
Aaron Bright added 12 points for the Cardinal (3-0), which advanced to next week's semifinal round at Madison Square Garden in New York. Stanford will play the winner of Wednesday's game between Texas-San Antonio and Oklahoma State.
"It's something we set as a goal," Owens said. "I'm excited because I have family on the East Coast."
Gabriel Harris, who finished with 12 points, was 4-4 and Jarrett Mann 2-2 from the foul line over the final 43 seconds to hold off the Rams (2-1), who went scoreless over the final 3:01.
Harris' 70-foot shot at the buzzer drew the Cardinal within 33-31 of the Rams, who dominated the first half, and set up the second-half rally.
"That was definitely a pick-me-up," Owens said. "We were building some momentum and to close with that gave us all kinds of energy."
Stanford shot 42.9 percent but limited Colorado State to 33.9 percent shooting. The Cardinal held a 40-36 advantage in rebounds and attempted 14 more free throws.
Wes Eikmeier scored 13 points to lead Colorado State. Greg Smith and Jesse Carr each added 10 points.
"I felt like we did this to ourselves," Colorado State head coach Tim Miles said. "We had a great opportunity to go to Madison Square Garden and make a national impact. We imploded with silly turnovers and missed free throws."
Will Bell hit a layup to give Colorado State a slim 41-36 advantage four minutes into the second half. Stanford began a 13-2 run that eventually gave it a 49-43 edge with 11:39 left to play. Bright and Owens combined for 11 of those points.
"We made some ball-handling errors and took poor shots," Miles said. "A lot of things went wrong for us and a few things went right for them. They got rolling."
The Cardinal held onto the tenuous lead the rest of the way, as they never led by more than eight until the final seconds.
"In the second half we defended as well as we ever had," Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We dug in and played defense."
The Rams drew within 54-52 when Andrew Zimmermann was called for goaltending on a Bell basket.
Stanford went six minutes without scoring but limited the Rams, who had a chance to go 3-0 for the first time in six years, to six points during that span.
"Colorado State is a great team," Owens said. "We were slow in adjusting to them. As we settled in we turned things around."
Eikmeier hit a jumper with 4:57 left in the first half, giving The Rams their biggest lead at 31-20.
Stanford, which committed seven turnovers in the game's first seven minutes, went on an 11-2 run the rest of the half to close the gap.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
NOTES: Stanford is now 9-3 all-time in Preseason NIT competition. The Cardinal is making its fourth appearance in the Preseason NIT and first since a runner-up finish to North Carolina back in 2002. The Cardinal also fell to North Carolina in the 1998 title game and went 1-1 in the 1988 Preseason NIT ... Stefan Nastic followed Josh Huestis and Jack Trotter as the latest frontcourt player to knock down a three-pointer, connecting from beyond the arc with eight minutes left in the first period ... For the third straight game, Stanford did a good job of getting to the foul line. The Cardinal cashed in on 17-26 attempts, compared to just 6-12 from the Rams. Through three games, Stanford has attempted 102 free throws, almost double the total of its opponents (55) ... Jarrett Mann led Stanford with nine boards, as four other players pulled down at least four ... Dwight Powell saw five minutes of action in his first game of the year, returning to the court after missing the first two games with a sprained left ankle ... Colorado State's biggest lead was 11 points, the second of which was a 31-20 cushion with 4:57 left in the first period.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins: On Stanford's defense...
"I thought the second half we defended about as well as we defended all year. I thought our guys dug in and played defense as well as we're capable of. Colorado State's guards are very good. They move the ball very well and they make every shot. It puts you in a tough position."
On using early substitutes...
"We would like to narrow it down if we possibly could. We have depth this year. There's not a great separation, and I think you can see looking at the stat sheet who plays big for us. Tonight it was Gabe (Harris), last night it was Jack Trotter ... It's a good problem to have. I think depth is something we're excited about. I think we need to have a feeling of the strengths and weaknesses of those kids, and which games would fit their style of play."
On the UC Davis game Friday...
"Our whole thing is taking it one game at a time. All these games count the same for us. We can't look past any team, and we won't. We respect every opponent that we play and we're going to approach it that way the entire season."
Colorado State head coach Tim Miles: On the difference between the two halves...
"They sort of pulverized us (in the second half). I'm angry at everybody -- I'm angry at myself, how we could have prevented, how we could have prepared better, what we could have done differently. I felt we should have denied Owens on the perimeter more. We let him get catches out there so he could go to work. He had mismatches the whole time. He is one of the most athletic players in the country."
On the execution and strategy...
"I'm disappointed in some ball handling errors that showed a lack of fundamentals that I know we have. When as a coach I see errors like that, I take it as a personal insult. Stanford did a good job of putting Owens in a position to attack us. If I had to do it over, I would try to get the ball out of his hands. Once he gets it, he's so powerful and athletic that it's hard to stop him."
On Stanford pulling away with 10 straight points in the last two minutes...
"We were the classic "try-harders" -- we thought, 'Oh, oh, now we're really behind, so now we have to make something happen.' You can't play that way. We lost sight of what got us there (into two early 11-point leads). We had some good looks midway in the second half, but they just didn't go. Then we started missing free throws. That's a recipe for losing."