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January 31, 2013Johnny Dawkins wouldn't say it was the best win of his tenure on The Farm, but Stanford's commanding 76-52 victory over No. 10 Oregon was sure near the top.
The Card jumped out to a double digit lead in the first half and coasted to a surprisingly easy win over an Oregon team that was a perfect 7-0 in Pac-12 play before the game.
"It's definitely one of the best games I think our guys have played being the fact that they're such a highly ranked team," Dawkins said. "I think our kids have had some other good moments as well, but this definitely ranks up there as one of the better moments for our program."
Starting to click?: The victory improved Stanford's record to 4-4 in conference and 13-8 overall. It was also the Card's second consecutive blowout win - Stanford crushed Utah 87-56 on Sunday.
The past two games were reminiscent of Stanford's play during last year's NIT, when the Card seemed to be an unstoppable force en route to a tournament title.
"It's good to see the ball in the basket," Dawkins said. "That's something that's good been good for our team. You look at our percentages the last few games, our guys have seen it go in. We know we have good players, we know we have good shooters. I'm just happy to see them see the all go in some. That just helps them out and it makes everything a little easier."
The past two games are emblematic of the type of team Dawkins expected to see from the beginning of the year.
"We thought this is the type of team we would have to start the season," Dawkins said. "And we're developing. We're still in the process of becoming who we're going to become. The season is still long, we still have a lot of games to play."
Clamping down on defense: While Stanford's gaudy 51.9 shoot percentage was a significant factor in the team's win, the Cardinal defense played an equally critical role. Stanford held Oregon to 24 points below its season average in scoring, and limited the Ducks to 34.6 percent shooting (and 4-16 from three-point range).
"We were just trying to be as intense as possible and as aggressive as possible," Stanford forward Dwight Powell said. "We spent a lot of time watching film on them and watching their offensive schemes, so just trying to be prepared for the types of screens that they set. (E.J.) Singler is always a threat. So we were keying on him and making sure he didn't get off, because he's a playmaker and a scorer for them. We always had an eye on him and Andy did a great job. I think we did a great job of having that intensity and mindset that we were going to dig in tonight and do whatever it takes."
Forward Andy Brown's stifling defense helped limit Singler to 2-9 shooting.
"I thought Andy Brown did a terrific job of concentrating and really focusing on that assignment and did a terrific job," Dawkins said.
Interior strength: Though Oregon entered play first in the conference in rebounding margin, Stanford had a 35-31 edge on the glass in the win. The Card did a superb job preventing second chance opportunities for the Ducks, allowing only nine offensive rebounds on 34 missed Oregon shots.
"We knew that (Tony) Woods and (Arsalan) Kazemi were great rebounders, especially offensive rebounders," Powell said. "We went in with that awareness and tried to take them out as best we could. The guards did a great job of boxing their men out and helping, so we were able to get to them."
Powell and Josh Huestis were big reasons why.
"I think of two guys in particular that really helped us a lot tonight, that was Dwight and Josh Huestis," Dawkins said. "Not only did they score, but their board play, blocking shots, their activity in the paint really was a difference maker for us tonight."
Sustaining the momentum: Stanford has put forth similarly potent performances in the past - two wins against Colorado last season immediately come to mind. But with the exception of last year's NIT run, the Card has been unable to sustain a high level of play. This Sunday's game against visiting Oregon State will be critical if Stanford wants to accomplish that. With a very small crowd expected due to Super Bowl Sunday festivities, there would seem to be a possibility of a letdown.
Randle and Stanford don't plan on letting that happen.
"Really I just hope we can look at this game and look at it as a stepping stone," Randle said. "Just keep going up and keep getting better every single day and look at this game and really see the things that we did well, and even the things that we can improve on. This was a great team that we faced tonight and we beat them on our home floor. If we can do that on the road, that would be great."
Key Stat: Stanford's starting guards Randle and Aaron Bright combined to shoot 6-6 from three point range. As the Cardinal showed in last year's NIT run, if both Bright and Randle are shooting well, Stanford is a tough team to defend. Stanford received contributions from many players in the upset victory, but the pinpoint perimeter shooting of Bright and Randle was a catalyst for the offensive performance, and could be a huge boost for Stanford the rest of the season.