Before Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins could be concerned about a possible matchup against his mentor, his Cardinal team had to put on a performance reminiscent of his playing days at Duke. Guard Chasson Randle obliged with a shooting display that would have made Dawkins – a former sharpshooter himself – proud.
Randle hit five first-half three-pointers on his way to 18 points as Stanford routed UNLV 89-60 in the semifinal round of the Northwestern Mutual Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday. Stanford will play Duke in tomorrow’s championship game after the Mike Krzyzewski-led Blue Devils defeated Temple 74-54 in the nightcap.
The last time the Cardinal were on a national stage like the one they took tonight, they were making their way to the Sweet 16 last March, led by Randle and his deadly shooting from beyond the arc. Fittingly, he opened the game tonight with a three, and the Cardinal raced out to a 12-0 lead after Randle hit his second long-range effort less than four minutes into the game. Randle was quick to praise the rest of his teammates on the floor for his shooting efforts.
“I think our guys did a great job spacing the floor well and finding the open man,” Randle said, after finishing the game with six three-pointers. “It was our night shooting the basketball.”
Even with inside presence Stefan Nastic going only 3-for-13, every other Cardinal starter shot over 50 percent from the field as Stanford also shot that percentage as a team. Building upon their run to the regional finals in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, Stanford can add an early statement win for this season when taking on the Blue Devils.
“The biggest thing for us is taking every game as an opportunity,” said Anthony Brown, Randle’s backcourt mate who also had 18 points to go along with five assists. “We have a 1-0 mentality every single game. Every game we play we want to leave our mark. We don’t care who the other team is. We just focus on ourselves and play to the best of our abilities.”
Duke just happens to be the next team on Stanford’s schedule now after a routine victory over Temple in the second semifinal later in the evening. Jahlil Okafor, the highly-touted freshman post who was named a preseason Associated Press All-America before he ever took the court in a competitive college game, struggled to get going, missing a bevy of inside shots in the first half against the physical Owl frontcourt. Okafor finished with 16 points, but was 3-of-13 from the field in the first half.
The Blue Devils other heralded freshman had better games, however, as Justice Winslow had 15 points while point guard Tyus Jones finished with five points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals – all while committing just one turnover. Quinn Cook, Jones’ backcourt partner, led Duke with 17 points.
All this sets up a date with Stanford and head coach Dawkins, the national player of the year in 1986 who left Duke as a player holding the all-time school scoring record at 2,556 points. Dawkins also was an assistant coach under Krzyzewski for a decade before taking the Stanford job in 2008.
“I don’t think any of us (coaches) look forward to playing each other,” Dawkins said. “Coach (Kyzyzewski) and I have always been so close that typically we do not play each other during the season. It just so happens that this is a tournament setting and you play the teams in front of you if they win.”
Saturday night’s championship game is set for 9:30, with the Temple vs. UNLV consolation game is at 7.
[Cover photo (Quinn Cook) courtesy of Brad Penner/USA Today Sports]