Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 17, 2010

Stanford finding its balance

With Owens contributing again, Cardinal (6-2) looks more solid than expected

by Rick Eymer

Johnny Dawkins continues to look for ways to balance Stanford's scoring attack as the Cardinal men's basketball team looks ahead to a pair of road games. Wednesday's 76-59 nonconference victory over visiting North Carolina A&T may have been the start of that.

Jeremy Green scored 18 points to lead Stanford (6-2) past the Aggies and just as important was Josh Owens' contribution of a season-high 15 points to go with eight rebounds.

Owens missed last season with an undisclosed medical condition. When he was able to practice, he worked on individual skills such as ball-handling and shooting.

"A lot of shooting," he said. "I'm also more aggressive."

Owens reached double figures in scoring for the fifth time in his past six games and has at least eight rebounds in each of his past three.

That's a good sign as the Cardinal heads to Butler for a televised (CBS) contest Saturday at 11 a.m. (PST).

"J.O. is finding himself," Dawkins said. "Every game you see him getting better and better."

The Cardinal has won three straight and is 5-0 at home.

With nine new players to go with no seniors on the roster, Dawkins and his coaching staff opened training camp with an emphasis on defense. That seems to be working as Stanford has allowed just over 57 points a game, second in the Pac-10, through its first eight.

"We spent a lot of time on defense early," he said. "We've defended fairly well so far. That's been our calling card. Offensively we're still trying to get chemistry. As they get more comfortable with the system and learn where their shots come from, it will come. We're executing a lot better than we were and I see steady improvement."

Owens return to form mirrors the team's continued growth. Stanford can only benefit by his improvement.

"When you're away from the game for a year you appreciate it a lot more," Owens said. "It's definitely a different mindset and I think that's been the biggest difference."

Stanford freshman Dwight Powell added nine points and seven rebounds in Wednesday's win.

Butler (5-4) beat Mississippi Valley State by 20 points last Saturday but has lost three of its past five games.

With the exception of one game, either Shelvin Mack or Matt Howard has led the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding. The pair averages a combined 31.7 points and 13.5 rebounds a contest.

They were also part of Butler's improbable run to last year's NCAA championship game.

"They are a terrific team," Dawkins said. "The environment will be amazing."

Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse, built in 1928, was used for the final game in the movie, "Hoosiers," and is one of the classic buildings in college basketball.

While the players will take a trip through history, Dawkins looks for another learning experience.

"We're still learning one another," he said. "We're eight games into the season with nine new players."

Freshman point guard Aaron Bright is one of those newcomers who has begun to make an impression on the program. He and Jarrett Mann appear to be at opposite ends of the point guard spectrum.

"They are totally different but in both cases we know who they are," Dawkins said. "Jarrett is a terrific on-ball defender and the best defender on the perimeter. He values that role. Aaron is unique. He's more of a speedy guard who can knock down 3s. He's improving."

Offensively, Mann recorded five assists without making a turnover in 28 minutes, his first mistake-free game since Feb. 28, 2009 against USC.

Stanford also travels to Oklahoma State for a 6 p.m. tipoff Tuesday before returning home following Christmas for games against Yale and California in the Pac-10 opener.

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