Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - January 27, 2012

Stanford men hope to overcome Cal on Sunday and some nagging injuries

by Rick Eymer

Josh Owens understands adversity and frustration better than most of his Stanford men's basketball teammates. The fifth-year senior needed a year away from the game because of a medical condition that threatened his playing career.

Andy Brown finally found the court after missing three years with three separate torn ACL injuries.

This year it is sophomores Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown who are trying to overcome the adversity and frustration of bothersome injuries that have kept them from producing at a higher level.

"They all bring great attitudes to practice," Owens said as Stanford (5-3, 15-5) prepares for another road challenge Sunday at California, with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off. "No one is dwelling on the negatives, no one has checked out and no one is down on themselves."

A good thing considering the Cardinal enters the final game of the first half of Pac-12 play with plenty of motivation. A win would keep Stanford among the conference elite and would go a long way to convince itself that road games aren't necessarily automatic losses.

"We faced serious road adversity for the first time this season," Owens said. "I think a lot of maturing is happening. This week we will not be deterred."

The Cardinal has lost three of four conference road contests, with the sole victory being decided in the fourth overtime period at Oregon State. Stanford already has matched last year's overall win total and will need at least five more wins to put itself in position for NCAA consideration.

Powell has shown signs of returning to form following an awkward heel-ankle sprain he sustained a few days before the season opener. He reached double figures in scoring once through his first 13 games and twice in his past five games. Powell's career high 20-point affair came against California, which currently shares first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon.

"Of course they are frustrated," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said of Powell and Brown. "They know what they can do and they know they can help us."

Brown was named to the All-Pac-10 freshman team last year after earning his way into the starting lineup and then keeping his spot, recording 10 double-figure games in his final 14.

Powell, who reached double figures in scoring eight times, was an honorable mention on the freshman team.

"They both got knocked back," Dawkins said. "You never know how they are going to respond."

Brown, who suffered from tendinitis in both knees, remains a little inconsistent. Only Owens, Aaron Bright and freshman Chasson Randle have played more minutes than Brown.

"He's a little bit erratic," Dawkins said of Brown. "He's not as comfortable with his lower base. You can see him trying to adjust but his shots seem to just miss."

Powell, who recorded a double-double in the win at Oregon State, missed the first two games of the season with the foot problem. He averages about 15 minutes a game. He's beginning to make the most of his time on the court.

"It has been tough for him," Dawkins said. "He kept re-injuring it. He would come back at go full strength and then hurt it. The ankle has been heavily taped. He's not out of the woods but at least they loosened the tape and that's a good thing."

Powell started 21 of 26 games last year, averaging 24 minutes, 8.1 points and 5.2 rebounds. He's started three times, including last Saturday's game in Seattle, averaging 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds.

"It will be hard to get him completely healthy while he's still playing on it," Dawkins said. "He still has limited mobility but you can see him playing differently. You can see the progress. His athleticism is coming back and he's playing better."

A week ago Stanford was tied with Cal for the conference lead. This weekend, the Cardinal is in fifth place, but only a game behind the Bears and Oregon. Washington and Washington State are tied for third at 5-2.

There's still plenty of time to create an interesting race to the top but it would be wise to begin winning on the road a little more often.

"It starts on the defensive end," Dawkins said. "You've got to be a stingy defensive team on the road and the offense has to complement that. You have to value the ball and every possession. You can't turn the ball over."

The eight-day break between games allowed Dawkins and his coaching staff time to work on individual skills and team weaknesses.

"We've worked on ourselves the last couple of days," he said. "We had a tough weekend and we have to get better in some areas."

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