By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online
Gabe Harris made a ridiculous shot to end the first half, Josh Owens came up big offensively in the second half and Josh Huestis was huge defensively. It all added to a Thanksgiving week trip to New York City and the wonder of Madison Square Gardens.
Owens scored nine of his game-high 15 points in the second half as the Stanford men's basketball team rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to beat visiting Colorado State, 64-52, in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off in Tuesday night.
The Rams were down, 54-52, and had a chance to tie or go ahead. Stanford (3-0) scored the game's final 10 points to secure the victory. Owens and Harris each had four points and Jarrett Mann, who led the team with nine rebounds, added two points.
Huestis swatted away a possible game-tying basket, one of his three blocked shots on the night, in the final minute.
The second half comeback was made possible when Harris threw up a 70-foot shot as the buzzer sounded to end the first half and it hit nothing but net.
"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 still has to play at UC Davis on Friday night before thinking about its cross country trip, but the Cardinal should be in pretty good spirits all the same.
Aaron Bright added 12 points for the Cardinal, who advance 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."
Harris, who finished with 12 points, was 4 of 4 and Mann 2 of 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.
"Stanford did a good job of putting Owens in a position to attack us," Rams' coach Tim Miles said. "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."
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.
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 coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We dug in and played defense."