By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Josh Owens thinks Stanford's 76-72 come-from-behind victory over visiting North Carolina State will come in handy when it comes time for the selection committee to pick at-large teams for the NCAA men's basketball tournament in March.
Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said Sunday's nationally-televised nonconference affair showed his team's growth over the past 10 days or so.
Owens scored 19 points, one of four Cardinal players to reach double figures, and Stanford (8-1) remained unbeaten at home with a signature win over a respected team out of the ACC.
"This was a terrific win because it showed we learned a valuable lesson from the Syracuse loss," Dawkins said. "That paid off a little bit today. All the things we needed to do to close out the game we did."
The Cardinal lost to No. 5 Syracuse, 69-63, in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off after holding a late lead.
North Carolina State, picked to finish eighth in the ACC, was 12 points up with 14:18 remaining to play. Stanford rallied to take a 71-64 lead with 33 seconds left. The Cardinal made 13 of 15 free throws in the final five minutes.
"For what we want to do long term this was one of those games you need to win to punch your ticket," Owens said. "That's what coach calls them. It was a good win over a team from the ACC."
Stanford has been getting noticed, slightly, by AP voters and Sunday's win, it's last game before finals week, could bump them up in the recognition category. The Cardinal returns to the court on Saturday, Dec. 17 with a game against visiting San Diego at 5 p.m.
A healthy home schedule leading into Pac-12 play could prove beneficial for the Cardinal, which 16 points from freshman Chasson Randle, including 8-of-8 from the foul line, and 15 points from Aaron Bright. Anthony Brown added 12.
"Just make free throws, it's that simple," Randle said. "We have to make free throws if we want to win."
C.J. Leslie scored all 14 of his points for the Wolfpack in the first half. He played sparingly in the second half because of cramping in his legs.
The Cardinal fell behind early in both halves. Stanford was able to pull within 35-31 of the Wolfpack by halftime.
"We did not start out the way we would have liked," Owens said. "We were not playing to our strength. We made some adjustments and pulled it out. We were getting beat inside and on the boards. We just dug in."
Stanford played without starting forward Andrew Zimmerman, suffering from a stomach virus. He participated in pre-game activities but did not feel well enough to start.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 18 minutes as No. 6 Stanford beat host Fresno State, 93-59, in a nonconference game Sunday.
Chiney Ogwumike added 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Cardinal (6-1), which takes a two-week break for finals.
Stanford hosts Princeton on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m.
Bonnie Samuelson had a big day, connecting on six of her eight 3-point tries for 18 points. Lindy LaRocque added 10 points and a game-high five assists.