The Stanford men's basketball team put together a solid effort in December. The Cardinal hopes January is just as successful.
Stanford (8-3) opens the Pac-12 Conference season with a noon game Friday against visiting Washington State (6-6). On Sunday, No. 21 Washington (11-1) comes in for a 7 p.m. game.
"Those will be two good games," Stanford senior Anthony Brown said. "Every Pac-12 game is competitive. We know each other so well. We'll see how it goes."
Brown has caught fire in the past week or so, scoring 25 points in Stanford's upset over then-No. 9 Texas and following that with a 16-point effort in Stanford's 74-39 victory over visiting Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Monday night.
The victory over the Longhorns gave the Cardinal an indication of how good the team could be this year, despite the loss of Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis to the NBA.
"More than anything, it's knowing we belong," Brown said. "We can be a tournament team. We can be a contending team. For some of the younger guys it was their first opportunity to get a signature win."
The Cougars, rebuilding under former St. Mary's and Oregon coach Ernie Kent, are coming in on a two-game winning streak.
Washington won its first 11 games of the season before slipping against Stony Brook.
The Huskies, meanwhile, play at Cal on Friday night before arriving at Maples Pavilion.
"We've had a terrific preseason and played against teams with a lot of different styles," Cardinal coach Johnny Dawkins said. "The conference again, it's going to be a grind every single night. It was terrific last year and there's nothing different this year."
All 12 teams in the conference are at .500 or better. Stanford is one of four schools that are undefeated at home.
Preseason pick Arizona enters conference play ranked eighth, with Utah at No. 10. Stanford, picked to finish fifth, and California are both receiving votes.
"Any team is capable of beating you if you don't come focused," said Dawkins of Cal's loss to Cal State Bakersfield and Washington's loss to Stony Brook.
Senior point guard Chasson Randle enters the weekend needing one 3-pointer to match Dion Cross (241) for most in Stanford history. He hit three of them against the Golden Lions on Monday.
Randle is the Pac-12 active leader in career points with 1,854. Brown is fourth with 1,169. Washington State's DaVonte Lacy is third on the list with 1,230. Randle is also the active steals (133) and 3-point field goals (240) leader. Randle is second in the Pac-12 in scoring while Lacy is fifth.
Against the Golden Lions, Stanford had 22 assists on 25 made baskets.
"That was big," Brown said. "Twenty-two assists have to be the highest since I've been here. It's also nice to hit shots."
Stefan Nastic added 13 points for the Cardinal, who have won four of their past five games.
Stanford held the Golden Lions to a single basket through the first 8 1/2 minutes of the second half and the Cardinal eventually took a 40-point edge with just over 10 minutes to play.
"Any time you hold a team to 39 points, I don't care who you are playing, that's a heck of a job," Dawkins said. "We played well in a number of phases of the game. We were pretty sharp."
Stanford limited Arkansas-Pine Bluff to 14 first-half points, the lowest since the Cardinal held Connecticut to 13 second-half points last December.
Stanford forced 25 turnovers, matching the 25 against Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 12, 2012. The Cardinal also allowed the fewest points by an opponent since limiting Pacific to 37 three years ago.