Stanford men ready to take on defending NCAA champ UConn


Saturday's nonconference men's basketball game against visiting Connecticut may not hold the same significance of last year's contest, though hosting the defending national champions still holds the promise of a marquee matchup.

The Huskies (9-6) enter the weekend unranked and are coming off a loss to Tulsa. They have won five of their past seven and played as tough a schedule as anyone in the country.

Stanford (12-4) comes to the 6 p.m. contest (ESPN2) from the same direction. The Cardinal has won six of its past seven following Wednesday night's 69-59 victory at California.

Stanford beat the then-No. 10 Huskies in Connecticut last year, a game that helped boost the Cardinal's bid for the NCAA tournament. It's unlikely the Huskies will treat this game as anything other than a statement game.

"It's good for us," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "I told our guys that we're almost at the halfway point of the season now and we should be learning from each one of these games and getting better. We talk about finishing all the time finishing possessions, finishing games. We use that word all the time."

The Huskies have lost, by a point, at Texas and by 10 points at Duke. Connecticut also beat Dayton this season, the team that ended the Cardinal's run in last year's NCAA tournament.

The last time Connecticut visited Stanford, in February of 1999, both teams were ranked among the top 10. The Huskies went on to win the national title while the Cardinal lost to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

There was so much media interest in that 1999 contest that the postgame press conference was held in an auditorium in a neighboring building.

This year, both teams have lost significant players to the NBA draft but there is plenty of talent to go around to assure a competitive atmosphere at Maples Pavilion.

It's the start of a three-game homestand that also includes visits from Arizona, on Thursday, and Arizona State.

For Stanford, seniors Chasson Randle, Anthony Brown and Stefan Nastic are the heart and soul of the team. They combined to score 58 points against the Golden Bears and grabbed 21 of the 34 rebounds.

"The seniors were terrific," Dawkins said. "Those guys have all stepped up. Whether it's a big defensive play for us, scoring the basketball, they seem to always come up with a play that's needed."

Randle scored 25 points to regain the Pac-12 scoring leader with 19.6 points a game, while Cal's Tyrone Wallace, who was held to 16 points, remains third in the Pac-12.

Women's basketball

It's an interesting weekend for No. 13 Stanford, which hosts Arizona on Friday at 8 p.m., on the Pac-12 Networks, and No. 14 Arizona State on Monday at 3 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Cardinal (4-0 in the Pac-12, 12-4 overall) has won six straight since losing at Tennessee just before the Christmas break and it's been anything but easy.

Stanford needed to rally from deficits to beat both Washington, 60-56, and Washington State, 86-76 in overtime, on the road last weekend and the Sun Devils (4-0, 15-1) are one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford share the Pac-12 lead heading into the weekend, with California (3-1, 11-4) right behind.

The Cardinal played its third overtime game of the season against the Cougars, matching the program best set in 1980-81.

Stanford is 60-12 all-time against Arizona and has won the past 24 in the series. The Cardinal last lost to the Wildcats in Tucson in 2004. Since a three-point win on March 5, 2009 (70-67), the Cardinal has won the past 11 in the series by an average of 30 points (84-54).

This year, senior guard Amber Orrange and sophomore Lili Thompson are the catalysts for the Cardinal. They have combined to score 135 of Stanford's 263 conference points.

Stanford scores 11.6 points more than its opponents, averaging 72.2 per game and holding teams to 60.6. Stanford has not posted a scoring margin of less than plus-12 since the 2003-04 (plus-11.9). The last time the Cardinal had a scoring margin less than the current pace was in 2000-01 (73.4-72.9).

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