In games the Stanford men's basketball team isn't necessarily granted easy access to the basket, it needs to find alternative ways to be successful. Sunday's 56-49 nonconference victory over visiting Colorado State was just such a contest.
The Rams packed it in on defense, daring the Cardinal into beating them from long range. Dorian Pickens did what he could, making four of six from 3-point land and finishing with a game-high 17 points.
"I look to be aggressive in those situations, when they take away the low post," Pickens said. "I trust my teammates to get me the ball where I like to get it."
What the Cardinal (4-0) really did was double down defensively, limiting Colorado State to its lowest point total in two years on less than 30 percent shooting.
"We need to play our style," Stanford guard Robert Cartwright said. "We want to be a team that runs up and down the court but we have to find other ways. Now we know we can beat a team without scoring a lot of points. Credit Colorado State for making it difficult for us to get the ball inside."
Stanford coach Jerod Haase insisted his team needed to generate a few more points in the paint no matter what the Rams did defensively. The Cardinal did hold a 20-12 advantage over the Rams in points in the paint.
"They certainly did a great job playing a very compact defense, but we also made some mistakes," Haase said. "We didn't counter that by going high-low or punching it in there. We need to make a few more open shots. The biggest thing is we need to get the ball inside."
Stanford made it difficult on the Rams with its interior defense. Michael Humphrey blocked four shots and altered many others while grabbing a team-best seven rebounds.
The Cardinal opened a 35-23 halftime lead and eventually upped that to a 14-point advantage early in the second half before things went array offensively.
Christian Sanders hit a short jumper to put Stanford ahead, 37-23, and then proceeded to score three points over the next eight minutes, throwing the door wide open for a possible Rams comeback.
Colorado State did close the gap to six points but the Cardinal did enough things correctly to stave off the upset bid.
"It's being active on defense and trusting guys to be there for help," Pickens said. "It's a collective effort."
And it's Pickens hitting some of those open shots.
"He brought the offense," said Cartwright, who had a career-high six assists. "We look for him all the time. We need him to keep shooting the ball."
Haase said he'd like to see Pickens shoot the ball more.
"He had a couple of open looks he turned down that I would have liked to see him take," Haase said. "His presence at the 3-point line will pay dividends for us. His presence is important."
Reid Travis, who also missed a majority of the season, also reached double figures with 11 points. He and Pickens combined for 11 rebounds.
Grant Verhoeven accomplished a great deal in the short time he played. He was relentless in pursuing the ball, even if it meant going through people.
Verhoeven scored four points, had four rebounds and recorded a steal in his eight minutes. Unfortunately he also fouled out.
Stanford travels to Orlando for the Thanksgiving weekend, participating in the AdvoCare Invitational. The Cardinal meet Miami (3-0) at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the opening round.