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March 29, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Stanford wins NIT

Stanford did what Washington couldn’t – throttle Minnesota and win the National Invitation Tournament.
Behind a suffocating defense, the Cardinal easily prevailed 75-51 and cut down the Madison Square Garden nets.
“When we look back at the season, I just think we have grown together,” coach Johnny Dawkins said. “We have grown up. All of the experiences that we have had, we talked about this journey starting last April at the end of last season, and you know, into the summer, we went to Spain. And then preseason; then across the regular season.
“You look back and think about the experiences that we shared, and the team just got closer and closer. I’m just happy to see the relationships that are built in situations like this. These guys are going to be friends for the rest of their lives, and they are champions forever. They are NIT champions and that’s something no one ever will be able to take away from them. That’s something they can tell their kids, when they walk into Maples, they can see the banner up there and say that they were a part of that. I’m just happy for them.”
During a decisive 25-4 run between the first and second halves, Stanford held the Golden Gophers without a field goal for over 12 minutes. Stanford trailed 21-17 with 9:01 remaining in the first half before the spurt. When the run was over, the Cardinal was ahead 42-25 with 16 minutes left and it led by as many as 30 points.
Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright, who came off the bench, each scored a game-high 15 points. Bright, the former Bellevue High standout, won the Most Outstanding Player award.
The ease at which No. 3 seed Stanford dominated No. 6 Minnesota draws attention to Washington’s 68-67 defeat Tuesday.
The top-seeded Huskies arguably had more talent than anyone in the tournament, but they were outplayed for long stretches in the semifinals. Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams who dominated UW for 20 and 18 points respectively finished with 4 and 12 before fouling out tonight.
It’s the second NIT title for Stanford, which won in 1991.
It would have been interesting to see the all-Pac-12 NIT final. Washington beat Stanford 76-63 on Jan. 21 at Edmundson Pavilion.
“I’ve been telling everybody it’s great for next year too,” Bright said. “It’s great for our seniors to go out like that and hopefully it carries into the offseason for us and we’ll just continue to work hard. We know what it takes to win the tournament now. We won five in a row, and I think we are going to use this experience for next year and making a run at the March Madness.”
The Cardinal, which finished seventh in the Pac-12, should be considered one of the contenders to win the title next season because it has more continuity than perhaps anyone in the conference.
Stanford loses three senior starters, but only 6-8 forward/center Josh Owens contributed major minutes and points. Forward Andrew Zimmerman and guard Jarrett Mann averaged less than five points and three rebounds.
Stanford returns 10 returning underclassmen, including Randle and Bright, who are among the top three leading scorers. Anthony Brown is a solid three-point shooter, Dwight Powell is thin, but promising 6-9 forward and 6-7 forward Josh Huestis is one of the best defenders in the league.
Stanford also brings in a three-man freshman class ranked fourth in the Pac-12 by the Seattle Times. The group includes 6-9 forward Roscoe Allen, a consensus four-star recruit, 6-8 center Grant Verhoeven, who received four stars from the three major recruiting services and Christian Sanders, a consensus three-star guard.
Not sure how Dawkins did it, but he got Baltimore Raves linebacker Ray Lewis to address the team Tuesday. Just watching the video (below) got me fired up so I can only imagine how the Cardinal felt.

Updated: 9:03 p.m.

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