The Rising Cardinal

Unranked at the time, Stanford hasn't stopped rising since beating Arizona State last month. The Sun Devils, meanwhile, haven't recovered.

The seventh-ranked Cardinal (20-3, 9-2 Pac-10) try to win eight in a row for the first time in nearly four years Thursday when they travel to Tempe to face the slumping Sun Devils.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Stanford -3.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 80% of bets for this game have been placed on Stanford –3.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Stanford trailed Arizona State 30-20 at halftime at Maples Pavilion on Jan. 19, but scored 47 points in the second half en route to a 67-52 win over the then-No. 22 Sun Devils. Arizona State came into the game 4-0 in the Pac-10.

Forward Brook Lopez had 19 points - 14 after halftime - and 16 rebounds as Stanford held a 39-25 advantage on the boards.

"We played the second half," Cardinal coach Trent Johnson said after the win. "We struggled in the first half but we turned it up a notch and dominated the glass."

Stanford's victory ended the Sun Devils' 10-game winning streak and sent them into a tailspin. They dropped five straight and fell out of the Top 25 two weeks after they had entered the rankings for the first time since 1994-95.

The Cardinal, meanwhile, have shot from unranked prior to Jan. 21 to a top 10 team after seven consecutive victories. They haven't won eight straight since beginning the 2003-04 season 26-0.

Lopez, whose twin brother Robin is Stanford's second-leading rebounder, was ruled academically ineligible for the first semester and missed Stanford's first nine games. Since making his season debut Dec. 19, he's averaging 18.1 points.

Brook Lopez, though, wasn't at his best as Stanford beat Oregon and Oregon State last weekend. He averaged only 13.0 points in the victories and appeared to lose his cool in a 71-56 win over the Beavers on Saturday, committing seven turnovers.

"A little frustrated? He for the most part lost his composure,'' Johnson said. "I tried to calm him down. I hope he doesn't do it for a long time again.''

While Lopez is the team's go-to scorer, Mitch Johnson may be the Cardinal's most important all-around player. The junior point guard only averages 6.7 points, but is third in the Pac-10 with 4.7 assists, grabs 4.0 rebounds per game despite being only 6-foot-1 and has vastly improved his shooting percentage (45.0 percent) from last season (35.6).

"We're going to go as far as Mitch takes us,'' fellow guard Anthony Goods said.

Johnson leads Stanford in steals (19) and is part of a team that's among the nation's top 10 in scoring defense. The Cardinal yield just 56.9 points per game and have allowed only 53.8 in their past four contests.

Arizona State (15-7, 5-5) may have saved its season from spiraling out of control in its most recent game. After losing their previous two contests by an average of 23.5 points, the Sun Devils snapped their five-game skid Saturday with a 59-54 win at Arizona - their first victory in Tucson since 1995.

Jeff Pendergraph led the way with a career-high 29 points. The junior forward is the Pac-10's leader in field-goal percentage (61.3), but he averaged just 7.6 points on 38.1 percent shooting during the losing streak.

Pendergraph has often taken a back seat to freshman James Harden this season, but Harden has been inconsistent lately. The 18-year-old swingman had 26 points in a loss to USC on Feb. 2, but scored just nine against UCLA on Jan. 31 and only five against the Wildcats.

Harden is averaging 18.1 points and 5.0 rebounds on the season.

Stanford has won five in a row and 18 of its last 20 against Arizona State.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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