STANFORD, Calif. (AP) -- Trent Johnson asked his Stanford players
to spend two focused weeks of practice upgrading their defense.
The Cardinal are showing signs of progress.
Matt Haryasz had 24 points and 13 rebounds and Stanford used an
inspired defensive effort to end a three-game losing streak with a
71-49 victory over Denver on Monday night.
"It's nice to see the kids smile," Johnson said. "They
haven't smiled in a month. This is a nice win for us. I thought we
Dan Grunfeld added 19 points, six rebounds and five assists as
the Cardinal (3-4) avoided their worst start since beginning 2-5 in
1979-80 and worst skid since dropping six in a row to end the
Denver star Yemi Nicholson had 10 points and 11 rebounds after a
27-point performance in a 79-66 loss to North Dakota State on Dec.
13. He didn't score until a tip-in at the 13:51 mark of the first
Nicholson, the 6-foot-11, 260-pound reigning Sun Belt Conference
player of the year, attracted a handful of NBA scouts, but never
got into a rhythm. He missed six of his first seven field-goal
tries and finished 4-of-12 shooting for the mistake-prone Pioneers.
"We didn't come out with the kind of intensity we needed to win
this game," Nicholson said. "They were doubling up on me most of
the time and I couldn't get free underneath. The shots just weren't
falling for me either."
Nicholson became visibly frustrated when he briefly tangled with
Stanford point guard Chris Hernandez and got whistled for his
fourth foul with 16:01 remaining, then took a seat. He returned
about three minutes later and scored soon after, then had another
hoop during a 9-0 run that pulled the Pioneers within 55-44 with
Alex Cox made it a 56-47 game with a three-point play for Denver
at 7:53, but the Pioneers scored only two points the rest of the
"We told ourselves to calm down, play defense, shoot and
rebound," Haryasz said. "We didn't panic, which is important when
teams make a run."
The Cardinal had been struggling after beginning the season
ranked 13th, losing at Montana, at UC Davis and against Virginia
Tech in Las Vegas on Saturday night in the team's first game back
after a two-week layoff for final exams.
The Pioneers (5-4), who are 0-4 in California since returning to
Division I in 1998, committed 20 turnovers and shot 34.6 percent on
the way to their third straight defeat. Denver played its third
game of a five-game road trip.
David Kummer led the Pioneers with 12 points and six rebounds.
Grunfeld, Stanford's leading scorer last season in his
injury-shortened junior year, scored the Cardinal's first eight
points after halftime and converted consecutive three-point plays.
He is still wearing a bulky brace on his surgically repaired right
Haryasz scored six points during a 13-1 run that gave the
Cardinal a 28-11 lead with 6 minutes left in the first half. After
the Pioneers cut it to 10, Stanford ended the first half on an 8-0
spurt for a 37-19 lead at the break. Haryasz, who made 10 of 12
free throws, dunked in the closing moments on a pretty pass from
freshman Mitch Johnson.
"This is an improvement," Grunfeld said. "We put two solid
halves together. It's encouraging, but it's early."
Stanford played without forward Fred Washington, who has left
knee tendinitis that likely will keep him out of Wednesday night's
game against Princeton in the Pete Newell Challenge.
Denver missed its first four shots against Stanford's tight man
defense, including three by Nicholson. The Cardinal made five of
their first eight shots and forced the Pioneers into nine early
Denver's Terrence Gordon picked up his fourth foul 2:18 before