NEW YORK -- Stanford closed the first half strong against Houston and then really played well in the second half.
Dwight Powell and Anthony Brown both scored 20 points for the Cardinal, who shot 66.7 percent in the second half for an 86-76 victory over the Cougars on Monday night in the semifinals of the Progressive Legends Classic."It was a very good second half for us. We were very efficient offensively," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "In the first half they took us out of things we wanted to do and we came back with a much stronger offensive performance."Josh Huestis had 13 points and 13 rebounds for Stanford, which closed the first half on a 13-4 run to get into a 32-32 tie.Stanford took control in the second half by making nine of its first 13 shots from the field and led 53-46 lead after dunks by Huestis and Powell."The big turnaround was the last 3:22 of the first half when we lost the nine-point lead and they tied the game up," Houston coach James Dickey said. "And I thought we never really could regain any momentum."The Cardinal (5-1) will play Pittsburgh, which beat Texas Tech 76-53, in the championship game on Tuesday night at Barclays Center."This is a great opportunity for us to play a team that does a great job on defense and executes offensively," Dawkins said. "From this we can only get better."TaShawn Thomas had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Cougars (5-1), who shot 37.5 percent in the second half (12 of 32) and couldn't stay with the Cardinal."We didn't play with as much intensity in the second half as we did in the first half on the defensive end," Thomas said. "We had more pop and contested more shots. We lost focus."Stanford, which was 13 for 26 from 3-point range in its last game and was shooting 41.2 percent from beyond the arc overall, stayed inside for the most part against the Cougars and were able to open a 65-53 lead with Powell and Huestis doing the damage inside."Our offense is predicated on our defense and we were not locking down on defense in the first half," Powell said. "We knew once we started to lock down on defense it would create offense."But Houston turned up the aggressiveness on defense and was able to get within five points four times over the final 3:49, the last time at 77-72 but Stanford had an answer each time to extend the lead."I was proud of how our guys competed," Dickey said. "We didn't shoot as well as we're capable of."Stefan Nastic had 14 points for Stanford and Aaron Bright added 11.Danuel House had 15 points for Houston and L.J. Rose added 14.The teams finished almost even on the boards with Stanford holding a 40-39 advantage but there was a lot of physical play underneath."It was very physical," Thomas said. "We knew they had the size advantage over us so we knew from the git go it would be a physical game."Dickey will face Texas Tech, a school he coached from 1991-92 until 2000-01 and led to the NCAA tournament twice, for the first time in the third-place game."I still have a lot of friends there and I spent 11 wonderful years there," he said, "but it's just another game."