NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Owens got off to a great start in his first game at Madison Square Garden.
The 6-foot-8 senior forward made his first nine shots from the field and finished with 21 points to lead Stanford to an 82-67 victory over Oklahoma State on Wednesday night in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.
"In our huddle before the game I told the team it doesn’t matter if we’re at the Garden, back at Stanford or in a playground, we had to come out and try to win," he said. "It was a great experience to win here."
Owens, a native of Kennesaw, Ga., then revealed he had spent time around Madison Square Garden — if not in it.
"Usually when I’m at 34th Street and Seventh Avenue I’m getting a train to New Jersey," he said.
Stanford (5-0) will play No. 5 Syracuse, which beat Virginia Tech 69-58, for the championship on Friday night.
The Cardinal had their best game from beyond the 3-point line this season.
"We think we can shoot the ball so it wasn’t really an emphasis tonight," Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. "We spaced the floor and got good looks. We always stay in character, tell them to be ready when those shots present themselves and for the most part we took good shots."
Chasson Randle added 17 points and Aaron Bright had 15 for the Cardinal, who took control with an 18-0 run that spanned both halves.
Stanford scored the last six points of the first half to take a 46-35 lead and the Cardinal opened the second half on a 12-0 run. They hit four of their nine 3-pointers during the spurt.
Le’Bryan Nash had 16 points and Markel Brown added 11 for the Cowboys (3-1), who had their four-game winning streak at Madison Square Garden snapped.
"It’s just our being a young basketball team," Cowboys coach Travis Ford said. "We’re not picking up things very quickly. All these things are great experience. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way. We’re learning a lesson the hard way tonight."
This was Oklahoma State’s first game since women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and his assistant, Miranda Serna, were killed along with two others in a plane crash last week. The players all had the number 4 on the left shoulder of their uniforms.
"I don’t want to make any excuses on that. (Stanford) deserves better than that. Our guys could just never turn it on," Ford said. "It’s been a long week, but I think our guys were ready to go."
Stanford came into the game shooting 32.8 percent from 3-point range and the most 3s the Cardinal had in one game was seven against UC Davis. The Cardinal were 5 of 10 from long range in the first half, with Bright going 3 for 5. Randle matched his effort in the second half and Stanford was 9 of 19 from beyond the arc in the game.
It was another solid defensive effort by the Cardinal, who hadn’t allowed an opponent to reach 60 points in their first four games.
"Especially early we did a good job defensively, getting in the passing lanes and causing turnovers," Dawkins said.
Stanford’s lead reached as much as 28 points, the last time at 74-46 on a basket by Randle with 7:46 to play.
"Our focus was for a team effort and we really played well together and shared the ball, which we’ve been working on," Dawkins said. "There were stretches where we played really, really good defense."
Oklahoma State, which won this tournament in 1991, is 18-10 at Madison Square Garden.