STANFORD -- Stanford kept itself in a tangle in the middle of the Pac-12 standings with a 76-70 win over Arizona State on Saturday in front of 5,497 fans at Maples Pavilion.
With his team 5-4 at the turn of the conference schedule, coach Johnny Dawkins knows a crucial stretch lies ahead. The Cardinal plays its next three games on the road, beginning Wednesday at Cal.
"To have a real successful conference season you have to be able to go on the road and have some success," said Dawkins, whose club visits Washington State and Washington a week from now.
Stanford (14-7) bounced back nicely from a 60-57 loss to top-ranked Arizona, but its margin of error remains small. The Cardinal will need a strong finish to be in position to earn its first NCAA tournament bid in Dawkins' six seasons.
"Dropping a single game can change your fate," said senior Dwight Powell, who equaled his season high with 28 points. "We have to treat each of these games very seriously, regardless of who it is or where it is."
Powell scored 12 points in the opening 8 minutes of the second half as the Cardinal outscored the Sun Devils 23-9 to erase a 33-32 halftime deficit. Powell's 3-point basket with 12:10 left made it 55-42 lead.
The 6-foot-10 forward, prone to uneven stretches at times, showed off his range of offensive skills. Powell scored from the perimeter, on spinning drives and from the low post.
"He set an aggressive tone," Dawkins praised. "Tonight he showed a little bit of all the things he can do on the floor. For him, I thought it was a great step.
"It's in him. He had 28, and we needed them all."
Junior guard Chasson Randle, who broke out of a recent shooting slump to score 21 points, was excited to see Powell play as well as he did.
"That's the Dwight Powell we all know and love. We love him anyway, but he did a great job. He really asserted himself offensively."
ASU (16-6, 5-4), which had won three in a row, got 24 points from point guard Jahii Carson and 22 from wing Jermaine Marshall. Carson, who already has announced he will enter the NBA draft this spring, was coming off a 29-point performance Wednesday in an overtime win at Cal.
The Sun Devils got as close as 70-67 when Marshall hit a 3-pointer with 1:06 left. But Stanford made six of eight free throws the rest of the way to secure the win.
The bounce-back victory had Dawkins smiling. "I still see we're improving. That's always exciting," he said. "We have to make sure we bottle up what we're doing and continue to work on Monday."
Stanford outrebounded ASU 40-32, using 15 offensive rebounds to generate a 15-4 edge in second-chance points. The Cardinal also held ASU to 33 percent shooting in the second half.
Efficient in the first half, ASU was dreadful offensively to start the second period. The Sun Devils scored one point on their first eight possessions, including a 1-for-6 effort at the free-throw line.
Stanford (14-7, 5-4 Pac-12) at Cal (15-7, 6-3), 6 p.m. ESPN2