Cardinal Clips Cougars, 72-54

AP Sports Writer

STANFORD, Calif. - For the first time in six weeks, Justin Davis was back in the starting lineup. And, even better for No. 24 Stanford, Davis was finally able to forget about his left knee.

Davis, making his first start since tearing a knee ligament in early January, scored 21 points as the Cardinal beat Washington State 72-54 Saturday.

'I'm back. This is as good as I've felt for a long time,' Davis said. 'I'm not even thinking about (my knee). I'm just up there, doing my thing.'

Josh Childress added 15 points for the Cardinal (19-6, 10-3 Pac-10), who trailed for much of the first half despite holding the Cougars (5-17, 0-13) without a basket for the opening 6� minutes of the game.

It was the 13th straight loss for Washington State, which has lost all 10 of its road games this season and 19 straight conference games. The Cougars have lost 14 straight to Stanford.

Jerry McNair had 14 of his 21 points in the first half for Washington State, which hit just 27 percent of its shots. The Cougars did, however, make all 18 of their free throws.

'We were right up with them in the first half, but we just couldn't score in the second half,' Washington State coach Paul Graham said. 'We were getting looks, the ball just wasn't going in for us.'

Stanford has excelled this season against top teams - the Cardinal have four wins over ranked teams, including a road victory at No. 1 Arizona last month - but often has struggled against lesser opponents.

Among the Cardinal's losses this season are home defeats to Montana and Richmond.

Leading by eight points at halftime, Stanford scored the opening 13 points of the second half - holding the Cougars scoreless for 5:48 - to open a 48-27 lead. Washington State never got closer than 16 points the rest of the game.

Stanford's biggest lead was 22 points.

Davis, who hurt his knee during the second half of a game at California on Jan. 4, came within three points of his career high. His scoring included a pair of big dunks, including one off a rebound during the Cardinal's big run to start the second half.

But Julius Barnes, who averaged 31 points in his previous two games, was held to eight points on 2-of-12 shooting for Stanford. The Cardinal's other starting guard, Matt Lottich, went 2-for-7 from the field.

Stanford, which has been hitting 37 percent of its 3-pointers this season, went 2-of-15 from behind the arc Saturday.

'Julius and Matt just weren't on target tonight, so we went inside,' Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said. 'At halftime, I told our guys if you weren't feeling it, than make somebody else better.'

Thomas Kelati had 13 points for the Cougars, including three 3-pointers.

The Cougars did not hit a shot until Kelati's 3-pointer with 13:29 left in the first half. They missed their first six shots and had five turnovers in the opening 6:31.

But Stanford appeared lulled by Washington State's deliberate offense, struggling from the field and failing to take advantage of the Cougars' early sloppiness.

Washington State led by as many as four points midway through the first half and trailed by just two points with three minutes before halftime. But the Cardinal finished the half with an 8-2 run to take a 35-27 halftime lead.

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