WSU coach Ken Bone said he recruited Aden from the community-college ranks in 2010 with the idea that he eventually could help replace the production of Klay Thompson, who now plays for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors.
Aden produced an awfully good impression on Thursday night. It hasn't always been that way this season. Aden suffered a concussion during nonconference play and lost his starting spot to freshman DaVonté Lacy. In five Pac-12 games, Aden had averaged 9.2 points per game and shot just 36 percent from the field.
It did not look like much would change as the Cardinal, who led 29-27 at halftime, built a 13-point lead during the second half on a jumper by Bellevue High School graduate Aaron Bright with 16:56 minutes left.
At that point, WSU radio announcer Bud Nameck feared a blowout.
Instead, the Cougars (10-8 overall, 2-4 conference) fought back.
“I think the key to our run was defensive intensity,” Aden said in a postgame radio interview. “Once they miss shots, they get frustrated.
“We did a great job on defense. Our guys were really active in the zone.”
Stanford (15-4, 5-2) shot just 41 percent from the field, including 8 of 33 from beyond the arc. Bone said he was not surprised the Cardinal shot so many 3-pointers because entered the game shooting 39 percent of those opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Cougars made 16 of 22 field goals in the second half and 52 percent for the game. They also scored 54 points in the final 20 minutes.
“I hate to sound so simplistic, but we made shots and they didn’t,” said Bone, whose team committed just seven turnovers. “We were executing well.”
Aden capped a 9-0 run when he made a pair of free throws to give the Cougars a 53-51 lead with 10:06 left. When forward Josh Owens, who scored a team-high 19 points, converted a pair of free throws about 40 seconds later, it ended nearly an eight-minute scoreless drought for Stanford.
The Cardinal tied the game, 55-55, for a final time when forward Josh Huestis made a pair of free throws with 9 minutes remaining.
But Lacy and junior point guard Reggie Moore, who had 13 points, made consecutive 3-pointers and Aden made a layup to lead the Cougars on an 8-0 run. The outcome never seemed in doubt again after that point.
Aden scored 14 points in the final nine minutes. He also converted all 13 of his free-throw attempts, which is three less than the school record set by Marcus Moore and Taylor Rochestie. WSU made a season-best 27 of 29 attempts from the stripe.
“I was very confident and let the game come to me,” he said. “I know what I’m capable of.”
“Faisal played extremely confident,” he said. “I think our players felt confident in him and continued getting him the ball.”
WSU, which played its first game in Pullman since Dec. 18 against Western Oregon, now 7-0 this season at Friel Court. The mark again will be tested at 3:05 p.m. Saturday when the Cougars host California (16-4, 6-1), which moved into sole possession of first place with a 69-66 victory at Washington.
“It’s another opportunity to show what we can do,” Aden said.
“It definitely gives us confidence. We can beat anybody.”
Both teams had 30 rebounds, which is a substantial improvement from Sunday when WSU was outrebounded 46-24 in a 75-65 loss at UW. But Bone said he still was not pleased that Stanford had 13 offensive rebounds.
This marked the ninth time Aden has scored at least 20 points with the Cougars. His previous best was 28 points in a 66-55 win on Nov. 26, 2010, at Fresno State.
Bone now is 3-2 against the Cardinal. The Cougars have won two of their last three meeting versus Stanford in Pullman.