By Matthew Harrington
The Stanford Cardinal nearly achieved what 20 other teams could not this season, taking undefeated Arizona (21-0, 8-0 Pac-12) to the brink Wednesday night at Maples Pavilion before ultimately falling 60-57 to the top-ranked team in the nation. The Cardinal (13-7, 4-4) held a one-point lead over itsPac-12 rivals at the half and had as much as a seven-point cushion over the visitors, but only two Stanford field goals in the final 10 minutes foiled the Cardinal upset bid.
National Player of the Year candidate Nick Johnson of Arizona was held in check by the Stanford defense to 16 points. The Cardinal also stymied another Wildcat on the mid-season 25 Players to Watch list, former Archbishop Mitty High School stand-out Aaron Gordon, to a scant five points. Stanford forwards Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell had 13 points each to lead the home side, while guard Chasson Randle pitched in with 12. The Cardinal finished with a 37.5 shooting percentage to the Cats 36, but Arizona’s six three-pointers to Stanford’s three proved a difference maker. Johnny Dawkins’ squad out-rebounded the top squad in the country 38-36.
Stanford dominated the early going, limiting the Wildcats to a lone field goal in the opening seven-plus minutes en route to a 9-4 lead before the visitors went on an 11-5 run to take their first lead of the night 15-14 with 9:45 left in the half. The two teams traded blows down the home stretch of the first twenty minutes with the lead changing hands three more times before a Randle jumper with two seconds remaining flipped the lead to Stanford 31-30 for the final time in the half.
Stanford picked up where it left off on the other side of the intermission, outpacing Arizona 18-12 capped by a Dwight Powell layup nearly seven minutes in to give Stanford its biggest lead of the night 49-42. The Cardinal couldn’t finish off the Cats who closed out the game on an 18-9 surge for the conference play victory, avoiding a defeat at the hands of Stanford for the second time since 2003 when entering play as the no. 1 team in the polls.
Stanford will continue its home stand, facing off against Arizona State Saturday before traveling to Berkeley to open up the second half of the Pac-12 schedule next Wednesday. The Cardinal lost to Cal 69-62 January 2nd on the Farm to open conference play.