Stanford falls to UCLA 79-72 in first round of Pac-12 Tournament

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Photo credit: Shawn McCullough, Sports Radio Service

By Shawn McCullough

Stanford shot just 35.5% from the field as the UCLA Bruins beat the Cardinal 79-72 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The Cardinal shooting woes continued from their last two games of the regular season in which they shot a combined 40% from the field.

“We’ve shown over the last, I guess, three games a pretty anemic shooting display”, said Stanford head coach Jerod Haase.  “And that was certainly a big part of not making shots and not just threes but around the rim.  And we struggled to score the basketball to that level.”

Senior Josh Sharma led the Cardinal with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Marcus Sheffield came off the bench to add 18.

He’s a heck of a player and a heck of a person”, said Haase about Sharma.  “When I first got the job and wanted to play more minutes, and he was a fantastic ambassador to the program and the university. And this year he flourished.  Always tried to do what I asked him to do and did it at a high level.  And it will mean a lot not just for today but for a long time.”

“Obviously it was a disappointing year, especially the last couple of games”, said Sharma.  “But a lot to do with Coach Haase and the rest of the coaching staff, I think my confidence playing the game and my love for the game has never been greater.  And obviously still disappointed that we lost, and that hurts a lot.”

Stanford trailed the entire game, but rallied late in the second half to cut a 14 point halftime deficit to just seven points at the end of the game.

Sheffield on shots falling late in the game, “I think we just started getting a few stops, our energy increased. And once the shots started falling, they just started falling.  So, yeah, we just tried to compete to the end, really.”

With the loss, the Cardinal fell to 15-16 on the season.

“We’re certainly disappointed”, said Haase on the season.  “At this point, though, we’re probably looking back to the entire year and trying to find some of the positives and understand some of the negatives, as well.”

Game Notes:

  • Stanford is now 17-21 all time in the Pac-12 Tournament
  • Stanford lost to UCLA last season in the Pac-12 Tournament 88-77 in the quarterfinals
  • The Cardinal won their only Pac-12 Tournament championship with a 77-66 win over Washington on March 13, 2004

Stanford Cardinal fall to #7 Florida Gators by 21 points in PK80 opener 108-87

Photo: @StanfordMBB

By Alexandra Evans

The Stanford Cardinal are one of the 16 collegiate basketball teams participating in the PK80 (Phil Knight Invitational) men’s basketball tournament at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, held in honor of Nike founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.

Among the tournament invitees are Stanford, University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, Butler University, University of Connecticut, DePaul University, Gonzaga University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, University of Portland, Portland State University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas at Austin, Gonzaga University, and University of Oregon.

Tonight, Stanford fell to the No. 7 Florida Gators 108-87.

Florida put up an 18-7 run just five minutes into the first half. Less than two minutes later, Stanford’s Daejon Davis capped an “and-one” and brought the score to 22-14. Nearly 10 minutes into the match, Florida exceeded Stanford by 12 points until Reid Travis (who is ranked fifth in the Pac-12 conference in scoring; 21 points per game) made a left-handed jam to put the Cardinal in a 10-point trail.

Just after the clock hit the 18-minute mark, the Gators were ahead by 25 points and 19 at halftime. Travis exceeded his teammates with 12 points.

Florida maintained their plus-20 lead over Stanford through the entire second half, eventually exceeding them by over 30 points, just after the 10-minute mark. In the final three minutes, the Cardinal were down 105-69, though they managed to bring their score up by 18 points before the buzzer sounded. However, the Card still took the loss. The final score was 108-87.

Travis, who ended the game with 23 points, kept his lead in points over the rest of the Cardinal roster for his fifth 20-point game this season. Robert Cartwright and Michael Humphrey were Travis’ runner-ups with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Cartwright tallied 10 points for the third time this season.

Stanford will face the No. 17 Gonzaga Bulldogs tomorrow in the second round of PK80

Stanford Trips Up Ranked Runnin’ Utes in OT

By Matthew T.F. Harrington

photo credit: AP photo Utah Kyle Kuzma tried to stop a Stanford forward Rosco Allen shot on Friday night

STANFORD, Calif. – Stanford has a habit of making New Year’s Day memorable whenever they take the court. Prior to Friday night’s contest, in its lone January 1st appearance in 1938 Hank Luisetti set single-game school records in points (50) and field goals (23). Nobody scored 50 points at Maples Pavilion Friday, but the game was a standout showing in its own right.

The Stanford Cardinal came from behind to upset no. 21/22 Utah 70-68 in overtime, opening the New Year and Pac-12 play with a 1-0 record.

“Our guys have a big heart,” said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins. “It’s not always pretty but they seem to find a way to give us a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for from a group.”

Rosco Allen and Marcus Sheffield scored 17 points for Stanford (8-4, 1-0) to give the Cardinal its 5th win in game 6 of a season-long 7 game homestand.

The freshman Sheffield stepped up big for the Cardinal in his first exposure to conference play. He was the only bench player to hit a field goal, going 7-for-13 from the floor.

“Growing up as a kid, I always dreamed of this,” said Sheffield. “Now that it’s coming to fruition it feels good.”

While Sheffield’s dreams are unfolding in front of him, for his coach and teammates visions of the forward’s potential are shining through.

“I think that will do wonders for his confidence,” said Dawkins. “To have that type of game on that type of stage. We believe in Marcus, it’s why we had him in there. I think he’s starting to realize some of the things he’s capable of doing. I still don’t think he’s fully realized how good he can be. He’s starting to figure it out.”

“He’s a super smooth player,” said Rosco Allen of Sheffield. “He’s really talented offensively. He has all the skills, all the moves in the books. He has the ability to take on guys one-on-one.”

While Sheffield wowed in regulation, Allen had an average regulation contest. The Hungarian-born baller battled foul trouble to produce just 10 points on 5-for-11 shooting. The senior turned it on in overtime however, scoring 5 of the Cardinal’s 7 points in the extra session.

“Rosco’s grown into that role,” said Dawkins. “He’s someone that everybody is confident in down the stretch.”

“I knew I had to come up clutch” said Allen. “We’ve done it before as a team, we did it against Arkansas so we had some experience with that.”

Stanford held Utah (11-3, 0-1) to 5 points in OT. But the Cardinal nearly didn’t make it to overtime.

Utah’s Brandon Taylor stepped up to the free throw line with 2 seconds left and the game tied 63-63. Taylor missed both shots from the charity stripe though and Stanford’s Dorian Pickens missed a heave at the buzzer to keep both teams knotted at 68-68 after 40 minutes.

Both Dawkins and Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak had to entrust major minutes to their reserves, with both teams finding their top players in danger of fouling out. Both team’s starting centers, Stanford’s Michael Humphrey and Utah’s Jakob Poeltl fouled out in the first 40 minutes. Poeltl was Utah’s leading scorer with 16 points but made himself unavailable for overtime after fouling out.

7 players in total, 3 from Stanford and 4 from Utah had 3 or more personal fouls in regulation. Both teams struggled from the free throw line, with Stanford going 14-for-25 and Utah hitting 11 of their 24 from the stripe.

“Maybe a little hangover from the Holidays,” said Dawkins with a chuckle.

The two teams engaged in a defensive dogfight in the first half, with Stanford hitting only 7 of 29 field goals. Utah was more successful from the field, hitting 12 of 23 would-be buckets but the Cardinal forced 10 Runnin’ Utes turnovers.

“Both teams defensively played exceptionally well,” said Dawkins. “They average 82 points a game. I thought our guys did a great job with their effort and energy to slow them down a bit.”

Despite forcing the visitors to mismanage the rock, Stanford still found itself down 30-21 at the half. The two teams were tied 10-10 halfway through the period, but Utah went on a 9-0 run to break the stalemate 19-10 with just under 7 minutes left in the half. The two teams would trade baskets down the stretch, each scoring 11 points to draw the half to an end.

“It was a match-up zone,” said Allen on the Utes defense. “We haven’t seen a lot of that this year. Give credit to them, we haven’t really seen it and we were stumped by it in the first half.”

The second half started much the way the first half ended, with the two teams trading baskets to maintain a double-digit Utes lead at 44-34 with 13:22 left in the game. The Cardinal roared back, scoring 11 of the next 12 points to tie the game at 45-all.

“Our defense was much more active in the second,” said Allen. “We got a lot more deflections. That gave us easier shots on the offensive end.”

Utah would regain the lead, but only get as far ahead as 5 points. With Stanford trailing by 4 in the final 34 seconds, Rosco Allen slammed home a dunk. After Jordon Loveridge missed a pair of free throws, Allen hit a floater over a pair of Utah defenders to tie the game up with 13 seconds. Marcus Allen was called for a foul on Utah’s next possession, and with both teams in the bonus, Brandon Taylor went to the line for his fateful free throw attempts.

With a close win in hand to open Pac-12 play, the Cardinal now turns its focus to a Sunday afternoon match-up with Colorado, another conference showdown.

Our conference is one of the toughest in the country,” said Dawkins. “We expect a battle every single night.”

For now though, Stanford knows it can hang with some of the tougher teams in the Nation.

“When you win a game like that I think it shows the possibilities,” said Dawkins. “As a coach we can always say ‘We believe in ourselves. We can win games like that.’ Until you do, kids will look at you like ‘I hear you coach’. But when you win one you have a reference point.”


Humphrey, Cardinal Surge to Win Big Over Beavers

By: Ben Leonard


If Stanford thought Thursday’s game against mediocre Oregon State (17-11, 8-8) was going to be a walk in the park, they were dead wrong. They eventually won handily by a 75-48 margin, but Cardinal (18-9, 9-6) had to overcome their own struggles early on, playing sloppy basketball against the Beavers. The Pac-12’s sixth ranked team had lost three of their last four coming into Thursday, but Stanford struggled to make shots in the first half. This has been a recurring issue for the Cardinal, who trailed at halftime in their previous five games before Saturday’s victory over Cal.

Oregon State lead by as many as nine points in the first half, buoyed by Gary Payton II’s 10 points. Stanford needed this win desperately to have a shot to make the NCAA tournament, and seemed to be wilting under the pressure, making just 29.2% of their field goal attempts in the first half. Pac-12 opponents had been averaging 19.9 points in first half in first meeting against Beavers this season, and Thursday was not much different, as the Cardinal trailed by two at the half. For guard Anthony Brown, the first half forced Dawkins to ask his team at half time “what they wanted for this season…challeng[ing] us (Stanford)” to play to their caliber. A loss would have all but spelled doom for their tournament hopes, but Brown’s solid effort, 13 points and eight rebounds, helped prevent such a fortune.

Head coach Johnny Dawkins was quick to credit Oregon State for doing a “great job” with their “defensive schemes,” specifically “identifying scorers and taking them out of the game.” His remedy was to instruct his team to “focus” and  “follow” his “game plan,” albeit with language too strong for Dawkins or his players to describe.

Despite all of their problems in the first half, the second half was an entirely different story. Marcus Allen hit a huge three-pointer at the buzzer to cut the Beavers’ lead to 30-28, swinging the momentum in Stanford’s favor. Brown noted that the three was “big for momentum, for confidence, and [for]…g[iving] us some energy going into half time.” After halftime, Dawkins’ team “believe[d]” in what they were doing” and the “energy picked up.”

After that key moment, shots started to fall for the Cardinal, especially for Michael Humphrey. The freshman big man pulled down a career 15 high rebounds, notching his second straight double-double by scoring 14 points. He lead the Cardinal to outscore the Beavers by a whopping 47-18 margin in the second half, giving his squad a reliable physical presence down low. Stanford out-rebounded Oregon State 46-22, and Humphrey was a big reason why.

On what changed in the second half for his team, Humphrey noted that his team “got the right mindset.” Dawkins’ “intense practices in the last few weeks” have been the difference that gave the freshman Humphrey confidence. Dawkins thinks that the freshman sensation has “com[e] into his own” and he “still has a ton of potential” as just a freshman.

The game turned into a laugher, with Dawkins opting to sit many of his regulars with the result well in hand. After trailing by seven in the first, the Cardinal went on a 56-22 run, giving the Selection Committee a reason to excuse their struggles early in games. In one of the “best second halves” of the season for Dawkins’ Cardinal, Stanford held Oregon State to just 18 points, a “heck of an effort.” Unlike Thursday, Stanford will have to play a complete game if they want to defend their home court on Sunday against Oregon, the Pac-12’s third place team.


Chasson Randle’s 15 point effort on Thursday moved him into 6th place all-time on the Pac-12/10/8 scoring list, passing former Beaver Gary Payton…Payton was in attendance along with a crowd of 4,012 at Maples Pavilion on Thursday…Payton’s son, Gary Payton II plays for the Beavers and scored 17 pointsDawkins called Randle a “role model off the court, deserving of his accolades,” including being named an Academic All-American on Thursday, and a “special young man”….Dawkins noted that injured forward Rosco Allen participated in a shootaround Thursday, and will practice Friday to “get a feel” for where he is…

Brown Leads Charge in Cardinal Comeback Over Denver

By Matthew T.F. Harrington

STANFORD, Calif. – Despite trailing the opponent for most of the game, the Stanford Cardinal topped the visiting Denver Pioneers 49-43 at Maples Pavilion. Starting the game on the bench after showing up late to a morning practice courtesy of a wrongly set alarm clock, guard Anthony Brown had a game-high 17 points for the Cardinal while tying for the team-lead in rebounds with 6.

“Anthony’s been a terrific player for me throughout his career,” said Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins. “Let me go on record as saying, he’s a fifth-year senior, and that’s the first time he’s been late for anything. It was very difficult for me as a coach, because we have policies in place but he’s never been late to anything before.”

“I think he was trying to make up for that,” added Dawkins when asked if Brown’s play was a result of trying to rectify his late arrival. “But he’s also a winner. He realized we needed it. Anthony’s always had the ability to step up in those moments when things may not be going as well for us.”

On a poor shooting night for both sides, the Cardinal hit just 14 of 44 field goal attempts, but limited the Pioneers (4-5) to 17 of 43 for the victory in Stanford’s first game since November 30th.

“The timing was off, the rhythm,” said Brown. “That’s something you can’t really simulate in practice. That’s more of a game situation.

The Cardinal (5-2) has now won the first game back from the winter break for finals in eight consecutive seasons.

“We were a little rusty,” said Brown. “We haven’t played in two weeks. We have the longest break in the country. That contributed. Denver’s also a good team. They have shooters. Any time you have shooters you have a chance to win.”

The Pioneers’ Princeton offense and perimeter shooting dominated the game early, with the Summit League side connecting on three of their first four shots (all three-pointers) to take a 13-2 5:44 into play. The Cardinal struggled to find its shooting touch going just 1 for 6 over the same span.

Stanford’s defense turned the tables on its Rocky Mountain rivals, limiting the Pioneers to just one field goal over the next nine-plus minutes. Stymying the visitors, the Cardinal cobbled together a 13-2 run, capped by an Anthony Brown three-pointer to tie the game 15-all with 6:25 left in the half.

Brown’s trey marked the last Cardinal field goal before the break. Rosco Allen hit a pair of free throws, the only two trips to line for either side in the entire first half, but Denver outscored the hosts 10-2 for a 25-17 lead at the mid-way point.

“Possessions are of a premium,” said Dawkins. “Being down by 11 to them is like being down by 20 versus most teams because they’re not going to come down and quick-shoot it and have a lot of possessions in the game. You really have to focus in.”

Stanford star guard and potential Pac-12 Player of the Year Chasson Randle went bucket-less over the first half, going 0 for 5 from the floor. One game after scoring a combined 69 points, Stanford’s starting five collected only seven with Stanford hitting 6 of 17 first half shots. Brown topped the Cardinal with six points off the bench in the first.

“I give them credit,” Dawkins said of the Pioneer defense. “They did some things well defensively that caused us to shoot a low field goal percentage than we would have liked. Some of it was also rust. When you don’t play for two straight weeks, there’s no way you can simulate that in practice.”

The Cardinal slowly chipped away at nine-point deficit, outscoring Denver 15-9 to pull within one point with just under nine minutes to play. Stanford took its first lead of the day after guard Robert Cartwright drained a three with 8:05 left to play. Brown then stole the ball on Denver’s next offensive possession, going end-to-end to convert the lay-up through a Nate Engesser foul for a 36-33 edge.

The scoreboard again tilted in the Pioneers favor after Jalen Love and Marcus Byrd hit back-to-back three’s before Stefan Nastic’s basket put Stanford within two at 39-37.

When the Cardinal needed him most, Randle delivered. The senior hit a floater through a Bryant Rucker foul, then converted on the three-point play to put Stanford up 40-39 with three and a half minutes to go.

“Chasson didn’t have his best stuff offensively tonight,” said Dawkins. “But he still ran our team. As a point guard you’re judge on winning, and we still won.”

Randle then hit another two free throws for a three-point lead with 150 ticks of the clock left.

“Coming down the stretch, he closed the game out hitting all the free throws we needed him to make. A lot of times, a player will get into that situation where things aren’t going well for him from the field and that snowballs into his entire game. I don’t think he allowed that. He showed a lot of maturity out there.”

In total, Stanford went to the charity stripe 12 times in the second half, making 7 from the line.

Stanford continued its scoring run with Nastic hitting a jumper for the Cardinal’s eight-straight point before Denver’s Brett Olson hit a jump-shot to pull the pioneers within four at 45-41 with just over a minute and a half to play. Denver hit just one more basket while sending the Cardinal to the line four times. The Cardinal converted on all four shots for the final 49-43 margin of victory.

The Cardinal won’t have to wait long for its next contest. Stanford looks to continue to emerge from its two week sabbatical by turning in a strong performance at home Wednesday night when Southern California foe Loyola Marymount University comes to the Silicon Valley for another non-conference affair.

Cardinal Keep Dancing, Advance to Regional Final with Win Over Penn State

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By: Joe Lami

STANFORD, Calif.–The Stanford Cardinal returned to Maples Pavilion, a regional host site for this year’s NCAA Tournament, on Sunday where they took on the Penn State Lady Lions in the regional semi-final.  The Cardinal defeated the Lady Lions by the final score of 82-57.

The first half was neck and neck until about half way through.  The Lady Lions went on a 7-0 run to get ahead of the Cardinal 23-19.  The Cardinal were able to comeback with a 14-0 run of their own spanning a 5:12.  The run would end when Ariel Edwards would hit a pair of free throws.  Stanford would get five more points until the Lady Lions would be able to hit a field goal, as Edwards would nail a jumper with 2:47 remaining in the first half.  Penn State was unable to hit a field goal for 6:48 which gave Stanford a big advantage, as their lead would be 38-27.  The scoring drought would begin again until Edwards would be able to get a bucket and a foul with 13 seconds remaining in the half.  Stanford went into the halftime break with a 44-30 lead.

After much control of the first half, the second half went fairly easy for the Cardinal, as then only surrendered 27 points to cruise to victory.  The final minutes for the Cardinal allowed players that wouldn’t normally see minutes in the NCAA Tournament, as Briana Roberson, Jasmine Camp, Erica Payne and Erica McCall were able to jump in the game.

“Today was an ideal day for Stanford basketball” praised Chiney Ogwumike after the game.

Ogwumike led the way for the Cardinal once again, as she finished with 29 points.  She also added 15 rebounds to get her 25th double double of the season, and ups her career total to 83.  Amber Orrange was second in scoring for Stanford with 18 points.  Lili Thompson and Mikaela Ruef both finished the game with 11 points.  Ruef also added 13 rebounds to achieve the double double.

Edwards led the way for the Lady Lions, as she finished with 22 points.  Dara Taylor and Talia East were the other Penn St. players to get into double figures, contributing 11 and ten respectively.

The major factor in the Stanford win was allowing Maggie Lucas to only score six points.  Lucas, the Big Ten player of the year, was averaging 21.5 points per game coming into the contest.  This was only the second time this season where Lucas was held under ten points.  The last time occurred when the Lady Lions lost to Notre Dame at home on December 4.  Thompson was assigned to defend against Lucas, and she was a major factor.  “She was forced to take tough shots all night” claimed Penn State Head Coach, Coquese Washington.  Thompson later added that the key to shutting Lucas down was to limit her touches.

The Cardinal will continue their run on Tuesday with hopes of advancing to the Final Four, as they will take on North Carolina, who defeated South Carolina 65-58 in the other regional semi-final.

One Down, Five to Go, Stanford Defeats South Dakota in the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament

By: Joe Lami

The Stanford Cardinal started what they are hoping to be a long NCAA Tournament run on Saturday afternoon with a win.  They defeated the South Dakota Coyotes by the final score of 81-62.  The Cardinal were given a number two seed after they were defeated by USC in the semi-finals of the Pac-12 tournament.  Their opponent, South Dakota, earned the 15-seed after they won the Summit Conference Tournament.  The Coyotes also had a record of 19-14 coming into the contest.

South Dakota held the game close for the first seven minutes of the game, and actually held a two point lead at the 17:56 mark, but at the 13-minute the Cardinal gained the lead and they kept it for the rest of the game.  The Cardinal led the game 42-27 going into the halftime break.  They then outscored the Coyotes 39-35 in the second half to earn the 81-62 victory.

It was a huge day for Senior star Chiney Ogwumike, as she became the all-time Pac-12 leading scorer in the contest.  She only need one-point to gain the feat, as she finished the last contest tied with Candice Wiggins.  Ogwumike finished the game with 22 points, and eight rebounds in the 35 minutes played.  She led all scorers in the effort.

Bonnie Samuelson came off of the bench to tie her career high, as the Junior Guard sunk six of ten shots from beyond the arc to net 18 points.  Lili Thompson scored 11 points and brought down six rebounds in her first NCAA Tournament contest.  She also went 50% from three-point land, as she went three of six from beyond the arc.  Amber Orrange was the other Stanford player to get into double digits in scoring, as she finished the game with ten points.

South Dakota had a bright spot in the loss, as Nicole Seekamp finished the game with 22 points, shooting 9 of 13 from the field.  She also finished the game with five rebounds.

Stanford only has one more team in front of them before they can return to their home court, Maples Pavilion, as part of Regionals.  The tenth seed Florida State Seminoles will be the Cardinal’s next opponent, as they defeated Iowa State on their home floor earlier Saturday 55-44.  The Round of 32 contest is set for Monday at 3:30 PST.

Trojans Upset Cardinal on Ogwumike’s Record Setting Night

By Joe Lami

For the first time ever the Stanford Cardinal will not be going to the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, as the USC Trojans defeated the Cardinal 72-68 in the semi-finals on Saturday night.  Stanford the number one seed and the favorite to win the Pac-12 Championship, is now unsure of how their NCAA Tournament is going to look.  If the Cardinal came out of the Pac-12 Tournament unscathed, they would have received an almost sure bid to a number one seed in their host west region.

The first half ended with the score tied at 32.  Stanford dominated the paint in the first half, with 18 points.  However, the Trojans led the first with points off of turnovers, bench points and 2nd chance points.

Coming out of the half, the Trojans jumped on the Cardinal early, going on a 14-4 run in the first 5:30.  Stanford would be able to crawl back slowly, and would eventually take the lead back with 6:46 remaining.  The Cardinal would push the lead to three, at 60-57 with 5:06 to go and be able to hold it for a couple of minutes.  However, the Trojans would once again march back, much in part to Cassie Harberts’ ten straight points.  This would get the USC lead to as high as seven before the Cardinal would find another bucket with 61 seconds to go.

The Cardinal pressed in the final minute to get the deficit as low as two, but the Trojans would be good enough at the foul line to be able to ice the game away and advance to the Pac-12 Championship game, where they will face the Oregon State Beavers.

Chiney Ogwumike led the way for the Cardinal with 30 points and 21 rebounds.  The 30 points ties her with Stanford Alum, Candice Wiggins as the all-time Pac-12 scorer with 2,629.  Unfortunately for Ogwumike, she scored career point 2,629 with over seven minutes remaining in the game, and couldn’t find another to break the record in game where every point mattered.

Stanford had an awful day from the field, finishing the game at just 32%.  Lili Thompson finished with 13 points, going 4 of 11 shooting.  Amber Orrange was the only other double digit scorer for the Cardinal, as she finished the night with 11 points and 3 of 11 shooting.  Mikaela Ruef was held scoreless for the first time in recent memory, as the fifth year senior went 0 for 8 from the field, but she did bring down five rebounds.  Taylor Greenfield was the only Stanford player to come off of the bench and contribute points, as she finished the game with five.

The Trojans didn’t shoot that much better, as they finished the game shooting just 39%.  USC also saw three different players get into double digits.  Alexyz Vaioletama led the way with 19 points.  She also contributed 15 rebounds, with five of them coming on the offensive side of the glass.  Guard, Ariya Cook, finished the game with 15 points.  Game MVP, Cassie Harberts only had 13 points, but ten of them came at the most opportune time, as she scored ten straight with under three minutes to go to give the Trojan’s a lead good enough to win the game.

The win for the Trojans gets them that much closer into the NCAA tournament, as ESPN’s Charlie Creme has the ladies of USC on his first four teams out of the tournament.  However, with this win it might just be enough to break the bubble and earn a bid.  That is if they don’t receive the automatic bid on Sunday afternoon by winning the Pac-12 Tournament.  Oregon State, their opponent on Sunday is looked at as already in the NCAA Tournament according to Creme.

Number four-ranked Stanford has their record drop to 29-3, and now they are a little unsure on how they will be entering the NCAA Tournament.  Some questions arise, is Stanford still a number one seed?  Does Stanford still deserve to be in the west region, their host region?  Only time will tell what the selection committee decides, but for now we sit back and prepare for another great day of Championship basketball on Sunday.

Stanford Snaps Losing Skid in Dramatic Fashion Over Utah, Ends Pac-12 Play on High Note

DSC_0004By Matthew Harrington

STANFORD, Calif. – With the overflowing talent on display on a nightly basis in the Pac-12, it’s only fitting that it took Stanford literally until the last tenths of a second of conference play to better understand its Pac-12 tournament placement. While the conference tourney picture got a little clearer, it’s still about as blurry as a Monet masterpiece from ten feet out. As for the Cardinal odds for making its first NCAA tournament appearance under coach Johnny Dawkins in six seasons, those are as crystal clear as the scrambled channels on the higher ends of your TV guide.

With a 61-60 win over visiting Utah (20-10, 9-9 Pac-12) Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, the Stanford Cardinal broke a tie in the standings with their guests in a game with must-win implications. Also entering play with an identical 9-8 conference record were Oregon and Cal, a four-way tie for fifth in the Pac-12 standings. With Arizona State and Colorado boasting 10-7 entering Saturday, the Cardinal (19-11, 10-8 Pac-12) could secure a first-round bye in Las Vegas if Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State come away with wins in their regular-season finales. They could finish as high as tied for third, or as low as fifth depending on the rest of the weekend’s action.

“I know it’s important to finish at over .500 in conference,” said Dawkins after the game. “We’re in one of the best conferences in America. To finish over .500 should give you an opportunity to see what happens. That’s out of our hands. We just need to keep winning games.”

Stanford opened the morning with a heartfelt pregame ceremony honoring the senior stalwarts, players like all-time Cardinal blocks leader Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, but after 40 minutes of basketball it was a junior, Chasson Randle, being lauded for his play while weathering the maelstrom of emotion.

“It’s a little emotional because of what the game meant and also because it’s Senior Day,” said Dawkins. “There’s a lot of family here. Senior Day is always interesting because of all the emotion. Our guys remained focus, stepped up and helped, the Chasson Randles, the Marcus Allens. I thought those guys really stepped up and helped the seniors.”

After an eye-popping 24-point night Wednesday in a loss to Colorado, Randle dropped 22 points over 39 minutes of play against the Utes, snapping Stanford’s season-high three-game losing streak to wrap up the last home game of the regular season.

“Chasson’s played terrific for us,” said Dawkins. “He’s doing everything for us. He scores. He makes guys better on our team based on how he goes out there and approaches it. I love coaching him. I’m proud of him because of the bounce back he had from last year. It says a lot about him, about his character, about who he is.

NBA draft hopeful Dwight Powell found himself in foul trouble for the second-straight game in a row, playing only 26 minutes Saturday after the forward saw action in only 24 Wednesday. He managed seven points on 3-of-8 shooting to accompany five rebounds. Stefan Nastic owned the paint in his absence, going 6-for-6 from the field to finish with 14 points. Guard Brandon Taylor led the Runnin’ Utes charge with 14 points, while fellow guard Delon Wright and center Dallin Bachynski notched 12 and 10 respectively.

Despite hitting over 55.6 percent of shots in the first half, Utah found itself trailing the Cardinal 33-25. Stanford made 14 shots on 31 attempts, only four fewer makes than Utah’s 18 attempts in the first. The Cardinal never trailed over the first 20 minutes of play, scoring on a Powell jumper 34 seconds in to take the 2-0 lead. Stanford outscored the Utes 27-16 over the first 14-plus minutes of play for the largest lead of the afternoon, but Utah finished the half with a 9-6 run to head into intermission trailing 33-25.

The Utes opened the second half with back-to-back field goals, including a Jordan Loveridge three, to cut the Cardinal lead to 33-30 just 1:05 in. It would be over ten minutes before either side made consecutive attempts from the floor after going nearly shot-for-shot when Nastic and Randle finally dropped consecutive jumpers to bolster Stanford’s edge 52-43. Nastic then took a Randle feed to the rim for a 11-point gap with 7:51 left in regulation.

“It was frustrating,” said Nastic. “We knew we had to come out with a higher energy level but for whatever reason, there were plays were weren’t making that the other team was making. It was very frustrating but we’ve been through a lot this season sticking together. We really tried to seize the opportunity at hand.”

Persistent Utah refused to yield with Wright and Taylor hitting shots from beyond the arc then Jeremy Olsen laid one up to cut the deficit to three points for the second time in the half. Randle made a pair from the stripe after Bachynski fouled the guard, but Olsen hit a jumper with 4:34 left in the half to make it 56-53. Nastic would hit one of two shots after Olsen fouled him on the floor with Stanford in the Bonus but Taylor ’s shot from downtown at the other end put Utah within one, the closest Utah disadvantage up to that point. Bachynski then hammered home the Utes first lead of the day, 58-56, with a heavy dunk after an offensive board 2:40 from a win.

Huestis responded at the other end with a three to put the Cardinal up by two with 180 seconds remaining before Bachynski hit a pair of free throws to knot the game at 60 just 55 seconds from the final buzzer. Powell drew a foul with 36 seconds remaining and hit one of two freebies, the eventual game-winner, for a 61-60 edge. In total, Stanford hit only four of ten free throws over the closing five minutes.

“Utah is a very good basketball team,” said Dawkins. “They’ve been on the road, they’ve won six out of their last eight games. We knew it was going to be a tough game, we knew it was going to come down to the wire. Defensively, we got the stops that we needed. It offset some of the free throws we missed. Our guys didn’t hang their heads.”

With the shot and game clock down to one second, Brandon Taylor turned the ball over on a traveling call, seemingly icing the game for Stanford. Powell couldn’t find a way to inbound the ball, turning it over with .8 seconds of play, breathing new life into the Utes comeback bid. They would fail to get the ball back in play for a desperation heave, firing the inbound pass into two Stanford players’ grasp as time expired.

Dawkins predicted this game would be close, but even he had no clue how slim the margin of victory would be when he gathered his team at center court Friday to address some of his players for the last time on Stanford’s home floor.

“We stood at center court yesterday with the seniors,” said Dawkins. “I said ‘You know what, the game is about finding a way, finding a way to win, whatever it takes. All through your lives, you guys have worked hard. You worked hard to get into Stanford academically. You worked hard to play at this level in the Pac-12. It feels good because you were able to do something hard. The things you appreciate most as a player, as a coach, as a human being are the things where you had to fight and to struggle to make something work.’ It’s only fitting to win that way tonight.”

For now, Stanford will be scoreboard-watching as it waits to see who will try their luck against in the Cardinal in Las Vegas this Wednesday, or potentially Thursday if the cards fall just right for a first-round Stanford bye. With eyes on an uncertain bid for March Madness, Dawkins’ squad will look to leave the desert the big winners in the bracketology jackpot. Count Coach among the rare few not looking at the big board with bated breath.

Quipped Dawkins, “I may be the only person in the world, but I promise you, I’m not paying attention to it”.