By Matthew Harrington
The wait may finally be over for coach Johnny Dawkins and Stanford. With selection day looming, the Cardinal pieced together a statement win at the right time, beating 23rd-ranked University of California Los Angeles 83-74 at Maples Pavilion Saturday afternoon, the Cardinal’s third win over a ranked opponent this season. The upset, Stanford’s third-straight win and fifth in six games, presents the NCAA tournament selection committee with another reason to move Stanford off the bubble and into the big dance on an at-large bid for the first tournament appearance in six years under Dawkins.
The veterans have led the way of late for Stanford (18-8, 9-5 Pac-12), understanding the importance a strong finish has on their tournament hopes. One game after setting a career-high in rebounds while also moving into first place all-time in school history in blocks, senior Josh Huestis once again forged an amendment to his biography in the programs, netting 22 points to match his single-game best. His 22 points were second only to guard Chasson Randle’s 26 on the day. Randle, a junior, put on a three-point clinic with 7 treys on 10 attempts, the most he’s made in a single game. Fellow junior Anthony Brown pitched in 18 points for Stanford who clicked at an eye-popping 62.2 shooting percentage as a team. Starting guard Norman Powell matched freshman Zach LaVine’s 14 points off the bench to lead UCLA (21-6, 10-4) while Tony Parker chipped in 13 points for the Bruins.
The opening 10 minutes saw both teams refuse to cede an inch of the court, with no team leading by more than three points. Randle potted a shot from downtown with 9:46 left in the half to give Stanford the first five-point lead of the day for either team to make it 23-18 Cardinal before the home team closed the half out on a 15-12 for a 38-30 edge after 20 minutes of play.
The Bruins clawed back into the game, outscoring Stanford 35-33 over the first 15 minutes of the second half then proceeded to make it a two possession game on three LaVine free throws made with 2:48 left to play and Stanford leading 72-68. The Cardinal finished out the game with 11 points to UCLA’s 6 split the two regular season games with its Southern California foes. The Bruins previously routed a vastly Stanford squad vastly different than the one they faced Saturday afternoon 91-74 on January 23rd in Los Angeles. Stanford made 38.6 percent of shots that night and turned the ball over 19 times.
Continuing its march to a potential place in the Madness to come next month, Stanford moves on to the final road trip in Pac-12 play, a trip to Tempe that sees the Cardinal face Arizona State University Wednesday followed by a Sunday showdown in Tucson against fourth-ranked University of Arizona. After that, the Cardinal returns to Maples for one last home game against Colorado March 5th to wrap up Pac-12 play before the conference tournament tips off in Las Vegas.