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.”