In a crowded Maples Pavilion Thursday night, the Stanford men's basketball team (10-5, 3-1 Pac-10) fought out a 58-56 victory over the No. 17 Washington Huskies (12-4, 4-1 Pac-10) in an event that was more like a three-act drama than a basketball game.
Both teams started slow, with more than three minutes off the board before anybody sank a bucket – and the Cardinal struck first with a Josh Owens jumper from the elbow. Washington responded quickly with a layup of their own shortly afterward.
Washington spent the majority of the first half trying hard to drive down low often, but both teams struggled from the floor, going a combined 5-15 over the first five minutes.
Both teams traded buckets – including three from Isaiah Thomas and Jeremy Green on back-to-back possessions – but the Huskies continued to capitalize off the break, using Thomas to drive and feed his big men, leading to buckets and fouls until an NBA-range three from Jeremy Green three cut the Huskies lead back to 17-15 with ten minutes left in the half.
On the ensuing possession, Washington couldn't handle a rebound, and Josh Owens brought the crowd to their feet on the ensuing possession with a thunderous baseline slam to tie it up, beating his man off the dribble to the hole. Washington, suddenly mired in a three minute shooting drought, lost the lead when Anthony Brown shook Justin Holliday and knocked down an 18-footer to give the Cardinal the lead.
That lead grew to six when Dwight Powell snuck in two free throws with 1:50 left in the half, but Washington's Terrence Ross knocked in his first points of the night on the ensuing possession, cutting Stanford's lead to 29-26. A late Cardinal turnover then led to Thomas rolling in a layup as time expired in the first half, leaving the Cardinal with a one-point lead, and the squandered advantage left Dawkins visibly frustrated.
Overall, the Cardinal had been more impressive on the floor – shooting 48% to Washington's 35.7% - but the Huskies outpointed the Cardinal in points off turnovers, points in the paint, second chance points, and points from the bench. Stanford's defense had kept it in the game up to that point, forcing seven turnovers.
Washington got the ball to start the second half, and promptly hit a three-pointer to take back the lead, just as Stanford started to go cold after a decent first half. Stanford's shooting didn't do them any favors, but their strong defense kept them in the game, making various Husky players rush their shots and their passes, especially Thomas, who tried to do too much on several occasions, including jacking up threes with a lot of time left on the shot clock.
With a little more than 15 minutes left in the game, Washington went with a heavy set to try and get some more consistent production, but Stanford's guards were able to drive and draw fouls – the Huskies had six team fouls with 14:30 left to play, and were only leading 38-35. Green stepped up at that moment, pounding in a three from the corner, but his three had come right after Justin Holiday began turning Maples into his personal playground.
Green's longball had cut the lead to 41-38, but Holiday had already hit two threes and a jumper after going 0-for-5 in the first half. Washington's Scott Suggs hit a three, then Thomas fired Holiday an alley-oop pass for the slam dunk, which prompted Dawkins to call a timeout before things got too out of hand as the Huskies were getting into a groove and leading 46-38 with 13:05 left.
After the timeout, a Green offensive foul turned into an "and-one" three-point play for Thomas, and the curtain looked to close on the Cardinal. Washington held an 11-point lead. However, all was not lost. It turned out that what looked like the end of the Card was really just the end of the second act.
Stanford had started the second half shooting two for twelve, and the wounds were mostly self-inflicted. Washington gave the ball away over and over again, but various attempts to capitalize – especially down low – continued to go begging for Stanford. However, the Cardinal started getting to the free throw line and Jarrett Mann and Green both made free throws to trickled back to 51-44 with seven and a half minutes to play.
The crowd started to get loud after Josh Owens hit a jumper to move it to 51-46, and Mann then shook a defender, shimmied down the lane, and unleashed a one-handed slam to bring the Cardinal back from the brink, cutting it to a one-possession game, 51-48, with 5:50 left in the game. Holiday then missed a three, and Stanford missed a three of their own, then saw two tips-ins rattle around until Anthony Brown dropped one home, making it a one point game.
A defensive rebound and a Green trifecta off a screen made Maples a madhouse as the junior gave two snarling Tiger Woods-style fist pumps, and Washington called timeout down 53-51 with 3:38 to go. The two teams then traded barbs, with Holiday, on his way to a game-high 15 points, tying it up first at 53, then Suggs hitting a three to tie it at 56 after Stanford got a Powell layup and Green free throw.With 1:09 to play, the Cardinal had possession and rolled down the shot clock to 9 – and 40 seconds left on the game clock – then called a timeout. Off the inbounds, Mann hurried a jumper, which rattled off the rim, but fell to Owens, who poked the ball up and in to take a 58-56 lead with 29 seconds to play. Washington brought the ball down, and off a missed Suggs three, Holiday (who else?) came down with the ball, where he was fouled by Green with 2.5 seconds left in the game.
Holiday would have two shots to continue his big night – and the 16th and 17th points would be the toughest of all, with a hostile crowd on their feet. The first one, he rushed, and missed short and left, the second he missed short on purpose. The rebound came to Dwight Powell, who grabbed it and fell to his rear, drawing a whistle and a traveling call. The Huskies had found redemption and 1.1 seconds – just long enough to get one the one last shot they needed. Thomas set up to inbound underneath the basket, flicked it in to a cutting Holiday, who jumped, leaned back, and sent the ball arcing into the air.
The Cardinal were propelled to victory by a 17-5 run in the last 8:55, and Josh Owens led the Cardinal with 14 points and five rebounds, including the tip-in that gave Stanford the victory. Powell added 11 points and seven rebounds, Green finished with 12, Mann continued his solid play with nine points (5-6 from the line, to boot) and five rebounds, and Anthony Brown scored eight.
As a team, Stanford shot 41.2% and 66% from the free throw line – compared to 36.2% shooting from the Huskies and a 50% conversion rate from the free throw line. Washington got 15 points from Holiday, the 14 points from Thomas, and a game-high 11 rebounds from Aziz N'Diaye.
The Huskies were the highest ranked team the Cardinal have beaten in the Johnny Dawkins era, but Dawkins and his players were reluctant to call it the biggest win of his tenure as head coach. "It just feels good to finally beat them," said Jeremy Green.
"Both teams played with a lot of heart, I'm really proud of our guys," Dawkins rasped after the game. "We showed we can win with our defense."
Dawkins beamed at the effort of his team to come back after a rough start to the second half. "It showed a lot of character, I thought we made some good stops and we were able to work our way back into the ballgame," Dawkins said. "I'm really proud of my guys' effort for 40 minutes."
Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was left wondering what could have been, and also gave credit to a tough Cardinal defense that left the Huskies 33 points short of their season scoring average. "Give an awful lot of credit to Stanford. They did a real good job of defending us. They didn't quit when we were up 11 with 10 to go, " Romar said. "We failed to box out at the end; we missed free throws and layups and had some turnovers that were very costly at the seven or eight minute mark."
The upset shook up the power structure of the Pac-10, a conference that Washington was supposed to breeze through. But after a surprising upset over a ranked team, the Cardinal weren't making any apologies. "We've always thought of ourselves as [Pac-10 title] contenders," said Josh Owens. "We've put in the preparation and the time. "
And when they can defend their home court like that… Who can blame them?
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