Stanford 42, USC 33 (Halftime)

It may be maddeningly inconsistent and spurt-like, but at least Stanford is scoring. An 8-0 run to close the half, courtesy some hot shooting from John Gage and Andy Brown, has Stanford ahead of USC at halftime, 42-33.

Time to see if Stanford's recent dominance over USC extends to the hardwood. Plus, of course, if Stanford is hoping to play in the four-letter tournament come March, and not her three-letter illegitimate sister, this is as close to a must-win as you'll see the first week of January.

Arizona and Colorado are in overtime on ESPNU so we come in after the first media timeout, with Stanford up 7-4. Time for Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright to try to bust Stanford out of its three-point slump. As I wrote when I covered this team last in the NC State liveblog, this is a legit top-20 team when you consider all the other stats -- if Stanford could only hit three-pointers at a decent clip. Instead, it's a new low as the Galen Center looks about 20 percent full, and we see the following in this four-minute spurt of play:

  • Chasson Randle airballs three – let's hope for his sake that someone blocked a piece of it
  • Robbie Lemons misses a three the next time down the court
  • Josh Huestis has to chuck up a three with two seconds on the clock that is lucky to hit rim; he'll also miss a free throw and a wide open three from atop the key, all in this four-minute spurt
  • Arizona jumps ahead of Colorado per the ticker, and is on the verge of completing the double-digit comeback and keeping its unbeaten season alive
  • Stanford throws it off the official and out of bounds

But, hey, fourth time is a charm as John Gage finally does knock down a three for Stanford, and besides, when you're holding your opponent to a 55-point pace, you have some margin for error. Remember that 39-37 victory over Washington State back in the Trent Johnson era? That mark will never be topped (lowered?) but here's betting that by season's end we see another score in the same state, if not the same area code. As it is, it's…

Stanford 14, USC 12, 12:58 left, first half

For the majority of readers who haven't been there, the Galen Center has these ginormous, clear windows above one of the court's baselines that let in natural daylight. Admittedly, it's dark outside at the moment, the windows only affect one side of the court, and everyone on the roster had shootaround, but hey, Stanford shooters aren't in a position to pick and choose when we're trying to help them make excuses.

Meanwhile, Stanford goes on a bit of a run here, all the better to ruin the narrative of offensive ineptitude I was developing. After Gage's three, Andy Brown has a three and consecutive layups, and Nastic has a three-point play, while USC players start playing a rousing game of "who can make the ugliest shot?" Turns out the Trojans are pretty good at it, and they stay within striking distance as they rattle in a couple buckets that bruise the rim on the way down.

Stanford 24, USC 17, 7:54 left, first half

Trojan Eric Wise hits two free throws and then a layup to pull his squad within two. Bright sees USC's contest and attempts to raise them one, taking an off-balance, one-legged three that hits the backboard, clanks off the rim and, alas, does not drop. Huestis can't corral, but will draw a charge on the other end to put Stanford in the bonus, but then Gabe Harris goes one way and Chasson Randle the other in a touching Ted Stevens tribute of a "pass to nowhere". This is some seriously ugly basketball as Rosco Allen throws away Stanford's ninth turnover less than 16 minutes in, but hey, either USC has a guy on its roster who is a ringer for Drake or I need a bigger TV. Either way, we've learned something here. USC then reels off five straight on a Wise three and a one-on-three Gio Fontan layup, and it's a one-point game all of a sudden.

Stanford 30, USC 29, 3:37 left, first half

Whoa, 8-0 Stanford run. Brown and Gage both hit threes and then Bright adds on a layup. Brown and Gage are easily your players of the half. Gage has eight points on all of two field goal attempts. (He's made two threes and a pair of freebies.) Brown has 13 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-4 deep. Nice to see that they can step up when the usual suspects aren't filling it up from deep. The cherry on top is Bright's fadeaway at the buzzer that almost slipped out of his hand but somehow dropped, and Stanford will go into the locker room after reclaiming its biggest margin of the night.

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