Just like it's been all Aaron Bright for Stanford, it's been all Mark Lyons for Arizona. He has ten, while the rest of his team is just 6 of 24. Moments after picking up foul No. 2, Dwight Powell responds (as he did after his first foul) with points of his own, this time on an and-one. It's a big whistle Powell drew, as Arizona bruiser Brandon Ashley goes to the bench with three fouls. Solomon Hill then comes back to knock down a J for the Cats. To be fair, he does have a solid foot on Bright, who somehow found himself checking the Arizona big.
Arizona continues to pressure Bright near half court – they must not respect his handle – but Stanford uses a timeout to escape any turnover. As I let my imagination run, with a sweep this weekend, do we crack the Top 25? I don't think so owing to inertia, but I think we'd be close and, with five straight Ws, would hypothetically deserve it. It's a dogfight here though as Arizona starts to make its jumpers – this time a Hill three – and only after a manly Andy Brown O board and beautiful Aaron Bright dish can Josh Huestis answer with a dunk. Ashley's sub, Kaleb Tarczewski, (if basketball doesn't work out, try Wheel of Fortune) leaves yet another Wildcat point on the board by splitting a pair. Then Arizona boots an D board out of bounds and Buy-A-Vowel fumbles away a would-be dunk. That foul No. 3 on Ashley is looking bigger and bigger. Powell finally misses a free throw, and is 6 of 7 from the line after splitting a pair. He then blocks Tarczewski into the front row. He looks dominant in this match-up and is taking advantage.
16-minute timeout: Stanford 35, Arizona 32
Strange for such a close game, but Arizona has never led. Bright has a busy few possessions, picking up foul No. 2 right before the break, coming back with a foot-on-the-line two, and then committing another foul on the other end. Ashley picks up No. 4 at the 15:01 mark on an off-ball whistle on Powell. Powell has done a masterful job of drawing whistles and that one is huge! But Arizona comes back to split the Stanford zone with a layup for its first lead of the game, 38-37. Powell puts Stanford back on top going over his baseline left shoulder (NBA shot), then forces an Arizona miss low at the other end, and then finds Randle for a beautiful layup. He is doing a great job of making Ashley's absence hurt the Cats. Rosco Allen with a pirouette pivot, pivot again, six-footer in the paint, and it's a 6-0 good-guy run. Bright does pick up his third foul and Stanford's sixth of the half, however. Then Hill finishes from three feet after an Arizona O board, and Lyons absolutely blindsides Gage on the perimeter for a beautiful strip and another deuce. This is shaping into a great game.
12-minute timeout: Stanford 43, Arizona 42
If I'm Stanford, I keep feeding Powell (14 points) with Ashley on the bench with four fouls, and try to get Randle (five points, 1-of-6 shooting) more involved. I'd let Bright play through his three fouls, as this game is just too close and he has been just too hot tonight, but given that all three fouls have come this half, I'd understand if he hit the pine for a few minutes. Overall stats, as you would expect, are remarkably even and this is going to be a dogfight to the finish.
Powell with a beautiful(!) tip of a Randle miss. Arizona enters the bonus at the 10:58 mark and makes both free throws to keep the margin at one. Bright is on the bench, and a feed to Allen doesn't quite get there. Stanford turnover. Arizona slips on their floor to respond in kind. Harris misses an ugly look of a turnaround J as Stanford has no ball movement with Bright on the bench. Harris then gives up an open look at a corner three, and though Arizona misses, they get the O board and a foul, No. 3 on Powell. Sure enough, Bright comes back in. After a Hill free throw, we're now tied at 45. Powell misses a top of the key J with Hill guarding closely. Arizona (again) gets an O board, this time after Huestis can't hang on. But again the Cats gift the Cardinal and White a turnover, this time by stepping on the baseline unforced. A Powell jumper is whistled off for a travel as Stanford looked like the deer in the headlights of the ‘Zona zone. Lyons layup. He has 20. Powell layup – he knows they can't check him right now and is being aggressive. Win or lose, I love it. Powell has 18. We lose an Arizona big down low for a easy layup. Randle cracks the ‘Zona zone with an open corner three. 50-49, Stanford. With a packed McKale Pavilion and Walton and Friends getting increasingly animated, this has the makings of an Arizona-Stanford classic.
Lyons misses a corner three. About time he missed something, as he was 7 of 9. Powell misses a free-throw jumper, but only after hanging in the air long enough to draw yet another Arizona whistle. No. 5 on Brandon Ashley at the 6:40 mark! All credit goes to Powell, who is playing the most aggressively – and smartest – we have ever seen him. Wow.
Eight-minute timeout: Stanford 50, Arizona 49
Stanford has five fouls to Arizona's eight. Ashley is out and Hill has three whistles for Arizona. Powell and Bright have three for the Card. Powell is now 8 of 9 from the line as Stanford pushes the lead to three. Did I mention he was playing well? Card show zone and Arizona is initially flummoxed, though they eventually get an open three but miss. Big break though as Huestis draws No. 4 on Solomon Hill on the boxout. Let's foul out another Arizona big. Go at Hill! Instead, Huestis fades and fills from 16. Hill hits a corner three to bring it to 54-52. Missed Powell J. Hill makes two free throws to tie it up and push Powell to four fouls. Not Powell's fault though. He was bailing out a guard who got smoked on a wicked three fake. Turns out these Arizona guys can play a little. 54-all, Dawkins timeout with 4:39 left.
Prediction: Stanford wants No. 5 on Hill. Arizona wants No. 5 on Powell. Whoever gets the whistle first is going to win. As is, Huestis gets a friendly whistle on a would-be turnover, but misses the front end of a one-and-one. Ouch. Bright is beat, badly, on a perimeter hedge, and Arizona capitalizes with a layup. Bright is again beat for a layup, this time on a backside cut. 9-0 Arizona run. 58-54 Cats.
You know your conference is too big when ESPN can't display the entire standings, electing instead to only show the top half. Bright stops the Arizona run with a corner three. Naturally, Lyons punches back with a three of his own. Wow. A tough, tough charge call goes against Randle, but Stanford has gotten a few whistles as of late. Still, with 2:41 to play, they're going to need to switch the mojo, and quick.
Four-minute timeout: Arizona 61, Stanford 57
Stanford is -5 in steals and -4 in rebounds. Card need a stop here, but it's a Hill runner instead. Randle forces a poor three that is lucky to draw iron, but Huestis gets a bailout, off-ball whistle. He makes two and now has a double-double. 63-59, Arizona. Under two to play. Rosco Allen dives for a loose ball and can't get there, and Arizona makes him pay with a corner foot-on-line two. Powell goes hard to the hole to get a whistle, albeit not on Hill, and makes both free throws, 65-61 Arizona.
Okay, deep breaths. Arizona uncontested dunk as Huestis is beat on the perimeter and Randle is late to help. Next possession, Powell has a great O board but can't get the fading away eight-foot follow. Huestis almost has to foul on the rebound attempt, and Hill connects on both free throws. The margin is currently eight and Arizona may end up covering, but Stanford played great tonight. This type of outing every time and the Cardinal lose maybe five games all season. Unfortunately, at No. 7 Arizona is probably one of those contests.
Randle with a quick three, and Stanford is going to have to play the "foul and hope for luck" game. Huestis fouls Hill. He splits. Bright airballs, and at 70-64 Arizona with 27 seconds left, it's pretty close to academic now. Arizona splits. Randle airball. I'll spare everyone the final 20 seconds of play-by-play, but a great effort tonight came up just short. Still, an arrow up on Stanford's outlook moving forward. The Arizona State game just got that much bigger.
Final: Arizona 73, Stanford 66
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