Early in the second half on Thursday night, Anthony Brown busted a three-pointer to give Stanford a five-point lead over Arizona. Maples Pavilion was rocking, ESPN's Bill Walton was pumped, and anything seemed possible. Perhaps the Card were about to write a new chapter in this storied Pac-12 rivalry.
Instead, the Wildcats snatched the script back and rewrote the same old story. Arizona’s 89-82 win over Stanford was a much-needed road victory for the Wildcats, and a night of lessons learned for the Cardinal.
Chasson Randle’s 26 points led all scorers. Brown added 18 points and led the Cardinal with nine rebounds. Stanford (13-5, 4-2 Pac-12) had its three-game winning streak snapped, while the Wildcats (17-2, 5-1 Pac-12) won their third straight.
“Anytime you lose a game, it’s always disappointing,” Randle said after the game. “That’s one opportunity gone. This one being at home, and not being able to get the win, it kind of stings a little bit.”
What may have stung the Cardinal most was a confluence of missed chances on offense and lapses on defense in the second half. Anthony Brown’s aforementioned three-pointer gave the Card a 52-47 lead with 15:33 left in the game. Stanford got no closer to victory. From there, they hit just two of their next eleven shots. Along the way, the Cardinal missed eight straight field goal attempts, a stretch than ran just over eight minutes. They were stuck on 62 points for a sequence that lasted 4:17.
The Wildcats capitalized. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson took turns driving to the cup and converting buckets. When the barrage was over, the five-point deficit had become a 12-point lead for Arizona with 4:16 left, and the Cardinal crowd began filing out of the building.
Stefan Nastic’s postgame analysis was simple. “Our defense needs to be a lot better,” he said. “That’s number one. Today we didn’t defend like we could. It clearly showed.”
“For us, it’s about stops,” Johnny Dawkins added. “We just didn’t get enough stops. Look at their field goal percentage. They shot 56% from the field for the game. That’s awfully high. I thought they defended a little better than we did in the second half, and that was the difference in the ballgame.”
For the Stanford players, it was about defense. For the 6,943 fans who watched this game in person, it was about the officials. The crew featuring David Hall, Kevin Brill, and Larry Spaulding whistled both teams for 51 combined fouls called.
For Dawkins—now 1-10 all-time for Stanford against Arizona—neither the quality nor the quantity of fouls were the issue. “I think they were fouls. I’m not arguing that,” he said afterwards. “I just think it made the game a little disjointed. We had two or three starters who had two or three fouls in the first half. But, so did they. It was just the nature of the game.”
Indeed, a herky-jerky first half was paced only by the constant sounds of the officials’ whistles. The foul-ridden first half saw both teams combine for 25 infractions and 26 made field goals. Anthony Brown picked up his third foul with 8:24 left. Brandon Ashley’s three fouls limited him to just four minutes of first half action for Arizona. Nastic, Rosco Allen, and Elliott Bullock each had two first-half fouls.
There was some actual action between whistles and free throws. The Wildcats hit eight of ten shots from the floor en route to a 26-17 lead with 9:18 left. But Stanford responded, Randle hit two three-pointers, Dorian Pickens went baseline for the hoop and the harm, and Nastic hit two key buckets. Somehow, Stanford took a 41-39 lead to halftime.
Stanford’s depth on the frontline has been severely tested of late. With the statuses of Reid Travis and Grant Verhoeven still uncertain, Elliott Bullock saw his first action since the Delaware game on November 25. Stanford also announced before the game that Nick Davidson had joined the team. Davidson, a 6-7, 288-pound football player, did not play against Arizona.
When asked if Davidson could be seeing some playing time soon, Dawkins chuckled, “you never know with us! We’re excited to have him. He gives us some size and some strength in the interior. He’s going to be terrific in practice. We’ll see how it goes.”
Stanford turns its attentions to Arizona State, which comes to Maples for a television-friendly 9 p.m. tipoff on Saturday night. Entering Thursday night’s action, the Sun Devils had won just one of five conference games, sporting a 9-9 overall record.********** ********** **********
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