Stanford had just committed a turnover—its 17th of the night—and Katin Reinhardt was leading a two-on-none break for USC. As he elevated for the kind of dunk that made Trojan head coach Andy Enfield famous at FGCU, Reinhardt’s plant leg gave way. Instead of getting slammed down for a bucket that would have put the Trojans within four with 2:49 left in the game, the ball floated harmlessly out of bounds while Reinhardt waited for the USC trainers to arrive.
Reinhardt came back in the game moments later, but it was that kind of night for the Trojans. And, to a lesser extent, the Cardinal too. It wasn’t pretty. Mudslingers never are. But Stanford beat USC, 70-62. And for the Cardinal, that was all that mattered.
The Cardinal (16-7, 7-4 Pac-12) avoided a three-game losing skid, while USC (9-14, 1-10) dropped its eighth straight. All five of Stanford’s starters scored in double figures, led by 17 from Chasson Randle. Stefan Nastic added 15 points, while Marcus Allen finished with a double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds).
“It kinda just happened,” a slightly surprised Allen said about his double-double. “Just playing hard, pursuing the ball. Just outplaying the guy in front of you. I didn’t even know I had that many rebounds.” A third-chance putback in traffic by Allen gave Stanford a 63-59 lead with 4:09 to go, and proved to be critical to the game's outcome.
“We really needed it,” Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins said of the win. “We needed to get back on track. Losing two games in a row, that hadn’t happened to us the entire year. That was a difficult pill to swallow. We had to figure out how to get on the right track, and I think we did that tonight.”
After a flat first half, Stanford turned the tables with a 13-4 run to start the second half. Rosco Allen led the spurt with a baseline drive, a three-pointer, and a transition layup. But after going scoreless for 4:43, the Trojans righted themselves, and led 55-53 with 8:23 remaining.
But the Cardinal put together a final flurry, taking the lead for good on a three-pointer from Anthony Brown with 7:26 to go. Then, Stanford’s defense saved its best stretch for last, allowing only four points from USC over the final five minutes. Rosco Allen swatted away a layup attempt by Jordan McLaughlin with 1:09 left, and Chasson Randle added a steal seven seconds later.
Anthony Brown’s three free throws with 33.5 seconds left put the Cardinal ahead, 68-61, effectively icing the game and sending the 5,409 in attendance home to watch the Grammys.
For USC, it was another in a series of close calls and what-ifs sprinkled with an occasional rout. Randle didn’t seem interested in the Trojans’ problems after the game. “All I know is we won the game, so that’s all I focus on,” he said. “They play hard. I think they showed that all night. They gave us everything they had, and we had to give them everything we had coming down the stretch.”
With eleven freshmen and sophomores on their roster, the Trojans’ youth showed early on, as a lack of crisp passing caused seven turnovers in the first 12:42. Still, Stanford could only forge a 27-20 lead with 6:30 left in the first half. A three by Katin Reinhardt, another three by Reinhardt, and a longball from Jordan McLaughlin gave USC a 29-28 lead with 5:25 to go.
Marcus Allen’s putback of a Stefan Natic miss and a three by Rosco Allen put Stanford back in front, but the Trojans closed the half with a 10-0 run. Again, McLaughlin (and his highlighter-yellow shoes) and Reinhardt tag-teamed their way through the Cardinal, hitting jumpers, floaters, and threes. At the half, USC held a 39-33 lead. Eight three-pointers by the Trojans helped their cause.
“They shot lights out from behind the arc,” Dawkins admitted. “Eight threes in the first half? That’s a lot for any team. We had to hone in defensively at halftime, make some adjustments to mitigate that. We learned from the first half.”
Those defensive adjustments by the Cardinal helped limit the Trojans to 1-for-9 from beyond the arc the rest of the way. Nine of Marcus Allen's rebounds came on the defensive end of the floor. Michael Humphrey was active, blocking two Trojan shots in seven minutes of work. The defense’s efforts were also a major reason Stanford was able to find its way back into the win column at a critical time.
“Shoot 37% from the field and you still win?” Dawkins mused after the game. “The only way you can pull that off is by being focused defensively, and I thought our guys were in the second half.”
“Our effort is what helped us win this game,” Randle added. “If we can play with some of that, or all of that—and more—I think we’ll be alright.”
The Mountain swing awaits Stanford next. On Thursday, the Cardinal meet Utah (18-4, 8-2 Pac-12; AP #13) in Salt Lake City, followed by a trip to Boulder to face Colorado (11-11, 4-6; RPI #105). The Utes handled the Buffs on Saturday, 79-51.********** ********** **********
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