And now, for his next act, Michael Humphrey will hop on a jet to New York and host Saturday Night Live.
Why not? The freshman from Phoenix was the star of the show Saturday afternoon at Maples. He spearheaded Stanford’s cause in a 72-61 win over California. For Stanford (17-9, 8-6 Pac-12; RPI #51), the win prevented a three-game losing streak at a critical juncture of the season. In his third career start, Humphrey notched his first career double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
“We knew our backs were against the wall, and we needed to get a win today,” Humphrey said afterwards. “Everybody had to play their best. We did what we needed to do to win today.”
Anthony Brown also recorded a double-double (the eighth of his career) with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Chasson Randle led all scorers with 19 points, and dished a career-high eight assists. Reid Travis played 28 minutes, finishing with eight points and six rebounds. Stanford pulled off a regular-season sweep of California (16-11, 6-8; RPI #89), which got 23 points from David Kravish, but little else.
Humphrey’s most impressive sequence began midway through the second half. Stefan Nastic went to the bench with his fourth foul with 11:59 left in the game. After David Kravish hit two free throws for the Bears to close Stanford's lead to 54-43, Humphrey grabbed a perfect entry lob from Marcus Allen and laid it in for two. Then he finished off an alley-oop from Brown with a dunk that brought Maples Pavilion to its feet for the only time of the afternoon. Moments later, Humphrey greeted Jordan Mathews by swatting his layup attempt into the third row. Then, Humphrey struck again, blocking a shot from Tyrone Wallace.
In all, Humphrey hit his first seven shots from the floor. Along with his cleanup rebounds and buckets, he also hit a baseline jumper. While he struggled at times guarding Kravish, it was still an impressive overall performance. “It was a lot of fun,” the youngster said of his night. “It’s fun to play basketball when you win. I thought we played relaxed, played well, and had a lot of fun.”
Humphrey’s afternoon also earned him high praise from his head coach. “I thought he had the best game of his career,” Johnny Dawkins said. “He has been getting better and better, and it was great to see him have that type of performance in this type of atmosphere. That’s really going to help him continue to grow.”
Humphrey’s alley-oop dunk with 11:27 left gave Stanford a 15-point lead. It should have been the knockout blow, but it wasn’t. The Cardinal then went 8:41 without making a field goal, allowing the Bears to crawl back to within shouting distance. Stanford’s foul situation did not help matters much – the Bears were in the bonus less than seven minutes into the second half – as the Bears got to within eight points. But Stanford locked down on Cal guards Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird, preventing the Bears from turning the game into a white-knuckler.
When asked when he knew he might be in for a significant performance against the Bears, Humphrey admitted, “I don’t even think it started today. I think it started in practice this week. We had some people come in and talk to us about effort. Everybody knew that we all had to play the best game we had all year in order to win. We have to play like that the rest of the season.”
Those motivational speakers included Stanford legend Adam Keefe, who was honored during the first half. And earlier on Saturday, the Cardinal received a pep talk from a man who has given a few: Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. “He just brought a different intensity to the room,” Humphrey recalled. “He preached effort, playing hard, and gaining the respect of your opponents.
“I think that’s something we’d almost lost over the past few games. People were coming in saying ‘Stanford’s soft. We’ll be able to beat them.’ I think we showed today that we’re a tough team and that we’re able to compete with anybody.
The motivational messages seemed to resonate. From the start, Stanford played with a vigor it had not displayed in a few games. The Card hit their first four three-point attempts en route to a 14-11 lead just five minutes into the game.
Stanford’s hot shooting could not be sustained, as an oh-for-six stretch kept the Bears in striking distance. But Cal couldn’t take full advantage, as the iron was unkind to the Bears. After hitting five of their first eight shots, the Bears missed 15 of their next 18. Cal had good looks, but many of their shots from near and far rolled off the rim. They missed their first seven three-point attempts. They went scoreless for 4:58 midway through the half.
While Cal finished the first half with three turnovers and an offensive goaltend, Stanford finished with a 7-0 run. A putback from Michael Humphrey was followed by a three-pointer and two free throws by Anthony Brown, and the Cardinal led at the half, 35-23.
The most welcome development for Stanford was an impressive afternoon from the youngsters. “It’s probably refreshing for the seniors,” Dawkins admitted. “They have been the guys we’ve ridden for the majority of the season. It’s good to see some of these young guys come into their own and contribute.”
Michael Humphrey has replaced Rosco Allen in the starting lineup, but when asked the latest on Allen’s back injury, Dawkins could only call it a “wait-and-see” situation. Dawkins did note that Rosco is feeling better, but could not give a timetable on a possible return.
The Card’s homestand continues on Thursday, as surprising Oregon State (16-10, 7-7; RPI #97) visits Maples. Picked to finish last in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Beavers started conference play with a 7-3 mark, including a win over Arizona. Oregon State has cooled since then, dropping three straight heading into a Saturday night matchup against Colorado.********** ********** **********
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