Cardinal Can't Close Out Ducks

Two ill-fated possessions by Stanford lead to a white-knuckle win for Oregon...and a devastating loss for the Cardinal.

On Senior Day, in a must-win game, this is the scene the script calls for. The home team down by one, a capacity crowd at full volume, 14 seconds left, and the senior leader with the ball in his hand and a chance to win the game.

Stanford faced that exact scenario, down 71-70 with 14 seconds left. Instead, Chasson Randle’s drive to the hoop was cut off by three Oregon defenders. Randle let a shot go, but it had no chance. From there, the Ducks finished off the Card, getting the 73-70 win.

The Cardinal (18-10, 9-7 Pac-12; RPI #53) could not get their third straight win, and missed a chance to build their résumé for the NCAA Tournament. Oregon (21-8, 11-5; RPI #45) escaped Maples with its eighth win in its last nine games. The Ducks were led by 21 points each from forward Elgin Cook and guard Joseph Young.

“It’s very disappointing, especially when it’s your last home game of the year,” a glum Randle told the media after the game. “Any time you lose, and the stakes are what they were tonight, it’s disappointing. We have a couple more opportunities, and we have to focus up.”

A slightly subdued Johnny Dawkins could not hide his disappointment, either. “Every time I walk in here and we lose, it’s going to be the most disappointing loss for me,” he said. “To me, it’s devastating, and we have to do something about that. I’m especially disappointed for our seniors, who have done some amazing things and have had such terrific careers. I feel really bad for them.”

Randle led Stanford with 17 points and six assists. Nastic scored 16 points and grabbed six boards. Anthony Brown added 11 points. Marcus Allen scored 14 points and notched a team-high seven rebounds, while Michael Humphrey scored seven early points and had two emphatic blocks. Rosco Allen returned to action after missing four games (back), came off the bench, and played six minutes.

The Cardinal were down by eight early in the second half, and then the seniors took over. A series of drives and scoopers by Randle, a couple of jumpers from Brown, and two buckets from Nastic combined to put Stanford back in the lead with inside 14 minutes to go.

Another driving layup by Randle gave Stanford a 66-63 lead with 3:53 left, and the season-high crowd of 7,233 roared and brought Maples Pavilion to life. But Oregon X-factor Dwayne Benjamin hit a big three-pointer to tie it, then blocked a layup attempt by Stefan Nastic to set up a long alley-oop dunk from Joseph Young to Jordan Bell. 68-66, Oregon with 2:55 to go. Then, Anthony Brown somehow got a front-foot scooper to fall and tie things up again with 2:09 left.

But two empty possessions with less than 30 seconds left ultimately sealed Stanford’s fate. With the game tied at 70, Randle’s pass was intercepted by Benjamin, who took it the other way before being fouled by Randle. Benjamin missed his first free throw, but made the second with 14 seconds left. Oregon was ahead by one, setting up Randle’s ill-fated drive on its final possession.

“I just tried to attack and get to the basket,” Randle said of Stanford’s final play. “I got there and there was a guy there. I tried to create contact, but I guess it wasn’t enough, and I couldn’t finish.”

“If we go down, we’re going to go down with the ball in our best player’s hands,” said Dawkins. “I can live with that. Now, that doesn’t mean he has to shoot the basketball, but he should always have a touch in that possession. It’s just unfortunate the last two possessions didn’t work out.”

Early on, the Card were led mostly by Michael Humphrey’s efforts on both ends of the floor. A baseline jumper, an emphatic alley-oop dunk, and a reverse scooper down the baseline from the freshman helped Stanford build an early 14-8 lead. Later, a dogged defensive effort from Randle forced an Oregon turnover, and Randle capitalized by driving to the cup and drawing the foul. After the free throw, Stanford led 24-19 with eight minutes left.

That would be the final field goal for Stanford in the first half. From there, Oregon went to work. Dwayne Benjamin dunked one down to tie it at 28. Casey Benson’s floater, Elgin Cook’s baseline runner, and a jumper from Benjamin put the Ducks ahead by five with two minutes left. Oregon went to the locker room with a 36-30 lead.

The loss puts Stanford’s NCAA Tournament chances in serious jeopardy. When asked if it kills the Cardinal altogether, Dawkins replied, “I don’t think it kills our chances. We still have opportunities. We have two regular season games to play on the road, and we also have the Pac-12 Tournament. We just have to focus and finish up strong down the stretch to give ourselves an opportunity.”

Home slate completed, Stanford finishes the regular season with two opportunities in the Grand Canyon State. On Thursday, the Card look to sweep Arizona State (15-13, 7-8; RPI #84) before wrapping things in Tucson against Pac-12 regular-season champ Arizona (26-3, 14-2; AP #7).

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