Cardinal Survive...and Advance to NIT Final

Stanford moves on to the NIT final. But, as usual, they make in interesting. This time, against Old Dominion.

There are two ways to make history. In Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, Chasson Randle made history the right way. At the same time, Stanford almost made history the wrong way on Tuesday night, too.

Randle’s free throw with 33.3 seconds left in the first half put him on top of Stanford’s all-time career scoring list. But his most important bucket of the night was a running teardrop jumper with 58 seconds left in the game, ultimately pointing the way to victory.

Stanford’s 67-60 win over Old Dominion puts the Cardinal in the NIT championship game. The Cardinal (23-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59) got 24 points from Randle, 17 points from Stefan Nastic, and 14 points from Anthony Brown.

Of course, no Stanford game this year can be summed up that simply. Along the way to the win, the Cardinal blew a 21-point first-half lead, saw Randle go to the bench with four fouls midway through the second half, and left the game well in doubt until the final minute.

“It was crazy,” Randle admitted to the Cardinal Sports Network afterwards. “The way we came out, we started off pretty hot. We were making shots and getting after it defensively. Give them credit. They made their run, but our guys showed a lot of perseverance. That’s huge for us.”

After spotting Stanford a 25-4 lead in the first half, Old Dominion made its move. Richard Ross gave the Monarchs their first lead of the game, converting a layup with 11:05 to play in the second half, and giving Old Dominion Old Dominion (27-8, 13-5 Conference USA; RPI #46) a 47-46 lead. But the Monarchs never led by more than two points. In fact, they led for only 74 seconds of game time. And while Randle was on the bench with foul trouble, Christian Sanders helped settle Stanford down.

Randle returned with 7:59 left and the game tied at 49, but Marcus Allen dunked one down in transition, then Randle popped two big three-pointers, resulting in a quick five-point Cardinal lead.

Randle’s second three-pointer fell through with 6:15 left. Stanford did not get another field goal until Randle’s teardrop shot in the final minute. But the Cardinal were still able to hold off the Monarchs. Nastic asserted himself, scoring 11 second-half points, and finishing with six rebounds and three blocks. Old Dominion also went cold, missing its last five shots, including none in the final 2:46.

The Card started the game doing no wrong. They led 15-0 before Old Dominion even made a shot from the floor (the Monarchs missed their first eleven). Old Dominion had no answers for Stanford’s length, and their big offensive weapons were shooting blanks. Stanford’s lead ballooned to 25-4 nine minutes into the game, and many diverted their attention to playing Pac-Man on Google Maps.

Stanford’s attention seemed to lapse, too. The Card became careless, and the Monarchs converted four Stanford turnovers into a 12-0 run. Old Dominion closed Stanford’s lead to six points before the staggering Cardinal finally fought back. But the Monarchs had made their point, turning a surefire rout into a 33-27 deficit at halftime.

Old Dominion had shot just 26% for the half, had failed on all of their three-point attempts, and had zero points from Trey Freeman and Aaron Bacote. But they had all the momentum. And Stanford had ten first-half turnovers.

But they did have the history-making free throw from Randle with 33.3 seconds remaining in the half. Randle’s eleventh point of the night was also the 2,337th of his Stanford career, vaulting him past Todd Lichti into first place on the Cardinal’s all-time scoring list.

Asked about it afterwards, a relieved Randle chuckled, “I don’t have to answer any more questions about the record. People can’t text me anymore saying ‘you gotta get the record!’”

“I’m just happy that our team has continued our season, and we have a chance to play on April 2.”

Indeed, Stanford will play an April game for the first time in its history, as the Miami Hurricanes (25-21, 10-8 ACC; RPI #65) will meet the Card for all the NIT marbles on Thursday night. Miami held off Temple, 60-57 in their NIT semifinal matchup.

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