You knew it had to end this way, right?
You knew Stanford would get out to a big lead. You knew Chasson Randle would show flashes of brilliance. You knew the Cardinal would struggle to find the knockout punch. And you knew that, at the end, you would be exhaling with relief, or rolling your eyes in frustration. You knew it would not be easy, no matter what.
Against Miami on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, Stanford stuck to the script. It resulted in a 66-64 overtime and a second NIT title in four years. In his final game in a Cardinal uniform, Randle scored a game-high 25 points. Stefan Nastic scored 11 points, while Anthony Brown grabbed 12 rebounds and Marcus Allen grabbed ten.
“It’s an awesome moment,” Randle told the Cardinal Sports Network moments after being named the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player. “It’s awesome just to be able to say that we won two championships and hung two banners.”
Stanford (24-13, 9-9 Pac-12; RPI #59) beat the Hurricanes despite blowing a 13-point second-half lead, losing Stefan Nastic to fouls for the game’s final seven minutes, and missing all five field goals it attempted in overtime.
Miami (25-13, 10-8 ACC; RPI #65) appeared to be in control, especially after Sheldon McClellan shook off Anthony Brown and dunked it home with two minutes left in the extra period, giving the Hurricanes a 62-61 lead. Seconds later, McClellan found Davon Reed cutting past Reid Travis for the dunk. With 1:03 left, Miami was ahead, 64-61.
But Randle hit two free throws with 39 seconds left. Then, with his team down by one, Randle pump faked, drew contact from Reed, then went to the line with 3.4 seconds left. Randle stuck both free throws, and Stanford led, 65-64. Miami promptly threw away the ensuing inbound pass, then fouled Anthony Brown, who made the second of two free throws with three seconds left. 66-64, Stanford.
Miami’s inbound pass went 92 feet, was touched by Brown, then was ruled to have glanced off Omar Sherman. The officials took a second look, then gave Miami the ball with 1.8 seconds left. That was enough time for McClellan to put up a three from the corner, but it clanged off the side of the rim at the buzzer. The Card could finally celebrate.
In the midst of the celebration, the Cardinal were also trying to make sense of the final helter-skelter sequence. “We’ve been in that situation a few times this year,” Johnny Dawkins admitted on the Cardinal Sports Network. “We just wanted to stay poised. Guys really stepped up. Chasson was spectacular. The plays he made to close his career out will go down in Stanford lore for a long time.”
“It was hectic, man!” Randle exhaled. “A lot was going on, but our guys did a great job of staying calm and making sure we pulled through.”
“When he drives right, and no one comes over to help, that’s automatic,” Reid Travis said of Randle. “It’s definitely something I’ve seen a hundred times. It was just poetry in motion watching him go down the lane.”
Despite Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Hurricane Michael Irvin leading the cheers, Miami could not stop Randle down the stretch. He had two critical drives for layups in the final two minutes of regulation. Still, the game was tied at 59 as Randle brought it down again with 16.8 seconds to go. Miami’s defense forced Randle to give it up to Brown, who drove but dished outside to Marcus Allen. Allen had a good look at the three-pointer, but it glanced off the rim at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
In the first half, each team took turns owning the game’s momentum. With 5:52 left and the score knotted at 18, Stanford went to work. Randle drove for a layup, then hit a three. Reid Travis got a tip-in to fall, then Randle struck again from beyond the arc. In a little less than four minutes, the Card had ripped off a 10-0 run. At the half, Stanford led, 32-21.
An energized and unburdened Randle had 13 first-half points. Stanford’s first-half defense was solid, especially against the Hurricanes’ leading scorer. Sheldon McClellan finished the half with no points on 0-for-5 shooting. Miami didn’t fare much better as a team, shooting 29% from the floor in the first half.
“I think everyone who got in the game stepped up,” Dawkins said. “They didn’t always score points, but they were really focused defensively, and they moved the basketball to where we wanted it.”
And so, a Stanford team that was equal parts entertaining and exasperating finished the season by cutting down the nets. In the middle of the scene, Stefan Nastic summed it all up thusly on the Cardinal Sports Network: “We have character, man. Of course we were very disappointed [not making the NCAA Tournament]. Who wouldn’t be? But when you throw the ball out there, we don’t want to lose. Chasson stepped up like a man. I’m so proud to be a part of this team. When things were really bad for us, that’s when we got it together.”********** ********** **********
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