Up was down, down was up, and cats and dogs were living together last night at Maples Pavilion. Stanford, at least for one night, looked the part of an NCAA Tournament team in dismantling the actual NCAA Tournament-bound USC Trojans 84-64 in front of some undoubtedly stunned and confused Cardinal fans.
As expected, Stanford went at USC with its 2-3 zone, and unexpectedly, it all but stymied the Trojans’ offense. USC shot 26% in the first half and only 28% from three point land for the whole game. And while the Trojans did find a groove in the second half, by then it was far too late to impact the result of the game. None of USC’s scoring leaders had effective nights. Freshman Bennie Boatwright managed only 3-10 shooting, and his running buddies Nikola Jovanovic, Jordan McLaughlin, and Julian Jacobs, combined to go 3-17 from the field.
Stanford, on the other hand, got a huge boost from a scorching hot Dorian Pickens, who used 8-10 shooting (5-7 three pointers) to score a game and career high 25 points in only 28 minutes of play. Whether he was coming off of downscreens, working in the post, catching and shooting off of kick outs, Pickens went full Jimmy Chitwood on USC. He also added six rebounds to the cause.
Rosco Allen, Marcus Allen, and Christian Sanders added three pointers for Stanford, who ended the game shooting 44% (10-23) from distance. That shooting made all the difference to Stanford’s offense, especially to drivers like Marcus Allen. Marcus took it to the rack all night and enjoyed some clearer driving lanes than usual thanks to the outside shooting prowess. He nearly brought the house down with a vicious dunk off a baseline drive late in the second half, but couldn’t quite seal the deal. So he stole the ball on the ensuing Trojan possession and went coast to coast for a breakaway dunk instead. It was that kind of night.
Stanford’s offense looked significantly more cohesive than it has for much of the season. The Cardinal assisted on a jaw dropping 70% of its baskets. That number is 49% for Pac-12 play as a whole. Stanford finished the game with an offensive efficiency rating of 123.5, also well above its season average in league play.
Malcolm Allen also earned a shout out, as he looked more comfortable and aggressive running the offense than he has at any other point this season. He was on the floor when a lineup that also included Josh Sharma, Marcus Sheffield, and Grant Verhoeven pulled away from USC and created the margin Stanford would maintain for the rest of the game. The Cardinal led for nearly 38 of the 40 game minutes, went +9 in points off turnovers, and could really do no wrong for much of the night.
So USC will move on to take Cal on Sunday in Berkeley, while Stanford awaits the disappointing UCLA Bruins. This is always a bad matchup for Stanford, just as Stanford was in many ways a bad matchup for USC, so expect a tough contest on Saturday afternoon. For one night, however, things were all right, and with Coach Montgomery in the building doing commentary, it was a great throwback Thursday to the days when Stanford trouncing USC in hoops was a more frequent occurrence.
Just like football.