Utah came in with a daunting and talented frontline of David Collette and Kyle Kuzma and off a tough overtime loss to Cal on Thursday night. Unfortunately for the Utes, Stanford showed up with Reid Travis, and there wasn’t much Utah could do about it. Travis had 26 points in 25 minutes on 11-15 shooting, and along with a rejuvenated Cardinal backcourt, helped lead Stanford to an 81-75 win in front of 4,447, Women’s Basketball Coach Tara VanDerveer among them.
Marcus Allen was impactful on both ends of the court, tallying 15 points on 5-8 shooting, four assists, two steals and only one turnover in 32 minutes on the court. Robert Cartwright was similarly efficient, scoring 14 points on 4-5 shooting to go with five assists and again only one turnover. All of Stanford’s perimeter players played aggressively and decisively, pushing the ball at appropriate times, hitting driving lanes on time and biggest of all, hitting some open perimeter looks. Dorian Pickens also made an impact with 14 points and five rebounds, providing the Stanford frontline with some much needed help on the glass.
Utah was mauling Stanford on the offensive glass, grabbing the game’s first six offensive rebounds and building a 6-0 lead in second chance points. Over the game’s final 30 minutes, though, Stanford was able to hold its ground, finishing on -3 in second chance points and matching the Utes 24-24 overall in rebounds the rest of the way. Coach Haase acknowledged the work on the boards as a crucial part of the win.
Another problem for the Cardinal has come from closing out halves, and when Kuzma hit two free throws to put the Utes up 31-26, it seemed as if history was repeating itself. However, Grant Verhoeven hit a stabilizing jumper, Stanford closed Utah out on their final three possessions, and a Michael Humphrey bucket enabled Stanford to go into the locker room with a 32-31 lead.
The second half was largely a back and forth affair, and the game overall saw 16 lead changes and nine ties. A Pickens three with 6:39 to play broke a 60-60 tie and started the close that would make the difference. A strong from Travis in the paint put the Cardinal up 70-62 with 3:56 to go, and Stanford held off the Utes from there.
Coach said on Friday that the most crucial thing he wanted to establish at practice was the right mental state. After putting the Cardinal through their paces on Saturday, the coaches largely advised the team to kind of forget everything and just “go.” There have been a number of games where you can see the players overthinking and getting too frustrated after mistakes or tough breaks, but today the team was clearly playing far more fearlessly than in the past three games.
Stanford will be hardpressed to maintain the good feelings from this win with a trip to Tucson to play an Arizona team smarting from a SundayDuck-mantling in Eugene. When asked about playing Arizona, Stanford’s players countered questions about the Wildcats with assertions about their own urgency, so we’ll see what comes of it.