It was right there.
The first true signature win of the Coach Jerod Haase Era was there for Stanford. With less than a minute to play, they forced an Oregon miss, and needed a rebound and a score to upset the #6-rated Ducks on Senior Day at Maples Pavilion.
They got neither.
Oregon secured 4 consecutive offensive rebounds on that final possession, grinding out a nearly 50-second possession that ended with a Jordan Bell tip-in that provided the final margin. Stanford got Reid Travis the ball with about five seconds to play and he drove hard left, but Oregon swarmed him and the Cardinal ended up unable to get a shot off to tie.
It was a gut-wrenching end to a valiant effort from Stanford. Time and again, the Cardinal fought back, mainly by pushing the ball up the court in transition and finding early offense. Travis once more was magnificent, playing well beyond All-Conference status and more like an All-American. With the Ducks hyper-aggressive defense and length blowing up Stanford’s attempts to get him the ball on the block, Travis refused to be stymied and instead got himself the ball in face-up and second chance situations. He finished with 27 points on 10-13 shooting from the field and 7-8 from the foul line. He also threw in 14 rebounds in a game where nobody from either team had more than five.
The key to this game ended being flipped scripts, and unfortunately for Stanford, two of those flips went Oregon’s way. On the plus side, Stanford actually outperformed a team from behind the three-point line, making 8-18 to the Ducks’ 7-19. Dorian Pickens hit 6-8 from behind the line on the day. Two things that Stanford’s been doing of late have been dominating in the paint and converting off turnovers. On the former, Stanford was able to outscore Oregon by only two points, and the latter is really where the game was lost.
Truly embarrassing sloppiness with the ball, including off inbounds passes combined with Oregon’s ferocious defense resulted in 11 first-half Cardinal turnovers and more a massive 17-2 hole in points off turnovers. This was the margin Stanford simply couldn’t overcome. They cleaned it up significantly in the second half, but points in the first count the exact same. Oregon employed a variety of extended and half-court defenses and sped up the Cardinal backcourt, leading to poor decision-making and turnovers.
Stanford had become very proficient in making post-entry passes, but Oregon challenged everything and Stanford took too long to adjust. Christian Sanders had seven turnovers on the day, perhaps trying to do a bit too much in his final Maples Pavilion appearance. Pickens lamented his own four turnovers.
Another point of frustration was Oregon’s efficiency in regards to converting 2nd chances vs. Stanford’s. The Ducks grabbed only ten offensive rebounds the whole game (four on the final possession), but got 15 points on those 10 boards. Stanford grabbed 15 rebounds, but only got 19 second-chance points.
Travis, Pickens, and Coach Haase were all clearly cut deeply by this loss. It was far too early to take solace in the team’s improvement, but that improvement should still be recognized. This Stanford team was utterly obliterated in its first encounters with Arizona and Oregon, and took both to the wire in the rematches.
If you're looking for an X-factor in defeat, it would once again be Michael Humphrey. This game encapuslated everything promising and frustrating about Stanford's junior forward. He was once again plagued with foul trouble throughout and was a non-factor for most of the game, but then he perked up and made a number of huge plays at the end. However, lost in endgame were at least three mental breakdowns on defense for Humphrey where he lost track of his man or failed to box-out and the Ducks scored points as a result.
In the end, though, Oregon made the plays and Coach Haase noted the “winning culture” that Oregon has developed as one of the factors in the Duck victory. That culture is still under construction at Stanford, and once more ground gained would have to suffice for a game Cardinal squad still searching to put it all together.