We thought coming into this Grunfeld-less stretch run, Stanford would have to operate a two-man show on offense to garner any success the remainder of this season. Thursday night the Cardinal downed USC with precisely that - only we had one of the star scorers wrong.
Matt Haryasz led Stanford with 23 points but had little help in the scoring column from Chris Hernandez, who suffered his worst offensive game of the year with four points on 2-of-11 shooting. It was sophomore Fred Washington who filled the void, and he filled up the stat sheet with a career-high 22 points on 11-of-17 shooting, along with seven rebounds (five offensive) and four assists. To put Washington's performance in perspective, consider that his previous high was half that scoring total, with 11 points last year at home against Oregon State. Furthermore, the 11 field goals Washington made tied the team high all season, matching Dan Grunfeld's effort against Arizona State in January. Washington's previous high number of made baskets this year was just three.
The 6'5" sophomore small forward scored eight of Stanford's first 10 points in the game, and he did his damage then as he did all night: attacking the basket. Washington scored every basket inside the paint, with just one attempted jump shot all night. He recorded a game-high five dunks, which is not officially a record for a Stanford player, since it is not an archived statistic. But the rim-rattling performance was one of the best seen in a long time at Maples Pavilion.
"I don't know," Washington honestly answered when asked afterward what got into him. "I just attacked them whenever I got the chance. I just tried to not force it - let the game come to me. I hope that's what it looked like."
The only thing that held the first-time starter back was a case of cramping one-third of the way through the second half. Washington was racing up and down the floor to an extent he had not experienced since his high school days. To wit, he played a season-high of 19 minutes prior to Thursday, when he logged 20 minutes in the first half alone and 37 minutes for the game.
"It gave me a lot more opportunities to do stuff and make an impact," Washington commented on the elongated playing time. "It's a lot different than when you play five minutes. I tried to take advantage of all the opportunities I had."
"Fred definitely has got a lot of talent he's been hiding," Hernandez praised. "He put it on display tonight."
From the standpoint of statistics as well as how demonstrably important his play was, this was a breakout game for Fred Washington. The soft-spoken sophomore opined that his standout game may have been due to familiarity with the USC players, many of whom he faced in high school and AAU competition during his prep days at Bishop Montgomery High School in Southern California. But the more germane factor that fomented this eruption was the style of play USC offered. They employed traps and pressure that spread their defense throughout the length of the court, which left open chasm passing lanes. Washington had room to operate and attack the basket, rather than make jump-stops where he has recorded travels much of the year.
"They hadn't seen enough of him," Trent Johnson commented on his new starting small forward. "From here on out, people will understand that he's a good player when there are driving lanes, and that he plays with a lot of energy."
The only player to outstrip Washington in the scoring column for Stanford was Haryasz, who had 23 points along with 11 rebounds and four steals. The 6'11" post player was aggressive on both ends of the floor, ripping down defensive rebounds that limited USC's second chance opportunities, while also adding a pair of emphatic dunks on the offensive end. Afterward, Haryasz was most proud of a different statistic.
"Did anybody look at the stat sheet and see how many fouls I had?" he posed with a big grin. Haryasz had no fouls in 38 minutes of play. "The refs were letting some things go tonight. Some guys got hammered."
Stanford only suffered eight fouls in the game, with just two in the first half. For a team so strapped for bodies in their eight-man rotation, it was all the Cardinal could ask for. They had to play freshmen Taj Finger and Peter Prowitt just 11 combined minutes. Finger had a strong game for the second straight outing, getting active on the offensive end with five points on two baskets, plus a pair of offensive rebounds.
The one man off the bench who played major minutes was point guard Jason Haas, who logged 17 minutes and failed to score in five attempts. It was Haas who may have saved the game, despite that stat line. For all that Washington and Haryasz did - augmented by a very solid nine points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals from Nick Robinson - the hapless Trojans (3-11 in conference) trailed by just three points at the half. Freshman phenom Gabriel Pruitt was unconscious behind the three-point line, hitting six of his first seven attempts from deep in the first half.
At halftime, Trent Johnson unleashed a fury upon his team for the job they were doing defensively, and he put Haas on Pruitt much of the second half. The Stanford junior reserve played with more defensive intensity in an assignment than we have ever seen from him in a Cardinal uniform, and it was wildly successful. Pruitt did not make a basket in the second half until the four-minute mark, at which point Stanford had stretched the lead to double figures.
"Jason Haas did, not a good job, but an excellent job, on Gabe Pruitt in the second half," Johnson praises. "I thought Jason really stepped outside his comfort zone and did a great job on [Pruitt]."
The Trojans trailed all but the opening couple minutes of the second half, at one time looking up at the host Cardinal with a 14-point deficit. USC mustered one late comeback run, trimming the lead to three points inside three minutes to go, but Haryasz found his way twice to the free throw line in the bonus and twice converted one-and-one opportunities, stretching the lead to seven points.
"I think everybody wanted to get this one," said Haryasz of the win, their first game since Grunfeld's season-ending ACL injury. "Not just for Danny, but because we really need it - as a team."
The Cardinal stand 14-9 overall and 8-5 in the conference, a half-game ahead of UCLA in a battle for third place and a putative third slot for the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins bashed Cal in Berkeley Thursday night, 77-62, and come to Maples Pavilion Sunday afternoon in a critical showdown with loads of post-season implications on the line. Stanford has five regular season games and the Pac-10 Tournament remaining; they likely need a minimum of four or five more wins to have any chance at an 11th straight NCAA Tournament bid.
Stats and Notes
- Fred Washington was perfect in Pac-10 play from the free throw line before Thursday night, hitting 10-of-10 in conference action. In the game when he doubled his career high and nearly quadrupled his season-high made baskets, he missed both of his attempts from the charity stripe.
- Matt Haryasz attempted a three-point basket for the second time in two games, and this time he hit the long-range jumper. It was the first career three-pointer for the 6'11" forward/center.
- Haryasz recorded a new career-high in scoring with his 23 points, eclipsing the 20 he notched three weeks ago against Oregon. This game was also his sixth double-double in his last seven games. His 11 rebounds raised his season average on the boards to 8.8 per game, which ranks him second in the Pac-10 (behind Arizona State's Ike Diogu).
- Credit Nick Robinson for a very solid game. The fear was that he would force a lot of offense in the new Grunfeld vacuum, but the savvy fifth-year senior instead shot 3-of-6 from the field for an efficient nine points. He also was big on the boards, with five rebounds, along with three steals from both the man and zone defenses. Trent Johnson praised Robinson, along with Hernandez, for a "good floor game" in managing the team and tempo. The Cardinal head coach added an anecdote to help illustrate that accolade. "The head coach of Stanford lost his poise when he thought his point guard got fouled going to the basket," Johnson describes of himself in the third person. "Nick came over and settled him down."
- When Stanford and USC meet, you typically expect a lopsided tally for fastbreak points. The high-tempo Trojans have a history of forcing turnovers against the Cardinal and converting easy baskets, but on Thursday night, the roles were reversed. Stanford outscored USC 8-0 on fastbreak points.
- Stanford's two three-point made baskets were one off their season-low, set twice (Oregon State and Michigan State). The 12 three-pointers they allowed USC to make tied the most for a Stanford opponent this year, matching the dozen from USF in the season opener.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!