The Stanford Cardinal were looking to get at least a split on their road trip to the Washington schools. After losing a nail biter to the Huskies, 84-83, the team went east to Pullman looking to beat Washington State who was 0-2 thus far in conference play. Unfortunately, Stanford came out flat to begin the second half after holding an eight-point lead at the break and dropped a heartbreaker to the Cougars, 55-54. It's the first time in the shot clock era that a Stanford team has lost back-to-back games by one point. The last time it happened in Stanford history was when the Cardinal lost to Washington in home and away matchups in 1974-75 by identical 69-68 scores.
Despite blowing the halftime margin, Stanford (11-3, 1-3) was up 53-52 with under 90 seconds to go and had the ball. After missing two shots and getting two offensive rebounds, Stanford set up a great play giving Josh Owens, who actually didn't start the game or play in the first 25 minutes of the contest, a point-blank look at the basket. However, Aron Baynes provided just enough pressure to cause him to miss the shot. Taylor Rochestie, who had been contained in Pac-10 play so far this season until facing the Cardinal, got the ball and drove towards the hoop from the left wing. He floated a shot off the board that was pure, giving the Cougars the one-point edge.
Stanford came right down the court and Anthony Goods went straight for the basket, but was rejected by freshman DeAngelo Casto. Casto gathered up the rebound and was fouled with five ticks left on the clock. After missing the first shot, Stanford called a timeout, presumably to draw up a play after Casto's second free throw. Casto missed long and Goods grabbed the rebound. Instead of potentially calling another timeout, Goods tried to run the length of the court, but enough Cougars got in his way to force him to take a 30-footer from straightaway that fell short and gave Washington State (9-6, 1-2) their first win in league play.
The contest started off fairly well for the Cardinal as they took an early 9-3 lead before freshman Klay Thompson hit two long three-pointers from the left side to tie the game back up for Washington State. Stanford would respond with a long 9-2 run to give Stanford a 18-11 lead and hold a lead of at least five or more the rest of the first half. In fact, they were up 28-17 with 44 second remaining, but WSU would hit two free throws and then get a three-point play right before the half from Rochestie to close the gap to 30-22 as the teams headed into the locker room.
The lead could have been much bigger as the Cougars shot just 20% from the field in the first twenty minutes, but hit a slew of free throws (12-15) to stay in the contest. Stanford was shooting in the 40% range, but was not as successful at getting or converting at the line. A good start to the second half would be mandatory to help keep the Cougars at bay and help Stanford secure the crucial split on the road and stay right in the middle of the Pac-10 race.
Unfortunately, the exact opposite of that happened and Stanford was in a fight the rest of the way. The locker room must have been freezing in Pullman because Stanford came out ice cold to begin the second stanza, missing their first six shots from the field over the first five minutes. Meanwhile, Washington State bested the number of shots they made in the first twenty minutes (four) in just 4:21, with the fifth being an emphatic dunk down the lane by Thompson over Mitch Johnson to give the Cougars their first lead of the game since being up 3-0. The ensuing free throw on the foul by Johnson gave capped a 12-2 run giving Washington State a 34-32 lead. From then on, neither team led by more than three points the rest of the evening. After many missed shots and opportunities by both teams, Stanford took its final lead, 54-53, with under two minutes to go after Lawrence Hill made one of two free throws, before falling in the end on Rochestie's shot.
After a sizzling night from the field in Seattle, Pullman brought out some ugly shooting for the Cardinal, due both to their own shot selection and Washington State's stingy defense. For the contest, Stanford shot just 37% from the field, a season low, including just 32% in the second half. The Cardinal shot 27% from beyond the arc, 42% inside the three-point line, and were 16-24 from the free-throw line, slightly below their season average of 72%. However, in a game where every point is crucial, those eight misses came back to haunt Stanford. Washington State shot just 35% from the floor, but hit 46% of their field goals in the second half. The Cougars made 27% of their shots from three-point range, while making 39% of their shots inside the arc. WSU, though, made 19 of 26 free throws, helping WSU win the game. Stanford managed to outrebound Washington State by three, 34-31. The Cardinal also had 13 assists on their 17 baskets and just 10 turnovers. The Cougars had just eight assists, but only had eight turnovers for the evening.
Individually, Hill and Goods led Stanford with 15 points each, but shot just 9-25 from the field, including 1-7 from beyond the arc. Hill, who has yet to make a three-pointer in Pac-10 play, also led Stanford with eight rebounds. No one else tallied more than nine for Stanford, but freshman Jeremy Green could be the next man due for double digits as he had eight in just 19 minutes of play, showing no fear and good accuracy from deep, making three of four field goals, including two three-pointers. Washington State was led by Rochestie's 21 points on 6-15 shooting from the field and 8-9 from the line. Thompson was the only other Cougar in double figures with 13. Center Aron Baynes had just seven points and nine rebounds as he hardly touched the ball inside, shooting only four field goals against the trio Will Paul (who had four points and four assists in his first ever college start), Elliott Bullock, and Owens. In fact, freshman DeAngelo Costo had the biggest impact inside the paint for the Pullman program, netting six points, grabbing six rebounds, and swatting three shots (including Goods' last layup attempt) in only 15 minutes of time on the floor.
It'll be very interesting to see what Stanford and head coach Johnny Dawkins do after what was a potentially devastating couple of games in the state of Washington. The road to climbing up the Pac-10 standings doesn't get easier as they face the suddenly resurgent California Golden Bears who are now 4-0 in conference play on Saturday evening at Maples Pavilion (5:00pm tip time). Cal survived a triple overtime game in Seattle, defeating the Huskies, 88-85, capturing sole possession of first place in the conference leading into their rivalry game at Stanford. What tricks will old Cardinal head coach Mike Montgomery have in store for Stanford players and fans alike when he visits? We all shall see in just seven days, but all the faithful have to hope is that Stanford finds a way to bounce back after the most adverse conditions they have faced so far in the 2008-09 campaign.
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