The Stanford Cardinal came into tonight's matchup with the USC Trojans looking to get the bad taste of Saturday's 92-66 loss at the hands of the California Golden Bears out of their mouths. To do that, they would have to take down one of the hottest teams in the nation in the form of their rivals from Southern California. Stanford started off hot, then held on for dear life, as Jarrett Mann hit one of two free throws with 10.6 seconds left and the Cardinal survived two shots in the final three seconds to defeat USC by a final score of 54-53 on Wednesday night. Stanford moves to 7-7 (1-1), while USC falls to 8-5 (2-1).
Jeremy Green opened the scoring from the left wing, hitting a long two to get the party started after a couple of misses on each end. USC countered with a long three-pointer by Dwight Lewis on the next possession, but an Andrew Zimmerman jumper from the right elbow was a swish, giving the Cardinal back the early advantage. Another open shot by Jack Trotter prompted Trojans head coach Kevin O'Neill to call a quick 30-second timeout to reorganize his troops. Out of the break, Stanford came out of their man-to-man to play some of their newly installed triangle-and-2 defense, but Marcus Johnson went straight to the hoop and was fouled. However, he missed both free throws, while Green made a top-of-the-key three-pointer followed by a hook from the left side for Trotter to make it 11-3, prompting O'Neill to call another timeout before the first media break of the game.
A Lewis steal and jumper got USC closer, but a Zimmerman steal and outlet to Landry Fields for the one-hand jam kept Stanford up eight at the 14-minute mark. Nikola Vucevic made his name known by swishing home a long two from the left corner, but they couldn't convert a turnover to get the margin any closer. The Trojans, however, kept the defense up and forced some bad shots, while converting on the other end with a Leonard Washington layup after a pretty move to the hoop to cut the lead to 13-9 going into the under-12 media timeout.
USC continued to chip away with the help of their defensive efforts, causing another turnover and getting two free throws to drop for their work. Drew Shiller finally broke the Trojan run, scoring from the right baseline off another nifty out-of-bounds play, ending their nearly three minute drought from the floor and doubling the lead to 15-11. That helped the Cardinal snap out of their doldrums on the offensive end as Matei Daian had a putback after a Green miss and Fields made a spin move away from the basket to drain a hook in the paint, giving Stanford a 19-13 advantage. Landry then made another long two after a Marcus Simmons miss, forcing another O'Neill timeout.
Out of the media timeout, Fields buried a tough jumper to put the lead out to 10. After a miss by Lewis, Fields gobbled up an offensive rebound and made another layup, sending the crowd at Maples Pavilion into a frenzy. An Alex Stephenson three-point play finally put an end to a 5:21 scoring drought for the Trojans, but a Green long two (helped by a screen from Daian) from the right side stopped the momentum in its tracks as the two teams headed to the bench for their final break of the half.
Another Stephenson make off his own offensive rebound, followed by a right-wing three by Lewis brought the lead down to six for the first time in a long while for USC. A steal by USC, followed by a tough layup by Lewis where he may have been fouled, gave USC some hope they could be within a possession at the half. Zimmerman, though, drew a foul on Johnson away from the ball and drained both shots from the charity stripe with under a minute to go. Lewis cut the lead in half with a left-corner three ball, slicing the advantage in half. After head coach Johnny Dawkins called a timeout, the ball eventually got to Fields who was fouled with 9.1 ticks left. Landry made both free throws, but Stephenson grabbed a loose ball from Gerrity as he tumbled in the lane, getting the easy layin much to the delight of USC fans and disgust of the Stanford bench, leaving Stanford with just a three-point lead going into the locker room, 31-28, with the Trojans ended the half on 12-4 dash to the bowels of Maples Pavilion.
At the half, Stanford made 48% of their field goals, was just 1-3 (33%) from deep, and were a perfect 4-4 from the free throw line. USC completed the first 20 minutes nailing 42% of their shots, hitting 3-5 (60%) from beyond the arc, but made just 3-7 (43%) of their chances at the charity stripe. USC entered the game as the better rebounding team, but Stanford was the aggressor early on, gaining an 18-13 edge on the board (7-6 on the offensive end). Stanford dished out eight assists to seven turnovers, while the Trojans also had seven giveaways, but only had five assists.
Fields led the Cardinal with 12 points and five rebounds on 5-10 shooting from the floor. Green was next in line with seven on 3-4 makes from the field. Lewis led the Trojans, and all players, with 13 points on 5-8 shooting from the field. Stephenson was a force inside, getting nine points and five boards, for USC.
Stanford had the ball to open the half and Green immediately hit a shot off a curl just left of the paint, but Lewis hit a big three-pointer from the right corner to bring the lead down to two. Zimmerman made an open left baseline jumper off a Fields pass to double the lead again to four. USC missed two three-point attempts on back-to-back possessions, while Zimmerman drove the lane for an easy deuce to get the Cardinal up by six. Stephenson drew a third foul on Trotter, leaving Stanford a bit vulnerable inside despite the stellar play of Z and Daian. The North Carolina transfer made both freebies, sawing the lead again down to four, 37-33. Washington made another two on a layup that was harder than it looked, but the Trojans couldn't take advantage of another Cardinal miss as Stephenson threw the ball towards his bench as the teams headed to the benches for the first media break of the second half.
Trotter tipped in a Fields miss out of the timeout and Zimmerman set a tremendous pick which flattened Donte Smith in the backcourt, leading to a 5-on-4 chance that the big man converted to give Stanford a 41-35 lead. Vucevic tipped in an offensive rebound on the other end for USC, but Green hit a contested and long distance three-pointer over Simmons to give Stanford their first three possession lead of the second stanza. A Lewis jumper was matched by a driving layup by Green off a feed from Dildy, giving the Cardinal a 46-39 lead with 11:13 to go in the game as O'Neill decided to use his second-to-last timeout before the scheduled media break.
Coming out of the mandated stoppage in play, both teams had chances, but turnovers and missed shots brought the scoring to a standstill. A Fields free throw after a foul on a drive to the hoop finally broke the stalemate, but each team didn't convert on their next possessions, furthering the dryness of the rims and nets as both squads looked to find some offensive gameplans that worked while heading to the bench at the 7:52 mark of the second half. Stephenson made two free throws as the shot clock wound down, giving USC their 40th and 41st points of the game, getting the Trojans to within 47-41 with just under seven minutes to go.
Johnson finally (FINALLY!) ended nearly seven minutes without a field goal with a shot from the right side, but Green took that as his cue as Mann found him open from the left corner and he drained a high-arching trifecta to give the Cardinal a 50-43 advantage. Vucevic missed on the Trojans end, but Fields missed as well. However, Zimmerman was there to yank the offensive rebound out of the air and push it back out for a new shot clock. The ball eventually made its way back to Zimmerman who was fouled, giving Stanford a chance to extend the lead as the two teams took their last media break of the night.
Zimmerman missed the front-end of the one-and-one and Gerrity finally made a three-pointer, his first in four tries, to bring the Cardinal lead down to four with 2:29 left as O'Neill took his final timeout of regulation. Trotter helped free up Green on the ensuing possession and the sophomore from the Lone Star State canned the 15-footer off a feed from Shiller. On the next time down for USC, Johnson stepped back along the sideline and went out-of-bounds, yielding the Trojans' 12th turnover of the game. Fields made one of two to give Stanford a 53-46 lead with 66 seconds left. Lewis made a shot after a Shiller foul, then Fields slipped on the floor, gaining a traveling violation for his fall. Lewis made another shot just seconds later. Zimmerman was fouled on the inbounds play, but he missed both free throws. Washington then faked his way to an open three-pointer which he banked in from the left wing, stunning the crowd, as the Trojans tied up the game at 53 with 32 seconds left. Mann was somewhat inexplicably fouled by Washington near half-court with 10.6 seconds left. He missed the first one, but drained the next one to give the Cardinal the lead. Gerrity brought the ball up the court and Mann was screened out of his shoes as he lay on the ground, giving the Trojans an advantage. Gerrity floated one towards the bucket that was just long and a Vucevic tipin attempt was short with one second left. Stanford managed to tip the ball out as time expired, giving the Cardinal a thrilling one-point victory.
Following the contest, O'Neill reiterated that he did not want to foul on Stanford's last possession, while Mann, while maybe a tad surprised, did in fact know that Washington was playing very tough defense on him and committed the foul near half court. Fields, asked if the thought of losing another game in the last possession was on his mind, emphatically stated that he told himself and anyone else who would hear him out that Stanford "was not losing this game…not this time!"
For the game, Stanford shot 46% from the field, 33% outside the arc, but finished just 7-14 (50%) from the free throw line, including a miserable 3-10 in the second half (Dawkins said after the game that the "basketball gods were messing with me") which nearly cost Stanford the win. USC finished the contest making 42% of their shots, 35% at the three-point line, and 64% (7-11) at the charity stripe. Stanford outrebounded USC 32-28 for the game, including 12-10 on the offensive end. Stanford passed around 15 assists and turned the ball over just 11 times. The Trojans had just nine assists and 12 turnovers.
The Cardinal were led by Green's 17 points on 7-10 shooting from the field, including 3-5 from long range. Fields did not have a field goal in the second half, finishing the game with 14 points (stopping his record streak of nine games in a row with 20+ points), eight rebounds, and five assists. Zimmerman had 10 to round out the double-digit scorers. Lewis led all scorers with 22 points on 9-15 shooting, Stephenson netted 13 points and grabbed a team high eight rebounds (Vucevic also had eight), but did not try a field goal in the second stanza.
Stanford will next take on Ben Howland and the UCLA Bruins, coming off a stunning 76-75 win in overtime versus Cal, at 3:00pm on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned to Kevin Danna's "And 1" coming later on The Bootleg.
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