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M. Basketball: Squad stays alive in hunt for Pac-12 tourney bye with win over USC

The Stanford men’s basketball team was tired of losing. Having dropped five of its last six games, the Cardinal traveled down to USC hungry for a win. While the Trojans put up a fight, Stanford pulled away in the second half to emerge with a 59-47 victory.

 

 

Senior forward Andrew Zimmermann had a rare start fot Stanford, finishing with seven points and seven rebounds in a 59-47 win at USC. (MIKE KHEIR/The Stanford Daily)

The Trojans (6-20, 1-12 Pac-12) have suffered through a brutal season hindered by injuries and were utterly outclassed by Stanford on Sunday. The Cardinal (17-8, 7-6) dominated USC in every facet of the game, leaving no doubt as to which side would prevail.

 

As a whole, the Cardinal had one of its better shooting games in recent memory. Stanford shot 44.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. The team also played tremendous defense, holding USC’s leading scorer Maurice Jones to just 10 points on 2-of-14 shooting and the team to just 31.3 percent shooting.

 

Coming into the game, many expected Stanford’s big men to dominate, as injuries have reduced USC’s roster to the point that they have just one forward and one center on the roster. The Cardinal did not disappoint, controlling the paint for the entirety of the game. The Trojans were out-rebounded by a shocking 44-18 margin and mustered just one offensive rebound to Stanford’s 12.

 

However, the Trojans were able to stay in the game due to sloppy play by the Cardinal, which committed 19 turnovers to USC’s eight. The teams went back and forth to start the game, with Stanford going into the half up just two.

 

After the break, Stanford began to take charge. The Cardinal scored eight unanswered points to stretch the lead to 10. In fact, Stanford held USC without a field goal for the first five and a half minutes of the second half, at which point it had taken a commanding lead.

 

Freshman guard Chasson Randle led the Cardinal charge, dropping all 16 of his points in the second half. The freshman shot 6-for-11 from the field and 4-for-5 from behind the arc, continuing the hot shooting he has exhibited throughout the Cardinal’s road trip to LA. Three nights earlier against UCLA, Randle also had 16 points, again on 6-for-11 shooting.

 

Randle had a major impact on other aspects of the game as well, notching three of the team’s four steals and committing just one turnover, proving why he is one of the top freshmen in the Pac-12.

 

Redshirt senior center Josh Owens, Stanford’s leading scorer, had another dominant game against the depleted USC frontcourt. The captain scored 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and added five rebounds.

 

With the win, Stanford completed its first season sweep over the Trojans since 2005, which was also the last time Stanford was able to beat USC on the road. In fact, after its loss to UCLA Thursday night, Stanford had lost its last 13 games in the city of Los Angeles. With the victory, however, the Cardinal moved back up to a tie for sixth in the conference, three games behind leaders Washington and California.

 

While an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament still seems very unlikely, Stanford does have a chance to play its way into March. Three of the Cardinal’s last five games come against teams ranked above it in the Pac-12, and victories against each would greatly increase its chances of finishing the regular season in the top four of the conference and receiving a first round bye in the season-ending Pac-12 tournament.

 

This week, Stanford returns home to face Oregon State and Oregon. The Beavers are up first and would love to get revenge for their quadruple-overtime loss to the Cardinal earlier this season. Oregon State sits two games back from Stanford in the standings.

 

Oregon presents the greater challenge for the Cardinal. The Ducks are third in the conference, two games above Stanford. They beat the Cardinal by 11 points in the team’s last meeting, and the Cardinal would love to make a statement on its home court. A sweep of the two Oregon teams would be great for the Cardinal as it strives to make a late season comeback.
Stanford and Oregon State tip off at 7 p.m. at Maples Pavilion this Thursday night.

About Anders Mikkelsen