The Stanford men’s basketball team controlled the first 35 minutes of its matchup against Oregon, but in the last five the Cardinal couldn’t stop forward E.J. Singler, as the junior scored 10 straight points to help the Ducks squeak out a 68-64 win.
Stanford (18-9, 8-7 Pac-12) entered the game knowing it needed a win to have any chance of earning a first-round bye in the Pac-12 conference tournament. From the start, this scenario seemed likely as the Cardinal scored the first points of the game, taking a lead it would not relinquish for the next 38 minutes. The Ducks (19-8, 10-5) stuck with the Cardinal throughout, however, and finally seized their opportunity when Singler went off.
The Cardinal were struck by an early blow when senior forward Andrew Zimmermann, playing his second-to-last game in Maples Pavilion, went down with an injury six minutes into the first half. The senior scored four of Stanford’s first six points and brought a level of toughness that was sorely missed in his absence.
After Zimmermann went down, Stanford stayed on top of the Ducks due to the play of another senior, forward Josh Owens. The captain was unstoppable in the paint, scoring 20 points. The Cardinal’s other big men also played well, as 6-foot-9 sophomore forwards Dwight Powell and John Gage scored 11 and eight, respectively.
Although they were efficient on offense, the Cardinal forwards had issues on the defensive end, as for just the fourth time this season they were out-rebounded.
“They had 16 second-chance points, which means that they got some offensive rebounds that we should have had as defensive rebounds,” Owens said.
Stanford still held the lead at the five-minute mark when a layup by Singler cut the Cardinal lead to two. Singler, the younger brother of former Duke All-American Kyle Singler, would prove to be unstoppable. He hit a three-pointer, scored a layup, then drained yet another three to give Oregon its first lead of the game with just 2:47 left to go.
Stanford still had a chance to win the game, as no one scored for the next two minutes. The Cardinal held the ball with 22 seconds on the clock, down 66-64 and hoping for a last-second miracle. The ball was inbounded to freshman guard Chasson Randle, who had been silent for most of the night. Randle’s go-ahead shot missed, but was rebounded by Powell. Randle got one more chance to tie the game but missed a tough layup with nine seconds left.
Two free throws by Oregon’s leading scorer, Devoe Joseph, sealed the game as the Ducks escaped with the victory. The win moved them to fourth in the Pac-12 and into position for a first-round bye. Stanford, however, fell to seventh and now faces tough odds as the season comes to a close.
Along with poor rebounding, the Cardinal suffered from poor free-throw shooting. Stanford went 11-22 from the line, a figure that definitely had an impact on the game.
“It was a four-point game, and shooting 50 percent from the foul line when you shoot 22 free throws, that alone [could have been the difference],” Owens said.
Stanford’s quiet offensive performance was partially due a rare off-game offensively from its backcourt duo of Randle and sophomore Aaron Bright. The two combined for just eleven points, just a few days after torching Oregon State for 44.
This week, the Cardinal is back on the road for its first trip to new Pac-12 additions Colorado and Utah. Stanford defeated both the Utes and the Buffaloes in its matchups earlier this season at Maples. Stanford has just three games left in the regular season and sits four games back from conference leaders California and Washington. With a regular-season title out of the question, the Cardinal have to make a serious run in the Pac-12 tournament to have any hope at earning an NCAA tournament bid.
Thursday night’s matchup with Colorado looks to be challenging. The Buffaloes are 10-4 in conference play and currently sit in third. Saturday night’s game against Utah looks to be easier, given the Utes are 2-12 and rank above only USC in the Pac-12. The Cardinal will then travel back to Maples Pavilion to close the regular season against rival California on Sunday, March 4.