After demolishing Colorado in Boulder Thursday night, the Stanford men’s basketball team traveled to face conference bottom-feeder Utah on Saturday. In what was a back-and-forth game from start to finish, the Cardinal was unable to pull off a victory, dropping a heartbreaker to the Utes, 58-57.
At the start of the game it seemed as though Stanford (19-10, 9-8 Pac-12) was going to run away with a sweep of the season series with Utah. The dominance the Cardinal had displayed against Colorado seemed to be in full effect, as it stormed to a 23-14 lead 10 minutes into the half.
Freshman guard Chasson Randle was largely responsible for the early dominance, scoring eight quick points. The freshman had yet another strong game, leading Stanford with 19 points and hitting five threes.
The Cardinal still held a nine-point lead at the eight-minute mark, at which point the Stanford offense went cold. The Cardinal only had two field goal attempts over the next three minutes, missing both, and turned the ball over three times.
This cold spell gave Utah (6-22, 3-13) a golden opportunity, and the Utes seized it. By the five-minute mark the Stanford lead had been cut to one, and soon thereafter, a three-pointer from junior guard Chris Hines tied the game up. Hines matched Randle with 19 points to lead Utah.
Stanford went into halftime down 34-33 and struggled coming out of the break. The Cardinal did not score a point for the first five minutes but was still down just five thanks to similar scoring struggles from the Utes. A layup by sophomore forward Stefan Nastic and a Randle three tied the game at 38 moments later.
What followed was a period of back-and-forth scoring in which neither team could take a definitive lead. With just two minutes left, the game was again tied, this time at 53.
A free throw from Nastic gave Stanford a one-point edge, but it was quickly eliminated by a jumper from center Jason Washburn on the other end. Washburn had a tremendous game for the Utes, putting up 17 points, five rebounds and six blocks.
An offensive rebound and tip by sophomore forward Dwight Powell gave the Cardinal the lead one last time, but Hines drained a three to give the Utes a two-point advantage with just 30 seconds to play.
After a timeout, the Cardinal was able to draw the foul on the other end, sending redshirt senior forward Josh Owens to the line. The captain made just one of two free throws, however, keeping Utah on top, 58-57.
After Washburn missed a free throw, Stanford got one last chance to pull off the win. Randle rebounded the ball and raced down the court, attempting a long, running three. It didn’t fall, however, and Utah was able to pull off the upset.
Poor shooting doomed the Card. Stanford shot just 36.8 percent from the field, a figure that is not terrible on its own, but is lacking when compared to Utah’s 44.7 percent. The Utes also shot 17-for-21 from the charity stripe, making Stanford pay for its numerous early fouls by sinking 14 first-half free throws, and also went 7-for-12 from three-point range.
Ultimately, quality over quantity proved to be a winning strategy for Utah, as the Utes took 19 fewer shots than the Cardinal but drained them at a much higher clip.
Stanford again had a great game on the offensive boards, with 15 rebounds compared to Utah’s four. The Cardinal simply needed to take better advantage of its numerous put-back attempts.
Looking ahead to the impending Pac-12 Tournament next week, the Cardinal still sits in seventh place in the conference, just a half game behind UCLA for the sixth seed.
The Cardinal will close its season against conference-leading California this week in a critical matchup. If Stanford beats California and UCLA drops one of its last two games against Washington State and Washington, then the Cardinal will pass the Bruins in the conference standings due to its higher overall record.
If the Cardinal is able to earn the sixth seed, it would mean a rematch with Utah in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament.