Chasson Randle may be just a freshman, but he in no way seemed intimidated by his first trip to the big stage of the Pac-12 tournament. The guard was impossible to stop on Wednesday night, scoring a career-high 30 points, as Stanford cruised by Arizona State 85-65 in the opening round.
The Cardinal (21-11, 11-8 Pac-12) entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed but appears to be reverting back to the winning ways that had it leading the Pac-12 at the start of the season.
From the start, it was apparent that Arizona State (10-21, 6-13) was again unable to keep up with the Cardinal. Stanford proved unstoppable from behind the arc early, as Randle, sophomore guard Aaron Bright and sophomore forward Anthony Brown connected on a series of threes. The Cardinal went an incredible nine of 15 behind the three-point line in the first half alone.
Throughout the first half, Randle demonstrated why he was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team earlier this week. The guard alternated between attacking the rim and draining threes, shredding any defense thrown at him. He had 27 of his 30 points in the first half, setting a conference-tournament record for most points in a half, and also contributed three steals on the defensive end.
In an attempt to slow him down, the Sun Devils resorted to fouling Randle almost every time he touched the ball, and the freshman made them pay. A 73.8-percent free-throw shooter this season, Randle got 12 attempts from the free-throw line in the first half and sunk 10 of them.
He was equally dangerous from the field, hitting five of six threes in the first half and six of eight on the game. He scored his 30 on just 11 shot attempts in the most efficient and productive game of his young career.
Despite his hot shooting hand, Randle showed no interest in padding his stats in the second half, preferring to get his teammates into the action. He took just three shots, as head coach Johnny Dawkins allowed the bench to get some tournament experience. The comfortable lead held by the Cardinal allowed Dawkins to rest his starters, knowing that Stanford still has three more games to win if it hopes to capture the Pac-12 title.
Overall, Dawkins has to be happy with how the Stanford team played, as the Cardinal shot 47.3 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from three-point range, and out-rebounded Arizona State 32-28. Stanford also controlled the ball far better than usual, committing just 10 turnovers.
With Arizona State behind them, Stanford turns to a rematch with Cal, the tournament’s No. 2 seed. In their meeting Sunday, the Cardinal defeated its rival 75-70, preventing the Golden Bears from winning the Pac-12 regular season title. Stanford would love to earn its second victory over Cal in less than a week by knocking them out of tournament-title contention as well.
The Golden Bears will definitely not go down without a fight, however. Not only do they want to avenge the loss that cost them the No. 1 seed, but a victory could ensure them a spot in the NCAA tournament. Cal and Washington are the only Pac-12 teams with the potential to earn at-large bids, but an early loss in the Pac-12 tournament would greatly hurt their chances.
To beat Cal, Stanford has to do a better job of stopping forward Harper Kamp and guard Allen Crabbe. Kamp has averaged just 11.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game this season, but has put up an average of 17 and 6.5 in Cal’s two meetings with Stanford this year. Crabbe, the Golden Bears’ leading scorer, has averaged 19 points against Stanford, well above his 15.4 average for the season.
Another key to defeating Cal is to force the Golden Bears to rely on their bench. Although Stanford has exceptional depth, Cal does not, with the entire bench averaging just five points per game against Stanford. If Cal’s starting lineup gets into foul trouble, like it did last Sunday, the reserve unit will struggle to pick up the scoring slack.
The Cardinal will face off with Cal tonight at 6 p.m. at the Staples Center. The winner of that matchup will face the winner of the 8:30 p.m. game between No. 3 seed Oregon and No. 6 seed Colorado.