With just under three minutes remaining, unranked Stanford was smelling an upset, trailing by just two points against the No. 13 Missouri Tigers at the preseason Battle 4 Atlantis tournament from Nassau, Bahamas. But the Tigers (4-0) pulled through, making key free throws down the stretch and winning the first round matchup, 78-70.
Led by guard Phil Pressey, Missouri opened up a 10-point lead in the first half over the Cardinal (3-2), which was without the services of starting point guard Aaron Bright, out due to an ankle injury.
But key contributions off the bench from juniors Robbie Lemons and John Gage, as well as senior Andy Brown, sparked Stanford to a 12-0 run, and the game remained close for the duration.
Chasson Randle had 20 points on 6-13 shooting and Dwight Powell chipped in 18, but the story of the game was Stanford’s bench, which repeatedly energized the Cardinal offense and kept Frank Haith’s Tigers off balance.
Lemons hit a deep 3-pointer, Gage followed with another of his own and Lemons hit two free throws on the run that pushed Stanford into a tie at 28-28 just before the half.
Missouri continued to feed the interior, however, as Laurence Bowers had a game-high 19 points and 11 boards, Alex Oriakhi had 13 and four and Pressey finished with 18 points of his own.
Stanford was done in by 18 turnovers, eight more than the Tigers, and lost the battle on the boards, not usually a recipe for success.
Gage finished with 10 points on 4-10 shooting, and Lemons had five points, playing active defense with Brown in their time on the court. Brown drew a key charge in the second half, taking a knee straight to the midsection.
Stanford struggled to get going on the inside, relying mostly on its outside shooting and the midrange game to score its points. When the Cardinal came out of the gates without the hot hand, continuing a cold streak that was evident against Belmont last weekend, it was tough to climb back into the game against a very good Missouri team that many analysts believe could make a deep NCAA Tournament run in March.
The Cardinal will now face the loser of the matchup between Northern Iowa and No. 2 Louisville.