Stanford basketball’s 2013 senior night turned into senior guard Gabriel Harris’s night. The Birmingham, Ala. product scored a career-high 14 points to help Stanford (17-3, 8-9 Pac-12) defeat Utah (11-17, 3-13) 84-66 in what was his final home game as a Cardinal player.
Harris was 6-of-7 from the floor and had seven rebounds, two steals and an assist in 23 minutes. His teammates seemed eager to get him the ball on offense, and the bench as well as the crowd erupted every time he added to his scoring tally.
“Just seeing how my teammates surrounded me today and just kept pushing me to keep going, keep attacking, keep going, it just really gave me a good feeling,” said Harris.
Harris described his emotions as “bittersweet.” He said he felt blessed to be able to play in his last game and talked about how much he will miss his teammates.
But, while this was the last home game, Harris believes Stanford could have a bunch of games left before he hangs up the jersey for good.
“I think our team is built to go to tournaments because we are so deep. But we definitely noticed with Colorado [last year], it’s all about momentum,” Harris said.
While Utah (11-7, 3-13 Pac-12) has struggled to win games this year, its defense had been a bright spot. The Utes lead the Pac-12 in opponent’s shooting percentage, limiting teams to 39 percent.
Stanford could not be held down on this night though. The Card shot 48 percent for the game, which was bolstered by a 7-of-14 mark from behind the arc in the first half.
Sophomore guard Chasson Randle led all Cardinal scorers with 22 points. His six assists also helped Stanford record a season-high 20 assists.
“I thought we did a good job as a team collectively. We shared the basketball…of course, making shots is always a good thing,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins.
Junior forward Dwight Powell chipped in 15 points and eight assists and junior forward John Gage scored 11 points while going 3-of-4 from three-point range.
For most of the contest, Stanford held a gaudy lead, which hit double-digits with eight minutes left in the first half and was 13 at the halftime break.
Utah looked like a team tied for tenth in the Pac-12, and Stanford seemed on its way to a breezy blowout.
Then, just three-and-a-half minutes into the second half, Utah cut its deficit to four points.
Stanford’s first two possessions ended with turnovers, and the next five with missed shots. It wasn’t until the 16:01 mark in the second half that a Cardinal player made a field goal.
There were flashbacks to Wednesday’s loss to Colorado, in which a large Stanford lead disappeared quickly in the second half.
Apparently Stanford learned from that experience, as it quickly racked up the points and defensive stops against Utah to blow the game open again.
“It was very important for us,” said Dawkins. “The mindset of coming off a game where you had a lead and you let it get away, now you have an opportunity to withstand that run.”
The lead was back to double-digits by the 13:00 mark, and it steadily increased to 22 points before the closing minutes.
With 2:09 to go, Harris grabbed a rebound for the final time in a game at Maples Pavilion, padding his career-high in that category. Just seconds later, with a 20-point lead and exactly two minutes left, Harris was showered with a standing ovation from the crowd as he was subbed out.
Despite his career mark, Harris did miss one of his two free throws, which ended up being the only miss on a night when Stanford went 15-of-16 from the line.
“We’re chasing perfection, so hopefully next time we do a better job,” said Randle.
Wednesday’s regular season finale at California will be the first chance to try.
Contact David Perez Bradford at davidp3 “at” stanford.edu.