The Stanford men’s basketball team came away from its East Coast holiday trip with a hard-earned split after falling to the Michigan Wolverines (7-4) 68-65 on Saturday night. Just three nights earlier, the Cardinal had rallied from a double-digit second half deficit to stun the tenth-ranked and then-undefeated Connecticut Huskies. However, in a similar situation against the Wolverines, the Stanford comeback fell just short.
Despite outshooting the Wolverines 45.8 percent to 40.4 percent, the Cardinal (8-3) was unable to overcome the turnover problems that have plagued the team throughout the season. Stanford had 12 turnovers to just nine assists for the game, marking the fifth time this season in which the team has registered more turnovers than assists in a game.
Junior guard Chasson Randle was again spectacular for Stanford, scoring all 18 of his points in the second half to spearhead the Cardinal comeback attempt. Senior center Stefan Nastic also provided a boost offensively for Stanford, matching a career high with 14 points.
The game was close throughout, as Stanford jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start before Michigan responded with the next seven points. The Wolverines would extend their lead to 25-17 on a three-pointer by forward Glenn Robinson III with 4:22 to go in the first half before Stanford closed the lead to three by halftime.
Michigan’s lead was four with 12:03 remaining in the second half before a three by guard Nik Stauskas sparked the defining run of the game for the Wolverines. A series of bad offensive possessions by the Cardinal allowed Michigan to extend its lead to ten with 7:32 remaining when guard Spike Albrecht hit a long three-pointer as the shot clock expired.
Randle took over from there on out, scoring 14 of his 18 points in the final 5:41 of the game as he relentlessly attacked the basket with each possession. His jumper narrowed the Wolverine lead to just two with 2:21 remaining in the game, bringing Stanford within one possession for the first time since the 15:31 mark of the second half.
However, two missed free throws down the stretch from Randle and sophomore center Grant Verhoeven proved costly for the Cardinal, which led to a four-point Michigan lead with 14 seconds remaining after a tough layup by Robinson scored over Verhoeven’s outstretched arms.
Stanford’s hopes were seemingly dashed the Cardinal went down two possessions with less than 15 seconds remaining. However, Randle promptly came streaking down the court once more, scoring a layup and being fouled in the process. After making the freebie, Michigan’s lead was down to just one with 0:09 remaining. Stanford immediately fouled Stauskas on the inbounds, and Michigan’s sharpshooter made both free throws to extend the lead back to three.
Stanford’s fate was not sealed until Randle’s three-point prayer with 0:02 remaining clanked off the front of the rim and Michigan’s Zak Irvin secured the rebound and the victory for the Wolverines.
Despite the loss, head coach Johnny Dawkins was encouraged by his team’s effort against the defending national runners-up.
“I thought our group had its moments,” Dawkins said. “I think towards the end of the game we did a good job of making a run, but we could never get over the hump. Michigan made the plays they needed to make to seal the game.”
Michigan coach John Beilein was also complimentary of Stanford following the game.
“I really think Stanford has a terrific team,” Beilein said. “It’s something you don’t see anymore with the experience they have.”
The Cardinal will be looking for more than just high praise the next time out, especially as the level of competition gets better as the Cardinal enters Pac-12 play. Stanford must find answers to its turnover problem, especially in the absence of senior guard Aaron Bright.
The Cardinal will play its final non-conference game against Cal Poly on Dec. 29 before opening its conference slate on Jan. 2 against Cal in an inconveniently scheduled game. The Cal game will mark the third time in four years that Stanford will open conference play at home during winter break, when the student body is absent and unable to cheer on the Men of Maples.
Contact Daniel Lupin at delupin ‘at’ stanford.edu.